The Irish team for tomorrow’s elite men’s road race at the UCI World Championships in Yorkshire are a tried and tested bunch of riders at the top level - with the exception of Rory Townsend.
But having impressed in the recent Tour of Britain, the 24-year old was drafted into the six-man team in the absence of Nicolas Roche who was ruled out with a broken kneecap sustained at the recent Vuelta A Espana.
“I had an idea it was happening,” said Townsend this week of his call-up.
“Brian (Nugent - Cycling Ireland Technical Director) took the time to call me before the official squad was named. He said I was the first reserve and I was to keep myself fit. And with Nico’s injury the door was always open (for someone).”
With the deep talent pool in contention, Townsend had to do something special at the Tour of Britain to guarantee selection.
And that is exactly what he achieved by finishing the week as leader of the sprints ‘ classification.
“If I wanted to plan my run-in to this weekend, this is exactly how I would have done it. Nico is a massive guy to lose but I´m hoping to do something to make up for his loss. This is one of the strongest teams we’ve ever had at a championships and it’s a massive honour to be in the race.
“I feel particularly proud about it and it’ll be very special with so much family watching.”
Townsend qualifies to ride for Ireland through his father David from Lemybrien, Co. Waterford who emigrated to London in the seventies.
And it was during the many Easter holiday and summer visits to Ireland´s cycling heartland of Carrick-on-Suir where Rory considered switching allegiances.
“A cousin of mine, John Dempsey, was the catalyst for me coming over here, actually.
“I used to come over a lot growing up and it was here where I was just able to go and ride for myself in some of the local races.
“Since the changeover of licence it’s just felt right. I don’t know why I didn’t do it before, everyone has been so welcoming.”
His experiences in green came at the European Championships in August (DNF) and a decent showing for 40th at the Olympic Test Event in Tokyo in mid-July. Tomorrow is a big step-up from those and Townsend will race almost 300km over seven hours against the best in the world.
Alongside Eddie Dunbar, Conor Dunne, Ryan Mullen, Sam Bennett and Dan Martin they will be a match for anyone, with the latter and Bennett the team’s protected riders.
Townsend’s job will be to shepherd either of those two for as long as his legs will allow, as well as gaining valuable experience.
“It´s going to be a surreal experience for me and I cannot wait,” he said.
“There will be so many people I know watching from the side, it’s almost like the best world champs I could possibly do.”