Ireland’s Nicolas Roche and Dan Martin both preserved their high overall placings in the Vuelta a Espana yesterday and look well poised to strike for the race lead today.
The fifth stage of the race into the Andalucian town of Ronda was won by rising Australian star Caleb Ewan of Orica-GreenEDGE after he held off John Degenkolb (Giant Alpecin) and third-placed Peter Sagan (Tinkoff Saxo).Roche and Martin were in a group eight seconds behind, 22nd and 27th respectively, and are now just 16 and 25 seconds off the top of the general standings.
The overall race lead changed hands following the conclusion of the stage as overnight leader Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEDGE) came across the line in that same group as the Irish pair, but up ahead in a group of 13 riders was Tom Dumoulin (Giant Alpecin), who started the day second just five seconds down.
The Dutchman wears the red jersey into today’s stage from Cordoba to Sierra de Cazorla but with a stinging final three kilometres up to the finish there is expected to be a further shake-up at the head of the leaderboard. Those sharp ramps up to the finish are where both Roche and Martin excel and with time bonuses for the first three over the line they’ll need no reminding that chances like this don’t come too often. Meanwhile, Ireland will not be represented in this year’s U23 men’s road race at the UCI World Championships in Richmond, Virginia, after failing to secure enough points in qualifying events throughout the year. The news will come as a blow to both Eddie Dunbar and Ryan Mullen who were both guaranteed to be picked for the race which takes place on Saturday, September 25.
The qualifying criteria stipulates that the top 27 nations in the UCI Europe Tour on the cut-off point of August 15 all qualify teams of between five and three riders depending on how up the rankings each nation is placed.
Ireland finished 28th, one point behind Greece and just one place outside the qualifying slots.
Ireland could also have qualified a team for the U23 road race had any of our U23 riders been in the top 300 in the UCI Europe Tour rankings.
Dunbar went closest as he occupies 377th place in those combined elite and U23 rankings.
And had the Irish scored any points in the U23 Nations Cup series of races, a three-man team would have been on the start line for the Worlds next month.
Ireland will have three riders in the men’s elite road race, two of whom can do the individual time-trial as well. Five riders can start the men’s junior road race, two of whom can also do the time-trial.
In the women’s events, Ireland can send four juniors for the road race and two for the time-trial as well as two for the elite time-trial and three for the elite women’s road race.
The teams will not be named until much closer to the championships.
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