Three days after Eddie Dunbar finished ninth in the under-23 time trial at the World Championships, Irish team-mate Michael O'Loughlin put in an aggressive performance in the road race for the same age group on Thursday.
The first year senior was part of a breakaway group that was clear for the majority of the 166-kilometre event in Doha, Qatar. This move was out front until 10 kilometres to go, with Dunbar subsequently finishing best of the Irish quartet in 49th place. Daire Feeley was eight places further back, with Matthew Teggart and O'Loughlin 105th and 106th.
The race was won in a bunch sprint by the Norwegian competitor Kristoffer Halvorsen, who beat Pascal Ackermann (Germany) and Italy's Jakub Mareczko for the win.
Flat and fast, the course wasn’t suited to the climbing talents of O’Loughlin. However he gave it his full effort anyway.
"I'll put that down as the hardest race I've done this year," he said afterwards. "When we were going across to the break, we weren't sure if we were going to make it, but when Gregory Daniel from Eddie's team [the American rider usually competes with Dunbar's Axeon Hagens Berman squad] came across we started talking.
“We said we’d keep going so we put the head down and went for it. The race didn’t go quite as planned, but we knew that if there was a break one of the team would be in it. It just happened to be me.”
Team manager Kurt Bogaerts acknowledged that the Irish quartet have more chances ahead.
“All these riders still have a minimum of two years left at this level. They are a young team,” he said.
“In general the parcours was not ideal for the team – being flat and hot – but Michael was very strong in the breakaway, and then we had had a plan for Teggart in the sprint. It was all going well for him until he got caught in a crash. The crash is part of cycle racing, but we had a plan and we were able to practise it.”
The best result thus far for the Irish team is Ryan Mullen’s fifth place in the Elite time trial on Wednesday.
Next up for the squad is Friday's junior men's road race. Jake Gray, Ronan Tuomey and Xeno Young will compete in that, while Sam Bennett, Mullen and Matt Brammeier will ride Sunday's Elite road race.