By Shane Stokes
Mark Cassidy and the Irish team are leaving Bulgaria satisfied with his result in the European Championships held there on Sunday.
The Murphy and Gunn/Newlyn Group/M. Donnelly Sean Kelly team rider was one of four competing with the Ireland squad in the tough, 168 kilometre event. He crashed and broke his rear derailleur, necessitating a bike change with three laps to go. However team-mates Martyn Irvine and Isaac Speirs sacrificed their chances in riding hard to get him back up the peloton, and he crossed the line in 14th.
The race was won by Andrey Klyuev (Russian Federation), with Ignatas Konovalovas (Lithuania) taking silver two seconds later.
Cassidy finished 12th in the 83 rider sprint for third place, and may have fared better had he not had his fall and mechanical difficulties. His strong result follows on from a fine second place in the 1.2 ranked GP Hénin Beaumont Dourges last Sunday.
"It was a very good ride by Mark," said team manager Kurt Bogaerts on Sunday evening. "He had a hard chase back on after crashing and having to change his bike, but still finished 14th.
"Today was a big goal of the season and it was a good result for us. The race was really hot and was held over twelve laps. It was not super hilly but there was a really long drag and also a smaller one, plus sections of cobblestones. After last week's result it shows Mark is going very well."
Fellow Ireland team rider Daniel Martin was also prominent in the race. He went clear in a strong break in the second half of the race but lost his chance once that was hauled back by the main field. He said afterwards that he was suffering bad dehydration in the near-40 degree heat and retired from the race once his move was reeled in.
"I got in an eight to ten man break with all the strong nations," Martin said. "I didn't feel great, though, and never recovered after we were caught because of the heat. I had seven bottles but was still very dehydrated."
Cassidy will be part of the Murphy and Gunn/Newlyn Group/M. Donnelly Sean Kelly team for the Tour of Ireland. It starts in Kilkenny in one month's time.