Nicolas Roche was crowned elite national road race champion, for the second time in his career, yesterday. His typically swashbuckling performance saw off the field in wretched conditions.
The Team Sky man added the road title to the time-trial crown he won on Thursday night, and he set his stall out from the drop of the flag, in Kilcullen, by attacking early, and often, to thin out the field.
By the end of the opening lap, his tactic had started to pay off, as the bunch began to lose men, while Roche himself escaped in a number of early moves.
The big one came when eight riders went clear.
Two were dropped, but two more joined and in that latter selection were Roche, Daire Feeley (Team iTap), defending champion, Damien Shaw (An Post Chain Reaction), Eddie Dunbar (Axeon Hagens Berman), four-time winner, Matt Brammeier (Dimension Data), Mark Downey (VC Toucy), Connor McConvey (An Post Chain Reaction) and Michael O’Loughlin (Team WIGGINS).
That group stepped on the gas to chisel out a one-minute advantage, as the bunch maintained a furious chase.
On such a hard course, in harsh conditions, it was always going to be a war of attrition, but the eight up front showed admirable heart. They worked to maintain their advantage.
Behind, a five-man chase group wriggled clear of the bunch, and in among them were Jack Wilson (An Post Chain Reaction), Mark Dowling (ASEA-Wheelworx), Darragh O’Mahony (O’Leary’s Stone Kanturk CC), Chris McGlinchey (Chain Reaction Cycles) and Ryan Mullen (Cannondale).
They closed to within 30 seconds of the eight leaders, but upon hearing the gap was tumbling, the leaders pressed on, the chasers lost Wilson under the ferocious tempo, and, eventually, the wheels would come off their brave effort.
Coming onto the last of seven, 26-kilometre laps, Roche struck out in a bid to thin the break and that surge saw Feeley, Downey, and Dunbar all drop off, leaving five up front: McConvey, Shaw, Roche, Brammeier, and the flying 19-year-old, Michael O’Loughlin.
Roche was joined by Shaw out front, but would eventually distance him, too, and he soloed clear to win with 34 seconds to spare.
Shaw was scooped up by the chasing four and they all sprinted for silver and bronze, with Brammeier and O’Loughlin collecting those.
The latter would take the U23 gold medal as well, with Mark Downey second and Daire Feeley third.
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