Two Irish riders – Conor Dunne and Sean McKenna – rode strongly to make it into the main break of the day in the Elite Men’s Race at the UCI Road World Championships in Bergen, Norway today. Dan Martin was best of the Irish, finishing 26th in the bunch sprint in a race won by Peter Sagan for the third time in a row. Norway’s Alexander Kristoff won silver on home turf ahead of Michael Matthews (Australia).
McKenna and Dunne attacked at the start, building a gap of over seven minutes on the road. The two Irish men were in a group of seven riders and kept their lead for over 180km, when the main peloton pushed hard on the 17.8km circuit.
This was the first Elite World Championships for McKenna, and the significance of his effort was not lost the Dubliner – “This was one of the best days I’ve ever had on the bike – I was willing to do anything in the break. My dad was on the cobbled climb and every time I passed I saw him smile. You’ve no idea how many races he brought me to and I was last in every single one, and I was just in the break in the World Championships – that’s unbelievable!”
Having completed his first Grand Tour this month – the Vuelta a Espana – Dunne felt strong today, saying: “I felt really good today – it was a shame we couldn’t go further in the break – we got brought back a couple of laps earlier than we hoped. Then I felt good in the bunch, and just got popped out the back in the climb.”
Once the early break was caught by the peloton, Dunne remained in the bunch until one lap to go, and was instrumental in ensuring Martin was is in good position when the pressure came on in the closing laps. Martin said: “The race really started with four to five laps to go. The pace heated up, and it was very, very hard. There was a split at the top, and I was just at the right side of the split.”
Nicolas Roche was caught out behind a pile up in the closing kilometres of the race, resulting in a 34th place finish. Disappointed, he said: “It was a great race, but not for me. There was a pile up at the bottom of the climb and I was last one off the back with Boasson-Hagen.”
Martin was surprised to finish so strongly saying: “Just to get to the start line is an achievement today – I was diagnosed with a broken back eight weeks ago. It’s been a really hard, long season. I hoped to finish today, so to be in the front group is a big surprise.”
“That was a great performance from the team today,” Martin added. “Sean and Conor were in the break, and did a great job flying the flag out there. Conor put me in position for when it really started to get hard in the race too.”
Martin said: “We really rode a great race as a team, and it was great to have five riders in the pro race. It’s a good performance for the whole team on a course that didn’t really suit us, to be honest.”