Irish team amongst retirements at rain-hit World Championships
Portugal’s Rui Costa takes title in tense finale
Riders cycle under heavy rain next to the San Giovanni Baptistery during the men’s elite road race at the UCI Road World Championships in Florence. Photograph: Giampiero Sposito/Reuters
Irish duo Nicolas Roche and Dan Martin’s dream of an Irish medal at cycling’s world road race championships disintegrated today due to bad luck and atrocious weather conditions at the elite race in Florence.
The city enjoyed fine weather all week but rain teemed down this morning, making the course treacherous. The race has been marked by a large number of crashes and both Irish riders hit the deck, bringing their chances to an end.
After the riders completed the 107 kilometres from Lucca to Florence, Roche was one of several riders who crashed on the first lap out of 10 on the finishing circuit. While his fall didn’t leave him with any serious injuries, he was delayed significantly.
Team-mates Sam Bennett and Matt Brammeier dropped back in order to try to help him get back to the bunch, but the time lost was too much to recoup and he was three minutes behind with 140 kilometres to go.
The three riders knew that it was impossible to return and withdraw from the race soon afterwards.
The incident left Martin as the sole Irishman in contention but he too had bad luck. He was involved in a crash with approximately 132 kilometres remaining, hitting the deck with 2011 Tour de France winner Cadel Evans.
While he was able to get back on his bike, he was two minutes 15 seconds behind the peloton with 126 kilometres to go. Returning from that deficit was impossible and he too withdrew from the race.
Both riders will rue the falls, not least because they were in good form and had aimed to be very aggressive in the finale.
Portugal’s Rui Costa kept his composure in a tense finale to upset the favourites and clinch the title.
After sitting behind and refusing to take turns at the front, Costa made his move some 1.5 kilometres from the finish to bridge the gap with Joaquim Rodriguez and beat the Spaniard in a sprint finish to become the first Portuguese to win the event.
Another Spaniard, Alejandro Valverde, took third place for his fifth podium at the event although he has never won the coveted rainbow jersey.
Home favourite Vincenzo Nibali, who launched the decisive attack in the Fiesole climb despite also crashing, had to settle for fourth.
The move left one-day race specialists Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland, Peter Sagan of Slovakia and defending champion Philippe Gilbert of Belgium stuck on the tarmac on the final of 10 laps on a 16.6-km circuit.