Roche sole Irish finisher at world road race championships
Dan Martin was distanced on the Igls climb with just over 45km remaining, and was a non-finisher
Spanish cyclist Alejandro Valverde celebrates winning the men’s race at the Road World Championships in Innsbruck, Austria. Photograph: Getty Images
Dan Martin’s dreams of becoming world champion evaporated in the elite men’s road race in Innsbruck, Austria, on Sunday, with recent disruptions to his schedule proving to be too much to overcome. Martin was hampered by the after-effects of a Tour de France crash and then pulled out of the Vuelta a España to help his wife Jess, who was pregnant with twins.
While he and Cycling Ireland still hoped he could be close to peak fitness on a course which was tailor-made for his climbing abilities, he came up short. Martin was distanced on the Igls climb with just over 45km remaining, and was a non-finisher.
His first cousin Nicolas Roche, who started the race declaring he would ride for Martin, fared somewhat better and finished 67th. He was 14 minutes 23 seconds behind the race winner.
Top honours went to the Spaniard Alejandro Valverde, who outsprinted Romain Bardet (France), Michael Woods (Canada) and Tom Dumoulin (Netherlands) to become world champion.
Ireland’s two other riders in the event, Conor Dunne and Ryan Mullen, ensured the green jersey was prominent when they went on the attack early on and were part of a long-running breakaway group. The energy expended there meant that both ultimately were non-finishers.
“It was a bit of a battle at the start and me and Ryan covered the moves together,” said Dunne. “It just worked out we were both in there. It was great to be up front with Ryan.”
Dunne was recently stranded for 2019 when the Aqua Blue Sport team collapsed. He had a contract with the squad for next season, and is now searching for a replacement. Being prominent may help in that goal.
“I’m super-proud to wear the jersey. I’ve represented Ireland for eight years now, so every time it’s goose pimples. It was awesome to be out front in the jersey today to soak up all the support. It was really, really special.”
Meanwhile Ireland’s Alice Sharpe rode bravely but was a non-finisher in the women’s road championships on Saturday. Stepping up a big level in her first year of international competition, the 24-year-old found herself on the back foot when she was caught behind a crash and delayed. She began a long chase but, while sitting 84th on the road out of 149 starters, was stopped by officials at the start of the final lap.
“It was an amazing atmosphere and I was just happy to be selected,” she said afterwards. “It’s been a mad year. I was kind of expecting the racing to start later on in the day because it was quite a long hard course but it felt like it went from the gun.”
Dutch rider Anna van der Breggen soloed to dominant victory, beating Amanda Spratt (Australia) by almost four minutes and Tatiana Guderzo (Italy) by over five.