Hotly fancied Bennett plays down National title hopes

CYCLING: Sam Bennett is the hot favourite to win tomorrow’s Elite National Road Race title in Mullingar, but the Carrick-on-Súir rider is playing down his chances.

Hotly fancied Bennett plays down National title hopes

The Team NetApp-Endura neo-professional has racked up a number of stunning wins in his debut season in the paid ranks and with the course suited to his characteristics, he’s the man who will take most beating.

Bennett, 24, from Carrick-on-Súir, has been U23 champion twice in the past, in 2010 and 2011, but is yet to medal in the Elite event.

“I have had the best season I have ever had so far,” he said yesterday. “Everybody is just going to watch my wheel. I am not going to be able to budge at all. It is more than likely I will be marked out of it.”

With the exception of Nicolas Roche, the country’s top riders, professional and amateur, will be there for the 190k showdown. 2013 world scratch race champion Martyn Irvine (UnitedHealthcare) is another to watch, but Dan Martin (Garmin-SHARP) and multiple champion Matt Brammeier (Synergy Baku), who is attempting to win his fifth straight national title, are also big contenders.

Of the home challenge, local man Damien Shaw (Aquablue) and his teammate Bryan McCrystal are most likely to challenge, the former having come third last year.

There’s also the U23 race tomorrow, and they’ll be racing with the elites. Jack Wilson of the An Post Chainreaction team is the defending champion and with Ryan Mullen and Conor Dunne for support it’ll take a lot to stop him.

But there’s a real clutch of home riders who could, Corkman Dylan Foley (Aqualue) and Sean McKenna (UCD CC) as well as Javan Nulty (DID Dunboyne) well capable.

Meanwhile, Philip Deignan will not be in the Tour de France this year after Team Sky announced their nine-rider roster for the race yesterday. The Donegal man has had a packed schedule over the last two months where he rode the Giro d’Italia as well as the Tour de Suisse, excelling in the mountain stages towards the latter of those races.

It was hoped he’d get the call to support team leader Chris Froome for the world’s biggest race, which starts in Leeds today week, but, alas, Team Principal Dave Brailsford has opted to give him a rest.

Brailsford has plumped for defending champion Froome as their main GC man, and will have the backing of Richie Porte, Geraint Thomas, Mikel Nieve, Bernhard Eisel, Vasil Kiryienka, David López, Danny Pate and Xabier Zandio.

It’s a team selection very few could argue with, Brailsford clearly going for men with experience. Deignan has never ridden the Tour de France but can take consolation in the fact he’s likely to ride the Vuelta A Espana later in the season.

Dan Martin and Bennett will not race the Tour either, Martin because he’s not quite at the level required following his crash at the Giro, while Bennett’s team have opted for a team with more of an emphasis on General Classification and will not target the sprint stages, where Bennett will be favoured to do well.

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