40th For Irish Cyclist In Men’s Elite Road Race Championships

Ireland’s Sam Bennett finished 40th in the Men’s Elite Road Race Championships in Richmond, Virginia on a day when both Irish team riders performed very strongly and were a credit to the Team Ireland jersey. Bennett was right in the mix in the lead group all the way to the final four kilometres while Conor Dunne starred in the early breakaway which was clear of the pack for more than four hours. Dunne attacked right from the moment the flag was pulled in at the end of the neutralised section and raced clear with seven other riders to a maximum advantage of more than five minutes. Accompanied by Jesse Sergent (New Zealand), Andriy Khripta (Ukraine), Ivan Stevic (Serbia), Sung Baek Park (Korea), Ben King (USA), Carlos Alzate Escobar (Colombia) and Serghei Tvetcov (Romania), Dunne was out front for over 160km before the move was chased down by the main pack led by the Netherlands squad. As the bunch closed, Dunne proved to be the strongest in the group, going clear with Ben King to be the last men standing in the move. Even after he was caught, Dunne stayed in touch with leading group for some time before being distanced. He was eventually forced to drop out but not before he had considerably enhanced his reputation and demonstrated his ability to be an aggressor in races at the highest level. Meanwhile, riding intelligently in the main group, Sam Bennett was positioning himself exactly where he needed to be on the three hills that characterised the final four km of the 16.22km Richmond Downtown circuit. With an initial 18.1km plus 15 laps, Bennett conserved his energy for the final laps as the pace of the action steadily escalated at the front. A crash in the feed zone with just over three laps to go forced Bennett to put a foot down but he showed his strength in racing back to the pack without delay. Staying in the front half of the peloton in the final two laps on the hills, Bennett was very much in the mix approaching the finale to the 261.4km race. While he was slightly tailed off in the run to finishing line, Bennett completed the six and a quarter hour epic within 40 seconds of race winner Peter Sagan (Slovakia). It was a big performance from the young Carrick man and demonstrated another step up in his progression at this level. Afterwards Irish Manager Neil Martin paid tribute to the collective performances of Bennett and Dunne: “Both Sam and Conor executed the predetermined Team Ireland plan to perfection: Conor in the early break and Sam to be in contention over the closing laps. Both rode, what is probably one of the toughest one-day races on the calendar exceptionally well for guys that are still learning at this level. “For a team of just two riders it was more than an impressive performance and both illustrated that, in the future, we are capable of results in races of this calibre.”

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