Roche kicks-off with fifth-place finish in team time-trial

Nicolas Roche got Ireland’s UCI World Championships campaign underway in Ponferrada, Spain yesterday with a fifth-place finish in the Elite men’s team time-trial.

Roche’s six-man Tinkoff-Saxo team were 46 seconds off the winning time set by BMC with Orica-GreenEdge second at 31 seconds and Omega Pharma Quick Step third a further 35 seconds behind.

Roche, who is in great form, did much of the pace-setting and he’ll now turn his attention to Wednesday’s individual time-trial as well as next Sunday’s road race where he’ll make up a third of the Irish team alongside Dan Martin and Philip Deignan.

Next up for the Irish is Ryan Mullen in the U23 time-trial this afternoon and he starts the race as one of the favourites having finished seventh last year.

The 20-year-old National road race and time-trial champion was only a handful of seconds outside the top five in 2013 and has been in stunning of late. Recently, he set the third fastest time ever recorded in the UK for a 10-mile time-trial, besting the likes of former Tour de France winners Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome. Today’s test is much longer at 36k but Mullen should still be right in the hunt for a medal.

Switzerland’s Stefan Kung will be one of his biggest rivals but Cycling Ireland High Performance Director, Brian Nugent, believes Mullen is ready.

“He’s good, he’s ready to go, his legs are good, he’s had a good break,” said Nugent. “He rode the course a lot the last few days and he’s happy. He likes it a lot and 90% of it suits him and that’s as good as you get really.

“You never get a course 100% suited to you but he’s ready for it.

“He’s really hungry for a medal,” continued Nugent. “He was seventh last year and has got 2 or 3% stronger since then so there’s no reason he shouldn’t be thinking of a medal.”

Also in action today is Josie Knight in the junior women’s time-trial, held over 13.9k.

Meanwhile, Keith Gater was crowned National vets’ road race champion on Saturday after he won a fabulous race from Carrick on Suir pair Hugh Mulhearne and Rory Wyley.

Gater had been part of the day’s five-man break that got whittled down to three after around 60 kilometres but on the last lap of six, he attacked his breakaway companions Mulhearne and Wyley and soloed to the finish, crossing the line with around 30 seconds to spare.

In the women’s road race that preceded the vets, Cork woman Fiona Meade notched one of the biggest wins of her life – and first national title — when she sprinted to victory ahead of 2010 champion Olivia Dillon (Colavita Fine Cooking).

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