Emotional Rory Townsend claims cycling road race crown

English-born rider with an Irish father in tears after crossing the line in Kanturk

Eight days after winning stage four of the Rás Tailteann and one week after netting fourth overall in that event, Rory Townsend continued his good form to land the Irish road race championship in Kanturk. The WivSunGod rider proved strongest on a tough, wet day in Kanturk, eventually soloing in alone to take a very emotional victory.

Townsend crossed the line 26 seconds clear of breakaway companion Cormac McGeough (Wildlife Generation Pro Cycling) and two minutes 25 seconds in front of former national champion Ben Healy (EF Education-EasyPost), Dean Harvey (Spellman Dublin Port) and Darren Rafferty (Hagens Berman Axeon).

He began sobbing as soon as he rolled to a halt, being embraced by his father, teammate Matthew Teggart and other competitors.

”It is amazing. I am absolutely lost for words. This is a dream come true,” he told The Irish Times. “I thought maybe this was possible, but I was a bit nervous coming into the race as I felt I was carrying too much weight. So all race I was conscious about trying to get ahead for the climbs.

”I knew that I could ride at a good pace on the flat and even my own pace on the climb. So I had that tactic loosely in my head, and then everything just seemed to go my way.”

The riders faced a total of 163 kilometres, comprising a hilly 103km loop and then four laps of a 15 kilometre finishing circuit. Townsend was wary of the climbing strength of local favourite Eddie Dunbar (Ineos Grenadiers) and tried repeatedly to get clear early on.

His early moves were brought back but he then slipped away before the climb of Black Banks and was joined by McGeough, Harvey and John Buller (Amicale Cycliste Bisontine).

Buller was dropped while Dunbar was able to bridge across, with this group holding a constantly fluctuating lead over a chase group containing Healy, Rafferty and Jesse Ewart (Team Bike Aid).

Dunbar had felt strong but then suffered a stomach problem, vomiting during the race and being unable to eat after that point. He ran out of energy on the penultimate lap and, like Harvey shortly before him, lost his place in the front group. Both were picked up by the chasers, with Dunbar further fading to an eventual placing of seventh.

Like Dunbar, Healy had also done a huge amount of work in his group but he also faded, although he was able to recover, catch the chase group again and take the bronze medal. Harvey outsprinted Rafferty for fourth and the under-23 title.

Townsend was born in England but his father grew up in Waterford. He said it was an honour to be able to wear the national champion’s jersey for the next year.

”I am just lost for words. It is just such an honour. This is literally something I dreamt about since I started cycling.”

Cycling Ireland national road championships, Kanturk

Elite men’s road race: 1 Rory Townsend (WiV SunGod) 163 kilometres in 3 hours 48′11″, 2 C McGeough (Wildlife Generation Pro Cycling) at 26″, 3 B Healy (EF Education-EasyPost) at 2′25″, 4 D Harvey (Spellman Dublin Port), 5 D Rafferty (Hagens Berman Axeon), 6 J Ewart (Team Bike Aid) at 2′29″, 7 E Dunbar (Ineos Grenadiers) at 4′20″, 8 A Ryan (Jumbo-Visma Development Team) at 8′36″, 9 K McCambridge (Trinity Racing), 10 J Jenkins (Richardsons Trek DAS) both same time

Under 23: 1 Dean Harvey (Spellman Dublin Port) 3 hours 50′36″, 2 D Rafferty (Hagens Berman Axeon), 8 A Ryan (Jumbo-Visma Development Team) at 6′11″