Healy shows real class with brilliant U23 debut at Gent Wevelgem classic

Posted on: April 1st, 2019

Ben Healy impressed as a junior over the past couple of years but he took a big step forward in Belgium yesterday; getting into the front of the action at the U23 Gent Wevelgem (All photos courtesy Martine Verfaillie)

 

Ben Healy has ridden very strongly on his U23 debut with the Irish team, placing 11th at the Gent Wevelgem classic in Begium.

The teenager, who is in his first year at U23 level, won the Irish junior crown last year and was 2nd behind Adam Ward in the national road race decider.

And while he also rode very well internationally with his UK-based Zappi Racing Team, his performance yesterday was a real step up in his career.

Now competing at international level with Team Wiggins, Healy and his Wiggins team mate Michael O’Loughlin were on the only Irish finishers yesterday.

That was an achievement in itself given the crashes that littered the race, and the fact only 36 riders finished; O’Loughlin doing so having been forced into a crash-related chase back on.

 

Michael O’Loughlin was unlucky but he still made it to the finish on a day when there were very few survivors from what was a huge field.

 

It was a day when crashes hit the Irish team; Marc Heaney coming down and Michael O’Loughlin being caught behind one spill that caused a significant delay for him.

About 40km into the race a crash in the bunch resulted in a split, with about 40 riders in the front section of the race.

Ben Healy was in there and from that point the race was in the gutter in the Belgian crosswinds for the next 30km.

When the pace eventually eased off a little, Healy’s group was caught by a chasing group of about 20 riders.

 

Conn McDunphy is the picture of concentration on the cobbled pavé climb of the Kemmelberg.

 

Shortly after that British rider Rob Scott attacked and Healy followed with a number of others. That resulted in a breakaway of about 15 pulling clear; Healy among them.

After they had broken clear and hit the Kemmelberg, some of those up front lost their place in the group.

And when the reduced breakaway of 12 hit the Kemmelberg for the second time, it split due to some frantic attacking.

After that passage of the Kemmelberg, Healy found himself in a group of four at the back of the 12 riders. And from that point the Irish rider and those he was with worked together.

 

The Irish U23 team at the start, from left to right: O’Loughlin, Healy, Adam Stenson, Conn McDunphy, Luke Smith and Marc Heaney.

 

One of the quartet Healy was in was dropped and the remaining three would catch three other riders who were dropped from the front of the race.

And that proved to be the group Healy finished in, as it held off what was left of the peloton, which wasn’t much.

The race was won by Germany’s Jonas Rutsch from Norway’s Andreas Leknessund. Jens Reynders of Belgium was 3rd at four seconds.

The five-man group Healy was in was sprinting for 8th, some 1:12 down on the winner.

O’Loughlin was 31st, finished in what was left of the bunch, some eighteen riders sprinting for 17th place 2:19 down in Rutsch.

 

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