Max Stedman has unfinished business at the Rás Tailteann.
The 22-year-old returns to the eight-day Irish stage race on Sunday after a crash and subsequent illness forced him to cut his debut short last season.
Stedman arrives in Drogheda on the back of an impressive spring, which included a superb breakaway ride on the Tour de Yorkshire’s Queen stage.
And he is determined to deliver success for Canyon Eisberg in the gruelling UCI 2.2 contest, which climaxes in Skerries on Sunday, May 27. The climber said:
“I feel like I’m far more prepared this year. I have a lot more stage-racing experience, I feel stronger and more ready for it.
“I certainly feel like I have some unfinished business. Staying upright first of all and finishing the race would be good!
“It will be the longest race I have ever done. It’s a hillier one this year, too, so I am really excited for it.
“We have a good team, a really strong team. We have all bases covered and I can’t wait to get started.
“It would be nice to win something for the team, whether that is a stage or a jersey.
“I think the under-23 classification is definitely a goal and maybe the race overall. We’ll just have to wait and see.”
Stedman has already circled stage seven, from Carlow to Naas, as one which may suit his talents.
Eight categorised climbs feature in the 141km route, including the category one ascents of Drumgoff and Wicklow Gap.
The 153km fourth stage, from Listowel to Glengarriff, is also likely to see a shakedown among the general classification hopefuls.
However, with five-man teams offering little by way of control, every day on the Rás will present a challenge.
Stedman led Canyon Eisberg’s overall hopes at the Tour de Yorkshire only for a mechanical on stage three to scupper his charge.
While he felt bad as James Lowsley-Williams was forced to pick up the mantle, the University of Exeter rider was handed the rare opportunity of a day up the road on stage four.
And he made the most of it, only missing out on the mountains jersey to breakaway companion Stéphane Rossetto, of Cofidis, who produced the ride of his life to win solo.
Stedman has no hard feelings, though. And now the dust has settled, he reflects on the race fondly. The Berkshire-born climber added:
“It was a mega experience. I don’t often get given the chance to get in a break because I’m usually going for GC for myself and the team.
“So it was really cool and having watched it back I’m really happy. To be first through all those crowds was something amazing.
“There were points when I doubted myself. When I got spat on Park Rash I thought maybe I’m not cut out for this.
“But when it kept coming through on the radio that this guy wasn’t getting caught, I thought okay he was just on an outrageous day. I didn’t feel so bad then!
“The training in March and April has clearly paid off. My goal was to be consistent and so far things have gone as well I could have hoped.”
To date, Stedman has finished fourth overall in the Spring Cup, having placed sixth in the Chorley Grand Prix, 11th in the East Cleveland Klondike Grand Prix and seventh at the Lincoln Grand Prix.
He climbed to 18th on stage two of the Tour de Yorkshire, mixing it with World Tour stars such as Greg van Avermaet on the Cote de Cow & Calf summit finish.
All that on the back of his maiden UCI triumph at the Tour of Quanzhou Bay in China in December, when he won stage two and the general classification.
Look out on Facebook and Twitter at 7pm this evening for confirmation of the five-man Canyon Eisberg team for the Rás Tailteann.