Irish time trial champion Ben Healy pulled off one of the most impressive performances of his young career on Wednesday, being clear for most of the 150-kilometre Trofeo Calvia in Mallorca before eventually finishing third.
The podium finish is the highest international placing of the EF Education-EasyPost rider’s pro career, but only tells half the story. He went clear very early on with three other riders, opening a lead of four minutes over the next chasers.
He and Pascal Eenkhoorn (Lotto Dstny) pushed forward and while they were joined by former world champion Rui Costa (Intermarché-Circus-Wanty) and Louis Vervaeke (Soudal-Quick Step) with just over 20 kilometres to go, Healy still had enough in the tank to bring back Vervaeke after he attacked on the final climb.
Healy then made a solo move away from Costa and Vervaeke with four kilometres left. This was hauled back, with the Irishman then putting in another big effort with just over one kilometre to go to ensure that the trio fended off a chase group.
This sapped Healy’s remaining strength and he was third in the sprint to the line, with Costa first home.
The result shows the 22-year-old is in superb form starting his second season in the pro ranks.
Meanwhile Ireland’s team for the eSports world championships on February 18th has increased by one after the issuing of a wildcard to Imogen Cotter. The 2021 Irish road race champion was badly injured when she was hit by a car last January but is rebuilding form and hopes to have a strong season this year.
She will join previously announced competitors Linda Kelly and Heather Foley in the women’s races, while national eSports champion Chris Dawson and Richard Barry will contest the men’s events.
“Imogen demonstrated a very high level in Zwift races a couple of seasons ago and we believe in her ability to race again at this level, as strong as ever, in the Irish Jersey,” said Cycling Ireland Head Coach Neill Delahaye. “The opportunity offered by Zwift to include her in the Team for the UCI E-Sport Worlds gives her the chance to deliver a strong performance and serve as a stepping stone for her into a successful road season.”
The eSports world championships are held using smart trainers and run off on the Zwift virtual platform. This year’s championships will comprise three short, explosive events called the Punch, the Climb and the Podium.
Cotter will compete with the Fenix Deceuninck Continental team this year. It is a wing of her previous squad Plantur Pura, which will also field a WorldTour squad this year.
The Clarewoman hopes to have a strong season and to step up to WorldTour level in 2024.