Mark Downey has finished his road season on a high, with 9th in the Men’s U23 Road Race at the 2017 UCI Road World Championships in Bergen, Norway today. It rounds off an excellent season for the 21 year-old which also saw him win gold in the Points Race at the Cali round of the UCI Track Cycling World Cup in addition to winning silver with Felix English in the Madison in Cali before going on to win gold in the same event in the Los Angeles round.
Today’s result marks the best result for an Irish rider in the race since Philip Deignan also finished in 9th place in the 2005 race.
The 191km Road Race was won by Frenchman Benoit Cosnefroy, with Germany’s Lennard Kamna taking the silver. The bronze medal was contested by a fast approaching bunch 3 seconds later, with Denmark’s Michael Carbel Svendgaard rounding off the podium.
“If you told me at the beginning of the year that I’d be ninth in the World Championships I wouldn’t have believed it,” said Downey at the end of the race. “It was one of those days when everything falls into place. I saved energy when I could, I kept on top of the food and stayed in the right place. I stayed out of trouble coming to the finish and came ninth. To end the season like that I’m really, really happy.”
Early predictions suggested that the 17.9km circuit would end in a bunch sprint. However, this was not the case with the 1.5km climb resulting in a war of attrition once the pressure came on with 75km to go.
The 21-year-old Dromore man described a tough race – “I think everyone tipped it to be a sprinter’s race, but I don’t think there were many sprinters at that front group in the end. It wasn’t really a sprint – it was just about who would get to that line first.”
In a world class field, the significance of scoring a top ten finish is not lost on him – “It means a lot to me, when you look at the guys in the top tens and twenties and there are world tour guys – this year I was an amateur in France. To be up there and elbowing those boys towards the finish – it bodes well for the future!”
This result comes at the end of a long road season for Downey, and a longer season considering he is best known as one of Ireland’s most successful track riders. “There’s a lot of people who mightn’t think ninth would mean a lot – but for me that’s something special.”
Five Irish riders lined out today in the road race, with all riders racing in the main bunch until the halfway mark – “All day we were together, looking after each other before the race really hotted up,” said Downey, who also thanked the staff and his coach David Muntaner.