Irish county rider Conor Dunne (Tipperary Carrick Iverk) saw off the challenge of Michael Northey (Britain Node 4 Giordana) to sprint to victory on the opening stage of this year’s An Post Rás in Longford Town. Roy Eefting (Holland Koga Cycling) finished in third place, leading the peloton over the line, twenty three seconds behind.
A total of one hundred and eight two riders made the starting list for this year’s race and with sunny temperatures and only a slight wind, a fast and furious pace was predicted on a relatively flat route to Longford.
Dunne was aggressive from the off and was the first to attack, accompanied by Dan Barry (Britain Node 4 Giordana), but they were swallowed up by the bunch shortly after.
After 45 kilometres, a sizeable group of eighteen riders including Dunne and Northey went clear, establishing a gap of over 38 seconds. The breakaway rode at a ferocious pace out front, covering 48.5 kilometres in the first hour, before the peloton reeled them in once more at the 80 kilometre mark.
With 20 kilometres to go, Northey and Dunne established a slight lead, gradually building it up to 28 seconds from the chasing Ray O’Shaughnessy (Louth Prague Charter) and Michael Nicholson (Scotland National Team). The main field was struggling to keep up at this point, falling 54 seconds behind with time quickly running out.
O’Shaughnessy and Nicholson were soon swallowed up by the chasing bunch while Dunne and Northey pushed each other on, extending their lead to exactly one minute with 10 kilometres to go.
It was now a head to head sprint to the finish line between the pair and as they turned into the last straight into Longford’s town centre huge crowds roared on county rider Dunne as he broke away from Northey to claim a magnificent victory.
Dunne leads the general classification by four seconds, claiming the opening yellow jersey of the week, as well as the Under 23 and the county rider jerseys.
An ecstatic Dunne was delighted that he held on for the win after spending most of the day out front.
“I’m really, really happy. I’ve wanted to get a win this season. I’ve come close and I felt I have been going well but just needed a bit of luck. It all came together today.
When the gap was still there with one kilometre to go I knew one of us would get it. He’s a strong guy (Northey), and I wasn’t sure what would happen. I had strong legs, believed in myself and gave everything.”
An Post has partnered up with RTÉ for this year’s An Post Rás and cycling fans eager to follow the action can log on to www.rte.ie/anpostras for highlights from today’s stage, exclusive rider interviews, results and classification standings. Regular updates are also available onwww.anpostras.ie and twitter.com/anpostras