Dan Martin had another strong performance at the Tour of Britain on Friday, finishing seventh on stage six to Gateshead. The Irish rider was one of a group of five who got clear inside the final 14 kilometres and who were then joined by five others.
The group was a who's who of the Tour of Britain, comprising six out of the top seven riders overall, including race leader Ethan Hayter (Ineos Grenadiers), Wout van Aert (Team Jumbo-Visma), world champion Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) and Martin's Israel Start-Up Nation team-mate Michael Woods.
Martin attacked with 9.7 kilometres to go and was joined by Gonzalo Serrano of the Movistar team. They were reeled in soon afterwards, with Woods then counterattacking and spending four kilometres out front. He was recaptured with 3.9 kilometres remaining, paving the way for a group sprint to the line. Van Aert was comfortably quickest there, beating Hayter and Alaphilippe, with Martin finishing seventh.
Hayter holds onto the overall lead but the time bonus at the line means his advantage over Van Aert has been halved to four seconds. Martin says seventh overall and is one minute 10 seconds back. Nicolas Roche (Team DSM) and Irish road-race champion Ben Healy (Trinity Racing) finished in the chasing group 10 seconds behind; Roche slips two places to 13th overall.
The Tour of Britain continues on Saturday with the penultimate stage, a hilly race to Edinburgh.
Meanwhile, six junior men got Friday's three-race schedule underway for the Irish team at the European road championships, with Darren Rafferty the most prominent in the race in Trento, Italy. Rafferty has been in storming form this season and went on the attack during the hilly 107.2 kilometre event, launching a move with the German rider Cédric Abt about halfway through.
Abt subsequently pushed on ahead alone but, like Rafferty, he was reeled in. The winning move then went clear on the last of eight laps, with Romain Grégoire of France outsprinting Norwegian Per Strand Hagenes and his own teammate Lenny Martinez to take the title.
The peloton finished 10 seconds back, with Rafferty placing 35th. Ronan O’Connor was the other Irish finisher in 70th place, eight minutes back.
Rafferty went agonisingly close to a medal earlier this week when he finished fourth, just two seconds off the podium, in the junior time-trial on Wednesday.
The Irish campaign continued on Friday afternoon with Aoife O’Brien in the junior women’s road-race and then Caoimhe O’Brien, Darcey Harkness and Lucy O’Donnell in the under-23 women’s event. However, they were all among a high number of riders in both events who lost contact and were required by the organisers to withdraw.
Tour of Britain (2.Pro)
Stage 6 – Carlisle to Gateshead: 1 Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) 198 kilometres in 4 hours 35 mins 56, 2 E Hayter (Ineos Grenadiers), 3 J Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep), 4 G Serrano (Movistar), 5 J Shaw (Ribble-Weldtite), 6 M Woods (Israel Start-Up Nation) all same time
Irish: 7 D Martin (Israel Start-Up Nation) same time, 28 N Roche (Team DSM) at 10, 32 B Healy (Trinity Racing) same time, 69 R Townsend (Canyon dhb SunGod) at 8 mins 45
General classification after stage 6: 1 Ethan Hayter (Ineos Grenadiers) 22 hours 53 mins 32, 2 W van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) at 4 secs, 3 J Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) at 21, 4 M Honoré (Decuninck-QuickStep) at 35, 5 M Woods (Israel Start-Up Nation) at 1 min 10
Irish: 7 D Martin (Israel Start-Up Nation) at 1 min 10, 13 N Roche (Team DSM) at 2 mins 2, 44, R Townsend (Canyon dhb SunGod) at 14 mins 32, 59 B Healy (Trinity Racing) at 23 mins 19
European road championships, Trento, Italy
Junior men's road race: 1 Romain Grégoire (France) 107.2 kilometres in 2 hours 35 mins 42 secs, 2 P Strand Hagenes (Norway), 3 L Martinez (France) both same time, 4 V Van Mechelen (Belgium) at 10 secs, 5 M Oioli (Italy) same time
Team Ireland riders: 35 D Rafferty, same time, 70 R O'Connor at 8 mins 8 secs
DNF: R Byrne, D Harvey, A Gilsenan, C Scully