Five Irish riders expected to step up in next year’s Grand Tours
Dan Martin and Nicolas Roche likely to lead challenges in Tour de France next year
Sam Bennett’s team Bora-Hansgrohe have big ambitions for next year. hotograph: Ciaran Fallon/Inpho.
The past 10 days have seen the unveiling of the routes for next year’s Tour de France and Giro d’Italia, two of cycling’s three Grand Tours.
Together with the Vuelta a España, several Irish riders will be in the running to compete in one or more of those races. The teams of Dan Martin (QuickStep Floors), Nicolas Roche (BMC Racing Team), Ryan Mullen (Cannondale-Drapac) and Philip Deignan (Sky) will all be part of the WorldTour next season, while Sam Bennett’s Bora-Hansgrohe are expected to step up to the top level.
Once these squads are confirmed as part of the World Tour by the UCI they will each have automatic right of participation in the three Grand Tours, giving the squads the ability to choose where each rider will compete.
Of those, Martin and Roche are highly likely to ride the Tour. Martin finished a career-best ninth overall this year and said during the recent Tour route launch that he was confident he could aim higher next time around.
Roche is moving from Sky to the BMC Racing Team and, while he missed out on selection last July, he is seen as valuable in Richie Porte’s bid to try to win the race.
Of the others, Deignan has never ridden the Tour and, after a quiet 2016, his chances will very much depend on his form next season.
Mullen is in a different position: he will be in only his second year as a professional next season and while he finished fifth recently in the UCI world time trial championships, it is almost certain that his team will opt to have him ride the Giro d’Italia or the Vuelta a España prior to considering him for the Tour de France.
As for Bennett, he competed in the past two editions of the Tour, but may be in a different position next summer. As part of its growth his Bora-Hansgrohe team has signed several marquee names including double world road race champion Peter Sagan.
His sprinting ability overlaps with Bennett’s, and his team manager Ralph Denk said this week that he might well be sent to a different race in order to have his own opportunities. If so, riding the Giro or Vuelta could be a more straightforward route to his first Grand Tour stage win.