Winner of two races in four days in late March, Ben Healy will aim for further strong performances in the Région Pays de la Loire Tour in France. The 2.1-ranked race starts on Tuesday and runs for four days, with Healy then down to compete in the prestigious Amstel Gold Race Classic on April 16th.
Speaking to the Irish Times this week, Healy’s team sporting director Tom Southam described his stage win in the Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali on May 23rd and victory in the one day GP Industria & Artigianato last Sunday as “hugely significant” for his career.
“Coppi Bartali is not a WorldTour level race, the field is different,” he said. “But you’ve got to go there and win these races and learn how to win races if you’re going to be a rider who later wins bigger races.
“So I think those wins… even though he will hopefully look back at the end of his career and considers them to be smallish wins [compared to later results], I think they’re going to be super important ones. I think the first pro win is, of course, important, because some guys never even get to that point.”
Healy is just 22 years of age and has made a significant step up in form this season, despite missing several weeks due to a fractured finger.
Also psyched after a recent victory is Irish road race champion Rory Townsend. He clocked up the most important international win of his career last Sunday, winning a 40-man sprint to the line at the end of the La Roue Tourangelle event. The 1.1-ranked race was run off in wet conditions in France, and Townsend showed his speed in beating Belgian sprinter Gerben Thijssen (Intermarché-Circus-Wanty) and the others to the line.
The Bolton Equities Black competitor is due to line out in the Volta Limburg Classic on Saturday.
Meanwhile, 2022 Rás Tailteann winner Daire Feeley (All human-VeloRevolution) and Aoife O’Brien (Spellman Dublin Port) will aim to defend their National Road Series leads on Sunday. They won the men’s and women’s events in the opening round in Blarney last Sunday, with Feeley outsprinting Conn McDunphy (Lucan CRC) and O’Brien beating Jemma Speers (North Down CC) and Erin Creighton (McConvey Cycles) in their gallop to the line.
This Sunday’s event is the Des Hanlon in Carlow. The men will scrap it out over 144 kilometres and over 1,700m of climbing, while the women face 1,100m of climbing over a total distance of 100km. Racing starts at noon.
Aside from being an important target in its own right, the men’s event will be part of the buildup for many riders for the Kerry Group Rás Mumhan, which will take place over Easter Weekend.
Confirmed competitors for that race include defending champion Lindsay Watson plus Ulster teammates Matthew Teggart and Dean Harvey, the national cyclo cross champion, as well as Rás champion Feeley and recent Rás Maigheo victor Matthew Devins.