No Tour de France for Sam Bennett and Ryan Mullen

Ireland likely to be without any riders in this year’s Tour which starts on Friday

Ireland looks likely to be without riders in this year’s Tour de France following the announcement of the Bora-hansgrohe team for this year’s race and confirmation that neither Sam Bennett nor Ryan Mullen will take part.

Both riders missed Sunday’s national road race championships in order to be ready for the Tour, likely reasoning that returning to Ireland would complicate things in advance of next Friday’s start .

However, Bennett and Mullen have been left out of the eight-man squad for the race, with the team instead deciding to back the general classification hopes of Aleksandr Vlasov. The Russian was recently forced to withdraw from the Tour de Suisse while leading it due to a positive Covid test. He has since recovered.

Bennett’s lead-out man Danny Van Poppel makes the squad, but the Irish riders are yet to comment on their failure to make the team.

Sports director Rolf Aldag commented on the team selection in a podcast naming the lineup.

“It is never an easy decision because our roster is so strong and we could easily have picked 10, 11 or 12 guys. We have done well in stage races this year. As well as the Giro, we won Valencia, Catalunya and Romandie, which shows the direction the team need to go,” he said.

It is unclear if the latter statement makes it more difficult for a sprinter to be selected in the future.

Ireland’s two other WorldTour professionals, Eddie Dunbar (Ineos-Grenadiers) and Ben Healy (EF Education-EasyPost) are thought unlikely to take part in this year’s Tour.

Bennett won two stages plus the green jersey in the 2020 Tour de France, riding the race as part of the Deceuninck-QuickStep team. He began last season with several impressive wins but then suffered a knee injury in the weeks before the Tour which ultimately ruled him out of the race.

He competed on just four occasions later in the season and took time this year to get back up to speed.

Vuelta a España target

Bennett won the Eschborn-Frankfurt WorldTour event on May 1st, his first victory in almost a year, and since then has placed fifth in the Rund um Köln and fourth on the final stage of the Baloise Belgium Tour. Taking a stage win in the latter may have sealed a place in the Tour line-up but now he will be forced to miss the race for the second year in succession, something he will be very disappointed about.

Mullen too will be frustrated as he passed up the chance to defend his Irish road race and time trial titles in the hope that he would be making his Tour de France debut.

Both riders will now likely aim for participation in the Vuelta a España, one of cycling’s two other three-week races. That starts on August 19th.

A number of other big-name international riders will miss this year’s Tour for a variety of reasons. They include the Briton Mark Cavendish (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl), who won four stages last year.

He equalled Eddy Merckx’s all-time record of 34 stage wins last July and was aiming to set a new mark in this year’s Tour, but the team has instead backed the young Dutchman Fabio Jakobsen.

Shane Stokes

Shane Stokes

Shane Stokes is a contributor to The Irish Times writing about cycling