BAGDONAS CLAIMS DRAMATIC VICTORY AS LANG RETAINS YELLOW
Reigning champion Gediminas Bagdonas (An Post Sean Kelly Team) claimed a dramatic win on stage three of the An Post Rás today, just ahead of opening stage winner Marcin Bialoblocki (Britain Node4 Girodana) and Dutch rider Roy Eefting (Netherlands Koga Cycling).
Bagdonas and his three Irish team mates Sean Downey, Sam Bennett and Ronan McLaughlin were involved in one of many bad crashes as they approached the category one climb at Maumtrasna (104 km), which left Downey with bad cuts and Bagdonas requiring a replacement shoe.
While Bagdonas waited on a change of footwear from his team car, his An Post colleagues rode patiently at the back of the peloton and when they were eventually reunited they attacked aggressively as a group. The Irish trio put in a truly sublime team effort to help their Lithuanian team mate catch Norwegian rider Sondre Hurum (Norway Oneco – Mesterhus), who had built up a fifteen second lead with seven kilometres to go.
Bagdonas also stays top of the point’s classification, holding onto the green jersey and he also moved up to seventh in the general classification. Yesterday’s stage winner Pirmin Lang (Switzerland Atlas Jakoo) managed to retain the yellow jersey by finishing eleventh despite trailing the leaders by over two minutes at one point.
Today’s 145 kilometre stage from Gort to Westport was a shorter route than yesterday but the course promised to be far more testing with three late climbs in quick succession and the first category one climb of the eight day event.
It was Irish rider Philip Lavery (Britain Node4 Giordana) who was first out of the blocks to attack after 30 kilometres, building up a nine second lead before he was hauled in by the peloton. The county riders were also in determined mood early on, with Carlow Dan Morrissey Speedy duo Tim Barry and Robin Kelly going out in front alone on separate occasions ahead of the chasing pack.
At the half way point Barry, Irish rider Eugene Moriarty (Meath East Spin 11) and Gruffud Lewis (Britain UK Youth Cycling) were leading the stage by thirty seconds. However, it was the second half of the stage that was always going to be considerably tougher than the early section and this proved to be the case. At 73 kilometres Norwegian rider Hurum got across to the group before Barry and Lewis crashed out and Moriarty fell off the pace, which left the Scandinavian rider out front on his own.
The chasing group split briefly before they merged with 10 kilometres remaining. Irish riders Philip Lavery and David McCann (Taiwan RTS Racing) broke clear in small groups before being recaptured and with just two kilometres Hurum was finally caught. That left it to day one winner Biabloblocki and Rás champion Bagdonas to sprint it out, with the latter just taking it to record a superb victory.
Bagdonas was delighted to come away with the win but was quick to play down his chances of retaining his title.
“I am very happy right now as it was a very tough stage. I crashed out and broke my shoe towards the latter stages of the race but my team mates put in a great performance to help me get back to the leaders and thankfully I was able to win the sprint towards the finish line”.
“It’s Ireland – anything can happen. The stages are so unpredictable but I think it is important that we try and have one rider in the breakaways”, Bagdonas added.