Cycling: Olympic rejection drives Brammeier to national crown
Matt Brammeier put one finger to his lips in an effort to silence some of his critics as he crossed the line five seconds clear of nearest rival Nicolas Roche to take his third national road race title in Clonmel yesterday.
Brammeier's name has been the subject of much controversy in cycling circles recently, the national road and time-trial champion of 2011 having been omitted from the three-man Irish team for the Olympic road race. To add salt to his wounds, he wasn't even named as a reserve when the squad was announced a fortnight ago.
"I wanted to prove a point today and I did," said Brammeier seconds after becoming the first rider to win three Irish road race championships in a row. "I think it will shut a lot of people up. I think there are a few guys in Cycling Ireland that don't like me for some reason and don't want me in the Olympics. I really don't know why but there's not much I can do about it except let my legs do the talking, which I did today."
Brammeier, who rides for the Belgian-based Omega Pharma Quickste team of Belgian champion Tom Boonen, was in the thick of the action from the gun yesterday, infiltrating a 13-man breakaway that went away in the opening kilometres and then following the moves all day until there were just four riders left in the closing stages of the 167km race.
"It was such a hard task right from the start," said Brammeier of his title defence. "Everybody in the race was attacking and I just had to follow absolutely everything. That was my tactic again. It's been the same the last couple of years. Follow everything and hope you can survive to the last lap. That's what you have to do here. If you don't go with every break, then you're in a position where you have to chase all day."
Alongside Brammeier going out onto the penultimate lap were Roche (Ag2r), British-based U-23 rider Philip Lavery (Node4 Giordana) and Olympic-bound track rider Martyn Irvine (RTS Racing).
Although Irvine was dropped on the climb of Colonel's Hill, he clawed his way back onto the leaders and promptly attacked them on the descent, going through the finish line for the bell with a 22-second advantage over the three chasers.
"I'm a bit heavier than those guys," said Irvine. "They can just skip over the climb but I knew I'd struggle on the last lap. When I caught them I was thinking, they're going to fart about now, and that's not me, so I hit them again and kept going. I got 20 seconds and was thinking it's only a 20km time trial, half of what I did the other night but the hill just got me in the end."
Although Irvine held them off for half a lap, an injection of pace by Roche and Lavery on the final climb saw him caught and dropped, eventually having to settle for fourth as the other three attacked on the run-in to Clonmel.
Brammeier eventually got clear with just 2km to go and held on to beat Roche by five seconds with Lavery taking bronze and the national U23 title.
"Nico (Roche) and Philip Lavery were super strong and I wasn't feeling too confident but knew that I had to survive over the last climb to be in with a chance," said Brammeier. "Once I got over the climb I was feeling good and the other guys were riding strong. We managed to get rid of Martyn Irvine too, which was good because he has a good finish. In the end, I just gave it everything and managed to hold them off."
Brammeier's non-selection for the Olympics is still pending an appeal to the OCI and yesterday's win will no doubt regurgitate the calls for him to be included.
"It was a huge blow when I got that email telling me I wasn't on the team," Brammeier said. "There's been an appeal sent in the last few days and I can't really say much about it. Obviously it's no secret that I was born in England so it would be extra special that it's in London but you know, it's the Olympic Games, the pinnacle of the sport. Everybody wants to ride it. I'm really proud to ride in the Irish champion's jersey and that's why this race means so much to me every year.
"The attention and respect I've had in the last couple of years in the peloton means a lot and I'm really proud to wear it and to represent Ireland. I think to have the jersey in the WorldTour again means a lot, not just to me but to Irish cycling in general. I can't really go into it too much about the Olympic appeal but fingers crossed, something good will come out of it. I'm not really too hopeful though, to be honest."