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Irish riders shape Worlds as Hushovd wins

Posted 03 October 2010

Ireland did not secure a medal at the World Championships in Geelong but national champion Matt Brammeier made a big impact on the race before it came down to a sprint finish won by Norway’s Thor Hushovd.

Brammeier attacked from the gun as part of a Team Ireland strategy to capitalise on the 85 kilometre run from Melbourne city to the finishing circuit in Geelong.

The bold move paid off handsomely for the Liverpudlian who only declared for Ireland this season when he was joined by four other riders in chalking up a whopping lead of more than 23 minutes over the peloton.

The group which also comprised Oleksandr Kvachuk (Ukraine), Diegeo Alejandro Tamayo Martinez (Columbia), Mohammed Said Elammoury  (Morocco) and Jackson Rodriguez (Venezuela) dictated much of the 262.7 kilometre race.

Nicolas Roche and David McCann reached the finishing circuit in the main peloton but the threat of Brammeier’s break to eliminate any group of less than 20 lapped riders sparked a serious call to arms between the Belgian, Italian and Spanish teams.

Roche made the early selection when the chasing peloton started to split on the third of the eleven laps of the 15.9 kilometre circuit with McCann riding at close quarters in the next group on the road.

Brammeier was working well within the break but the punishing climbs of The Ridge and Aphrasia Street had a serious wearing effect and their earlier efforts on the long road to Geelong combined to take their toll.

The An Post Sean Kelly team rider’s commitment was hugely impressive but he started to struggle on the seventh lap and was eventually distanced with Rodriguez as the Roche chase group of 32 riders closed to within seven minutes.

The breakaway duo were not long about being picked up as the Australian team of defending World Champion Cadel Evans wrestled with the Belgium and German teams to control the race.

McCann who continued to follow in the third group on the road was unfortunate to puncture with three laps to go with the absence of team radio leaving him to reply upon neutral service for a wheel change.

The Belfast man’s misfortune was made worse by the timing of puncture between the two climbs and he showed remarkable resilience to regain contact from a dead stop on the steep incline.

The race sprung to life on the ninth lap with the Roche group which contained the big race favourites such as Evans, Hushovd, Philippe Gilbert (Belgium), Filippo Pozzato (Italy) and Oscar Freire (Spain) sweeping up the leaders.

An attack from Vuelta á Espana winner Vincenzo Nibali (Italy) caused huge splits forcing Evans to chase. The Italian pulled clear with Chris Sorensen (Denmark), Giovanni Visconti (Italy), Koos Moerenhout (Netherlands) and Jose Rodolfo Serpa Perez (Columbia) but Gilbert’s Belgian team gave them little leeway.

They were caught on the penultimate lap on the climb of Aphrasia Street but the chase took a lot out of Roche who finally succumbed to the distance and the cumulative effects of having completed two Grand Tours in one season.

With the stage set for a dramatic final lap it was Gilbert who took the spotlight launching a ferocious attack on The Ridge. Evans tried hardest to respond but there was no restraining the Belgian as he opened a small gap on a seven-man chase group over the summit.

Hushovd’s determination to win was evident having joined a group of twenty riders in riding back to the front peloton but the efforts caused him to miss out on the formation of the Gilbert chase group which contained Evans, Moerenhout, Alexandr Kolobnev (Russia), Frank Schleck (Luxembourg), Matti Breschel (Denmark) and Paul Martens (Germany), with Gilbert’s Belgian teammate Bjorn Leukemans sitting on.

Gilbert’s reserves were serious tested over the closing ten kilometres and the severity of the course never allowed him to extend his lead to more than 20 seconds as he reached the final five kilometres of the race.

The race, however,  regrouped with just over two kilometres to go leaving Hushovd in a very strong position with Pozzatto and three time former World Champion Freire the most serious threat to his tilt for the coveted rainbow jersey.

The Norweigan timed his sprint to perfection with the uphill finish helping him to see of Matti Breschel (Denmark) who took the silver medal while Allan Davis took the bronze on homeground.

McCann was the best placed Irish rider finishing 68th at 13’53” with Roche placing 97th with the same time. Brammeier was not among the 99 finishers having paid the price for his courageous attack and long break.

"I was okay for about 200 kilometres. I was in the right moves and riding well. Then my legs started to go about 20 kilometres later. I don't think it was from jet lag or anything, just from having a hard season. I don't have much left in the tank after doing two big Tours for the first time. I think my season is over now," Roche said afterwards.

Team coach and Cycling Ireland High Performance Director, Phil Leigh, applauded the performance of all three Irish riders and revealed that their race strategy was to put Brammeier into an early break.

“The plan was to get Matt up the road early in the race and the attack was planned out to be in our race strategy. We discussed it in our team meeting and Matt was up for it,” Leigh explained. 

“He was made for the flat run from Melbourne. He is a team pursuiter, he’s on our track squad and he’s an extremely good time-trialist. He’s also our national champion and he showed his class today,” he added.

“He was the first guy to attack going from the gun. To go from the first kilometre and to stay out front for so long was unbelievable and he got great airtime for Irish cycling.

“Nicolas made the big split but unfortunately ran out of legs with just over a lap to go. It was a big ask for Nicolas today after doing the Vuelta and Tour in one season and we weren’t sure how good his legs were and he just ran out of legs in the final lap.

“David also rode extremely well and was unlucky to puncture when and where he did. It was 80 kilometers an hour off the climb to the next climb. He started from a dead stop at the bottom of the climb and did a great ride to get back on,” Leigh continued.

“We had an impact on the race and we influenced the race. Yes it would have been nice to have won a medal but we had a rider in the break of the day and two riders who finished. Cycling Ireland is building for the future and this is another step forward,” he said.

Leigh also applauded the huge number of Irish fans and Irish-Australians who turned out to support the team and praised Geelong resident and Wicklow native Dermot Healy for his invaluable course insight and assistance to the Irish team.


World Championships Road Race

Melbourne-Geelong, Australia, 262.7 kilometres

1. Thor Hushovd (Norway) 6 hours, 21 minutes, 49 seconds
2. Matti Breschel (Denmark)
3. Allan Davis (Australia)
4. Filippo Pozzato (Italy)
5. Greg Van Avermaet (Belgium)
6. Oscar Freire Gomez (Spain)
7. Alexandr Kolobnev (Russian Federation)
8. Assan Bazayev (Kazakhstan)
9. Yukiya Arashiro (Japan)
10. Romain Feillu (France)

68. David McCann (Ireland) 13153"
97. Nicolas Roche (Ireland) s.t.
DNF. Matt Brammeier (Ireland)

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