Austrian rider Markus Eibegger (Azerbaijan Synergy Baku) blasted up the punishing category one climb of Seskin Hill in Carrick-on-Suir to take a magnificent victory on stage six of An Post Rás on Friday.
Eibegger, who is managed by Irishman and former Rás winner David McCann, crossed the finish line at the summit six seconds ahead of Owain Doull (An Post Chain Reaction Sean Kelly) and seven seconds ahead of double stage winner Patrick Bevin (New Zealand National Team).
Irish county riders Mark Dowling (Meath Dunboyne DID) and Eoin Morton (Dublin Central UCD Arrow) finished a very impressive seventh and eighth place respectively, ahead of the peloton, which was tormented by wet and blustery conditions all day.
Today’s 163 kilometre stage from Clonakilty in to Carrick-on-Suir was predicted to be all about speed but a strong cross wind made it difficult for any attacks to go clear early on.
The first significant break came just after Bandon when a group of nine, including Eibegger, Remi Pelletier-Roy (Canadian National Team) and four Irish county riders – Ronan McLaughlin (Donegal Inishowen Gateway Cafe), Simon Ryan (Tipperary South), Damien Shaw (Cork City Aquablue) and Ian Richardson (Dublin Central UCD Arrow) – attacked aggressively.
A gap of 3 minutes 20 seconds was established on the peloton before Eibegger and Pelletier-Roy kicked on again, dropping the remaining seven riders. The duo worked hard to stay away and despite a strong headwind they went clear by almost six minutes over the main field.
Behind the two leaders, the bunch – containing yellow jersey leader Clemens Fankhauser and Bevin – caught the chasers and began eating away in to the breakaways lead. With less than 20 kilometres to go, the duo were caught and as they approached the ascent of Seskin Hill it was a break of seven riders out in front, including Eibegger, David Chopin (France Bretagne Velotec), Matteo Collodel (Italian Team Idea) Doull and Morton.
As the crowds that lined the steep ascent roared on the riders, Chopin attacked. Bevin chased hard and motored up the climb, alongside Collodel, catching Chopin to make it a lead group of three with only kilometre to go. There was still a twist in the tale however and in the final few hundred metres, it was the Austrian rider Eibegger who gritted his teeth and found another gear, taking the chequered flag to a roaring applause.
An exhausted Eibegger was thrilled to secure his team a second stage win on this year’s race after riding out in front for the majority of the race.
“It was a really tough stage today, riding out in front with the headwind for so long. In the end I was quite happy with 25 kilometres to go to be in a group with just six other guys, as I could sit down for a while. On the last climb I just made one massive pull and thankfully it worked out. I’m really happy with it.”
Clemens Fankhauser (Austria Tirol Cycling) retains the yellow jersey once again after finishing in tenth place. He now holds a 25 second lead at the top of the general classification over Alex Peters, (Britain Madison Genesis) who once again took the Under-23 classification.
There were no changes in any of the other classifications; Bevin still wears the green points jersey while Alessandro Pettiti (Italy Team Ideal) lies top of the King of the Mountains classification. Sean Lacey (Cork City Aquablue) remains the best county rider once again.