One of the world’s most famous sporting superstars is heading for these shores after it was announced yesterday that cycling sensation Lance Armstrong will bring his Asanta team to take part in the Tour of Ireland.
It will be the first time that Armstrong has competed in Ireland and the seven-time Tour de France winner will jet in for the race which runs from August 21-23.
Six times Tour de France stage winner Mark Cavendish (Columbia - HTC) also returns to Ireland where he scored three consecutive stage wins last year.
“We have had great support from the event sponsors, teams and local authorities to keep the race on the road in what is a very tough economic climate,” said Event Organiser Alan Rushton.
“As a result our event is leaner and fitter and the race will show a large international television audience that Ireland has a great deal to offer visitors.
“We have over 550km of racing through spectacular countryside and victory will be a hard fought affair”.
The race has established a big reputation in the professional peloton and this year's event, held in association with Fáilte Ireland, is expected to be the biggest yet with thousands of spectators expected to line the roads.
112 cyclists from 16 of the best teams in the world will head out from The Ritz-Carlton Powerscourt, County Wicklow on Friday August 21.
Meanwhile, Nicki Sorensen broke clear late on from a long-time breakaway group of seven riders to win Stage 12 of the Tour de France as Britain's sprint king Cavendish spent a well-deserved day in the peloton.
Green jersey holder Cavendish claimed the two previous stages but was happy to kick back yesterday, although he did win a sprint finish in the peloton to come home eighth and extend his lead in the sprinters' classification over Thor Hushovd.
Sorensen, who rides for Saxo Bank, made a solo raid for home five and a half kilometres out and could not be stopped, winning the 211.5km jaunt from Tonnerre to Vittel in four hours 52 minutes and 24 seconds.
The remnants of the breakaway septet came home 48 seconds later, Bouygues Telecom's Laurent Lefevre finishing second ahead of Liquigas' Franco Pellizotti.
Rinaldo Nocentini, who retains the yellow jersey for a fifth night, was in the bosom of the peloton as were Astana duo Alberto Contador and Lance Armstrong, — who finished 16th — his nearest rivals for the maillot jaune.
It meant there was no change at the top of the general classification but with Cavendish beating Hushovd to eighth, the Manx rider sees his lead over the Norwegian in the sprinters' standings grow to 10 points.
Cavendish, who already has four stage victories to his name this Tour, was content staying in the peloton after his exploits of the past two days.
“We needed a break,” the Team Columbia rider said.
“It's a long day every day and the (Columbia) guys are only human. They can only do so much. We need to be fresh to get through the Alps.
“The focus is on Paris now.”
Sorensen found great energy levels at the business end of the stage to cruise to victory.
“I'm extremely happy,” he said. “It's true, I don't get many chances for myself at the end. This time I had it and I was dogged at the end.”