(Toby Watson)

Rory Townsend put in a brilliant ride for Ireland in the Elite Men’s Road Race today at the World Championships in Flanders, Belgium. 

Townsend spent the majority of his race in the eight-man breakaway and was aggressive in the lead group even when they were reeled in by the chasing group with about 130 kilometres to go. Townsend remained in contention in the lead group until a cramp forced him off his bike and he could not continue the race. 

Over the arduous 268.7km course, the peloton reduced significantly with only 68 riders completing the course out of 195 that started. 

Eddie Dunbar and Ryan Mullen rode well today but were unfortunately among the high number of riders who did not finish the race. Dunbar was threatening at the beginning of the race and made attempts to make an escape but the attacks were quickly nullified by the peloton. 

Speaking after the race, Dunbar said:

“It was a very, very hard race. I hadn’t raced since the Olympics because I got covid after it so I actually wasn’t going to race for the rest of the year after that because I had three full weeks off the bike. But training went well over the last few weeks but today I did suffer you know. I tried a lot to get into the breakaway, maybe I spent a bit too much energy trying to follow a lot of moves but in the end it was really good to have Rory there. Then it was just about trying to stay upright on the circuits and yah if you had legs you were going to be there. I knew I had a good 4 hours in me, I did get caught by the crash which didn’t help so I did have to pull out a bit earlier than I would’ve thought. But it’s just nice to be back racing you know.”

World Champion Julian Alaphilippe of France defended his title in style, after launching a solo attack with 17 kilometres to go. In the chasing group, Dylan van Baarle of the Netherlands took silver while Michael Valgren of Denmark claimed the bronze medal. 

Although things didn’t turn out the way we had hoped, some of the team goals were still achieved and many positives can be taken from it. Tim Barry, DS for the elite riders said:

“One of the team goals was to get a rider in the early breakaway which was Rory and he was successful in that, he was up there for a long time.” 
“Rory had a very good ride, solid performance for him and you know he can build on that for future races.” Tim added. 

Tim Barry Interview