Satisfied Scanlon aiming for Athens

ark Scanlon has come out of the Tour with his confidence boosted and looking to get some good prepa

ark Scanlon has come out of the Tour with his confidence boosted and looking to get some good prepa
PICTURE BY TIM DE WAELE Confidence boosted by the completion of his first Tour de France, 23-year-old former world junior champion Mark Scanlon will use two high-profile races to prepare for the Olympic Games. Following a short break at his base in Marseille, he will line up with the world's top cyclists this Sunday in the next round of the World Cup, the HEW Cyclassics Cup in Hamburg. Scanlon will then go on to participate in the five-day Tour of Denmark from August 4-8, where last year he took the opening stage and finished fifth overall. The Irishman will then head to Athens to complete his preparations for the Olympic road race, which takes place on August 15. "The Olympics is a big aim for me," he says. "That's the reason I have taken on the World Cup in Hamburg this weekend and the Tour of Denmark. There was a chance I might have come out of the Tour and not been too motivated to train, so by committing to these events it will help my preparation." Talking to procycling after the final stage of the Tour on Sunday, the Ag2r professional said that he was satisfied with his debut in the world's toughest bike race. "It is great to get to Paris," he said, looking tired but happy. "At the start of the race I wasn't very confident about finishing the Tour but I got through it OK. As a result, my confidence is a lot better now. I should gain a lot in strength too." Scanlon finished 37th on the final stage and 89th overall, becoming only the seventh Irish rider to finish the Tour. The 23-year-old Sligoman joined Shay Elliott, Sean Kelly, Stephen Roche, Martin Earley, Paul Kimmage and Laurence Roche on the list of those who completed the arduous three-week race. He performed respectably for a first time Tour rider - particularly for one not regarded as a climber - and posted several decent performances during the race. On stage one he played a vital role in helping team captain Jaan Kirsipuu to Ag2r's first stage victory, towing the Estonian to the front of the race to manoeuvre him into position and then completing a huge lead-out which set Kirsipuu up for the win. Stage two saw Scanlon clear in a long range breakaway, which unfortunately was reeled in with 25 kilometres to go. Twenty-four hours later he went clear in a short-lived move close to the finish and then did what he could to set the team's other sprinter, Jean-Patrick Nazon, up for Ag2r's second victory. The opening few days exceeded the French team's own hopes, as the squad had been hoping to land one stage win during the race. To take two stages so early took the pressure off Scanlon and his team-mates for the rest of the Tour. Besides the requirement for him to perform team duties, Scanlon had the personal goal of completing the race and so building strength for future years. He was successful in this regard, getting through the mountains without problems and finishing a decent 65th in the Alpe d'Huez time trial. He consequently comes out of the race a little more assured of his abilities. Crucially, the three-week race should also prove to be good preparation for his participation in the Olympic road race next month, providing he can recover from his exertions. Scanlon will be joined by Navigators Insurance professional Ciaran Power in the road race in Athens, while Robin Seymour and Jenny McCauley will represent the country in the mountain bike cross-country events. Ireland will have one of the smaller squads there, but their big hope for the future is happy with the course and is hoping for a decent showing on August 15.
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