Daniel Martin will make his second appearance for Ireland at the World Championships in the under-23 road race in Varese on Friday.
Martin rode the junior road race for Great Britain in Verona in 2004 but switched nationality to ride for Ireland when he became frustrated at the lack of opportunities for development on the road.
The 22-year-old is the current Irish senior road race champion and has had a fine season for Garmin-Chipotle, winning the Route du Sud stage race in June, so it is a surprise to see him selected for the under-23 event instead of Sunday?s elite race.
But the UCI rules state that professional riders aged under-23 who are not contracted to ProTour teams can ride the race. Last year?s under-23 champion, Peter Velits of Slovakia, raced for the Wiesenhof team that season before taking the title.
It?s a loophole that means riders with pro-level experience can compete against the ranks of the largely amateur under-23 riders. Barloworld?s John-Lee Augustyn is listed as part of South Africa?s team for the under-23 race. Augustyn completed the Tour de France this summer and was the first rider to the top of the highest col, the Bonette-Restefond, before crashing spectacularly on the descent.
If Great Britain applied the rule in the same way, 21-year-old Ian Stannard of Landbouwkrediet and 22-year-old Geraint Thomas of Barloworld could line up in the under-23 race instead of the elite race.
But Stannard is not in favour of fully-fledged professional riders dropping down to the under-23 level. He said: ?I don’t really think it’s right. Both those riders [Dan Martin and John-Lee Augustyn] are in big teams and they’ve done some big races, which counts for a lot against the guys who have been racing at the under-23 level.
?I think once you’ve moved up, you should keep trying to move forward.?
Ben Swift, who is one of the leaders of Great Britain?s under-23 team, agrees. ?For me personally, once you have moved out of the under-23 ranks you should keep going forwards. I think the under-23 race should be for amateurs. At the end of the day having those two riders in the race doesn?t make any difference. They are just good, strong riders in a bike race, although I don?t think the course in Varese is mountainous enough for them to use their climbing abilities.?
But Martin?s Garmin-Chipotle directeur sportif has no such concerns. He said: ?Well, it’s an age category, not an experience category and he’s allowed to ride it. Peter Velits [last year’s under-23 world champion] had been a pro for a year [with the Wiesenhof-Felt team] so it’s not like there isn’t a precedent.
?I’m happy for him to ride it. I don’t know if the course is selective enough for him but you never know, he could win it.?
FORMER ‘BRIT’ SWITCHES TO IRELAND
Birmingham-born Martin missed out on selection for the Ireland team for the Olympic Games because Philip Deignan and Nicolas Roche had already been selected before he rose to prominence in the Route du Sud.
But as British performance director Dave Brailsford and coach Rod Ellingworth said before Beijing, had he still be eligible for Great Britain he would have been on the plane to China.
Martin, son of former British pro Neil, and a nephew of Ireland’s 1987 Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and world champion Stephen Roche, progressed through the Great Britain ranks.
He was selected to ride the junior road race in Verona in 2004, but became frustrated with the lack of opportunities for riders who were not built for the track. Instead he moved to Marseille to join a French club, during which time he changed his nationality to Irish. He made his under-23 debut for Ireland at the worlds in 2007 and joined Slipstream ? now Garmin-Chipotle ? at the start of this year.
IRISH TEAM FOR ELITE ROAD RACE
IRISH TEAM FOR UNDER-23 ROAD RACE
Vaughters tips Martin for big breakthrough in 2009
Dan Martin wins Route du Sud (June 08)
Dan Martin blogs on his first pro race (Feb 08)
CW rides with Dan Martin and his CC Giro club-mates (Dec 07)
The background to why Dan Martin swapped GB for Irish green: The one that got away from British Cycling?
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Cycling Weekly news section
2008 WORLD CHAMPS GUIDE
TV coverage guide>>
Brits in the men’s world road race 1998-2007>>
Brits in the women’s world road race 1998-2007>>
Brits in the under-23 world road race 1998-2007>>
Britain’s road world championships medal winners>>