The pace was high in both the Elite Women and Junior Men’s Road Race at the 2017 UCI Road World Championships in Bergen, Norway on Saturday. The Irish team had four riders in action, with all four making their Road World Championships debut. Lydia Boylan, along with over half the peloton were pulled before the finish of the 152.8km race, with the gold medal being won by Chantal Blaak (NED). Katrin Garfoot (AUS) and Denmark’s Amalie Dideriksen won the silver and bronze.
In the Junior Men’s Road Race Julius Johansen (DEN) won the world title ahead of Italians Luca Rastelli and Michele Gazzoli. Luke Smith, PJ Doogan and Ben Walsh from Ireland finished 79th, 81st and 89th respectively in the 133.8km course.
“That was a bit of a shock to the system,” said Boylan immediately after the race which was fast paced from the start. “It’s the World Championships, I was expecting it to be hard, it’s the biggest, hardest field of the year.”
After the first lap the Team WNT Procycling racer was chasing with a small group just behind the main peloton, before racing hard and regaining contact – “As soon as we got back in the bunch I knew I needed to be better positioned, and I managed to do that the second and third time up the climb. It was actually on the more technical section on the cobbles that things started to light up a bit, and I got caught out too far back.”
Boylan’s group was pulled from the race, leaving her as a DNF, once the gap grew by a few minutes with three laps to go – “It’s the same old story – you need to be well positioned in these bunches or else gaps just open up. Unfortunately, that was me in a group just off the back, and not able to get back on.”
The Junior Men’s Race began in Rong, 40km from Bergen, where the Elite Men’s Race starts tomorrow. While a small group got away, the Irish riders stayed in the main bunch for much of the race. With about 3 laps of the circuit remaining a split in the bunch left Doogan in the front part, and Smith and Walsh just behind.
Doogan described a crash that pushed him back to the second group on the road – “I was in the front group with two laps to go, and then going up the hill I crashed. My wheel jammed up and it cost me a bit of time.”
The Norwegian spectators created a fantastic atmosphere on the course, driving the riders on. “The crowds were unbelievable,” Smith said, disappointed to be caught out with a mechanical issue in the race – “Position was a big thing coming into the circuits. I tried a few times at the start and I paid for it in the end. I had a mechanical on the third lap and got back on, but was just hanging for the rest.”
Walsh finished in the same bunch as his teammates, but felt his power wasn’t with him on the course today – “I knew early on I had no legs – about halfway through the laps I went out the back with a big enough group.”
It was a World Championship debut for all three riders, and left them hungry for more. Smith described the pride he felt wearing the green jersey saying – “It was a privilege to ride with the green jersey. It was nice going up the climbs and getting a few ‘Go on Ireland’ shouts. There was plenty of Irish support.”
Doogan said “HopefuIly I will be back again next year and give it another shot,” a sentiment echoed by Walsh.
Action continues today with the Elite Men’s Road Race. The riders competing in the 277km race are Conor Dunne, Dan Martin, Ryan Mullen, Nicholas Roche and Sean McKenna. Unfortunately, Damien Shaw will not be starting due to injury. The World Road Championships run from the 17-24 September, during which seventeen Irish riders compete across eight events.
ELITE WOMEN’S ROAD RACE:
Gold Chantal Blaak (NED) 4:06:30
Silver Katrin Garfoot (AUS) +0.28
Bronze Amalie Dideriksen (DEN) +0.28
DNF Lydia Boylan
JUNIOR MEN’S ROAD RACE:
Gold Julius Johansen (DEN) 3:10:48
Silver Luca Rastelli (ITA) +0.51
Bronze Michele Gazzoli (ITA) +0.51
79th Luke Smith +8.00
81st PJ Doogan +8.00
89th Ben Walsh +8.00
SCHEDULE (Irish Times):
Sunday 24th September
9.05 Elite Men’s 277km RR