Cycling round-up: Mia Griffin takes second Rás na mBan stage in four days in Tramore sprint

Remco Evenepoel bounces back to win stage 14 of the Vuelta a España

Ireland’s Mia Griffin took her second victory in four days at Rás na mBan on Saturday, winning stage four of the race into Tramore. The Kilkenny rider proved quickest in a 24-rider sprint to the line, beating Manon de Boer (NWVG-Uplus), Monica Greenwood (DAS-handsling) and the others. Sisters Caoimhe and Aoife O’Brien were fifth and ninth respectively.

Tiffany Keep (Hutchinson-Brother UK) lost her overnight lead to Rixt Hoogland (NWVG-Uplus) as a result of the latter’s better stage placing of fourth. Noa Jansen (Jegg-DJR Academy) stays third, with leading Irish rider Linda Kelly (Dan Morrissey Primor by Pissei) remaining sixth. They are all on the same time as Keep, making Sunday morning’s time-trial a crucial one.

The 102.7km stage was a tough one with three categorised climbs. The first of these, the category two Kilmagemogue came 14.3km after the start, and was followed by the third category pairing of Rathnure Hill and Annestown inside the final 25 kilometres. A big crash approaching the first ascent saw more than a dozen riders fall, with the climb further adding to the pressure on riders.

Approximately 25 riders remained at the front, with Irish national time-trial champion Kelly Murphy (AWOL) bridging across to the group with Sian March (Team Boompods) and Beth Harley Jepson (Jadan Vive le Velo Glasdon).


“We just went really, really hard up that first climb and it blew the race apart,” Griffin said. “We were in a reduced group at the front and we rode really well. The whole group was working quite well together, people were pulling through. Once we hit Bunmahon that is when the race really kicked off.

“I was dying going up some of the climbs, people were really going super hard. Especially the climb after Kilmurrin Beach, that was really steep.

“Caoimhe and Aoife [O’Brien] were excellent today. They were the best team-mates you could ask for. It was just brilliant, brilliant teamwork today. I couldn’t ask for a better team.”

Griffin’s victory saw her move up to third overall in the points classification, while Kelly took maximum points on two of the day’s three climbs. However, De Boer’s win on the opening ascent saw her seal victory in the Wicklow 200 Queen of the Mountains contest, with Kelly set to finish second on Sunday evening. She also leads the best Irish rider classification.

With six riders on the same time in the general classification, Sunday morning’s 2.5km time-trial around Kilkenny Castle will have a huge role in determining the final overall standings. The race then concludes on Sunday evening with a criterium in the city.

One day after he suffered a collapse in form which ended his hopes of taking a second consecutive Vuelta a España title, Remco Evenepoel bounced back to win stage 14 of the race. The Belgian Soudal-QuickStep rider was part of the day’s big breakaway group and pushed ahead towards the end with Frenchman Romain Bardet (Team DSM-Firmenich), a former runner-up in the Tour de France.

Evenepoel then dropped Bardet on the final climb of Larra-Belagua, reaching the finish 1:12 ahead. The general classification contenders were under no threat from the move and gave it leeway to gain time, finally racing in 8:22 back.

There were no real challenges to the race lead of Sepp Kuss, with he, Jumbo-Visma team-mates Primož Roglič and Jonas Vingegaard finishing with their rivals. Kuss stays 1:37 and 1:44 ahead respectively, with Juan Ayuso the closest of the challengers from other teams, 2:37 back.

The race continues on Sunday with an easier mountain stage to Lukunberri.

Meanwhile, 2022 Irish road race champion Rory Townsend will step up a level next season, moving from the Bolton Equities Black Spoke squad to the Q36.5 Pro Cycling Team. The 28-year-old has signed a two year pro contract, a just outcome after what has been a very solid season.

“I am truly excited to be joining Q36.5 Pro Cycling Team for the next two seasons,” he said. “Despite being a relatively new team, they possess a wealth of experience at the highest levels of cycling and an unmatched ambition.

“I am eager to grow alongside Q36.5 as it continues to progress, providing support to my team-mates in the Classics and contributing to the team’s success in sprint races. Q36.5 Pro Cycling Team has assembled a stellar roster, and I am honoured to be a part of it.”

The team has evolved out of the structure of the former WorldTour squad Team Dimension Data, which has won stages in the Tour de France.

Townsend won the 1.1-ranked La Roue Tourangelle Centre Val de Loire – Trophée Groupama this year and landed a number of other strong overseas results. He was second in the Irish road race nationals in June, and this week was 9th on stage three of this year’s Tour of Britain.

Townsend was 86th on Saturday’s seventh stage. Ryan Mullen was the best-placed Irish rider in 53rd, with Sam Bennett 84th.

In France Fiona Mangan (Cynisca Cycling) was 51st on stage five of the Tour Cycliste Féminin International de l’Ardèche. Lara Gillespie (UAE Team ADQ) was 71st. They are 47th and 64th overall.

Shane Stokes

Shane Stokes

Shane Stokes is a contributor to The Irish Times writing about cycling