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If I do nothing else in cycling, that’s fine by me, says Rory Townsend after winning national championships

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Rory Townsend of WiV SunGod celebrates winning the national road race championships. Photo: Bryan Keane/Inpho

Rory Townsend of WiV SunGod celebrates winning the national road race championships. Photo: Bryan Keane/Inpho

Rory Townsend of WiV SunGod celebrates winning the national road race championships. Photo: Bryan Keane/Inpho

British-based professional Rory Townsend was “absolutely overcome with emotion” after he soloed clear of the remnants of a four-man breakaway to take victory at the elite men’s National Road Race Championships in Kanturk, Co Cork, yesterday.

Townsend, who won a stage and the points classification at Rás Tailteann last week, finished 26 seconds clear of US-based pro Cormac McGeough of Wildlife Generation at the end of the 160km race.

Newly crowned time trial champion Ben Healy (Education First–EasyPost) outsprinted Rás king of the mountains Dean Harvey (Spellman-Dublin Port) and Strade Bianche U-23 winner Darren Rafferty (Hagens Berman Axeon) almost two minutes later to take the bronze medal.

In a wet and wild race, recent Rás winner Daire Feeley and National Road Series leader Matt Teggart were among those who failed to finish.

Townsend, who rides for the WiV SunGod continental team, was on the front foot from the early kilometres, going clear in a four-man move that included McGeough, Harvey and French-based John Buller of AC Bisontine after 35km.

When the pace proved too hot for Buller, he was replaced up front by hometown favourite and WorldTour star Eddie Dunbar of Ineos Grenadiers, who soloed across the gap on his own on the second climb of the day.

This new foursome stayed clear until the last 40km or so of the race, where Harvey got dropped on a climb before Dunbar, who was unwell on the day, lost contact with 20km to go and drifted back through the groups. That left Townsend with just McGeough to get rid of in the run-in to Kanturk.

“I distanced him with 10km to go,” said an emotional Townsend afterwards.

“But it was too far out. There was a little rise with about 5km to go though and I managed to get away there and solo to the line. My team car came up alongside me near the finish, but I was just like ‘please leave me alone’. Part of me just couldn’t believe it. I didn’t want to believe it until it was actually done.

“At one kilometre to go Adam Ward, my teammate from the Rás, was on the side of the road going crazy. It started to sink in a bit then and at the line I was absolutely overcome with emotion.”

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Hugged by his father, who hails from Lemybrien in Waterford, and whose regular trips home during school holidays convinced Townsend to declare for Ireland, the new national champion broke down in tears just past the finish.

“It’s absolutely mental,” said a delighted Townsend, who had cousin and former Murphy & Gunn pro John Dempsey in the team car, and most of his relations at the finish.

“It’s weird but how I thought about today and planned it, it’s one of the only times in my career it came off.

“I knew I’d never get rid of Eddie on the third climb in Castleisland so I wanted to get up the road before then. I got away in the second climb at 40km, we had 25 seconds and rode it as hard as we could.

“I can’t really believe it at the moment. Everything went right today. I’m so glad. Honestly, I’m over the moon. If I do nothing else in cycling after this, that’s fine by me.”

Fourth-placed Harvey took the U-23 title ahead of fifth-placed Rafferty, while Archie Ryan of the Jumbo-Visma development squad led home the bunch for eighth place almost eight minutes later to claim bronze.


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