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Irvine back to retain his Tour of the North crown

The 2010 edition of the P&O Irish Sea Tour of the North will again take to the roads of Northern Ireland over the Easter weekend.

Stage 1 will be a testing short prologue at Stormont Estate, commencing at 6.30pm on Good Friday.

The event is the biggest of its type in Northern Ireland, promoted by the Northern Ireland Cycling Federation, and attracts over 100 top cyclists from across Ireland, the UK and Europe.

The Tour of the North started back in 1955 and throughout the years some of the world’s best riders have competed in the event.

Sean Kelly won the event in 1977 before going on to be one of the world’s top cyclists. Another of Ireland’s heroes, Stephen Roche, also competed, before going on to win the Tour de France, Tour of Italy and World Championship road race Grand Slam in 1987.

“We are delighted with the entry for this year,” said Event Organiser Anthony Mitchell announcing details of this year’s race.

“Once again Rapha-Condor-Sharp is sending a strong team to challenge last year’s local winner, Martyn Irvine who is from Newtownards.”

Irvine, who will return from the UCI World Track Championships in Denmark to compete, lines up at Stormont with his new Planet-X backed team.

Also amongst the top quality entry is Dutch outfit Westland Cycling Team, WV de Kaanibaal and Belgians Decock Sportivo. The newly formed Team Herbalife-Wheelbase squad from England will also be in the mix over the Easter weekend.

The race has undergone some major changes for 2010, with the loss of the Sunday morning Time Trial, to be replaced with longer stages throughout the weekend, making for a longer, tougher event.

Stage 2 runs over 76 miles from Ballygowan through Dromara and over Slieve Croob, before returning through Annsborough, Ballynahinch and Crossgar, with the stage finish on the Comber Road Dundonald.

Stage 3 (80 miles) takes the riders to Limavady in Co. Londonderry, where they will compete over an 80-mile loop, taking in three further King of the Hills categories, making it a total of five in in the space of two days.

The fourth and final stage moves to Ballymena in County Antrim with a precarious down hill finish after 70 miles to decide the overall winner.

This stage also offers three more King of the Hills points scoring opportunities along a scenic route, which passes through Glenarm, Carnlough and Waterfoot.

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