Aaron Gate (An Post Chain Reaction) finally claimed the stage win he has been so close to during the 2016 An Post Ras. The New Zealand track representative sprinted to the win ahead of Nicolai Brochner (Riwal Platform) and Matthew Holmes (Madison Genesis) to tighten his grip on the green jersey and maintain his high overall placing in the race. The yellow jersey remains on the shoulders of Clemens Fankhauser (Tirol), with Holmes in second, two seconds back, and Damien Shaw (An Post Chain Reaction) in third on the same time.
The 160 kilometre stage from Clonakilty to Dungarvan took the riders over a rather lumpy route that included three category three climbs. Eddie Dunbar (Ireland) was the early aggressor once again, attacking the field solo and building a gap of some 40 seconds before two riders, Dylan Kennett (New Zealand) and Daire Feeley (Team Itap) tried to bridge to him. As the gap to the field grew to around a minute and a half, Kennett and Feeley made the junction and the leading trio set to work opening the gap to the field out beyond the four minute mark.
However, with Dunbar only 19 seconds off the race lead, the team of race leader Fankhauser was not too keen on letting the trio get too much of a lead, and set to work to control the gap, with some assistance from Madison Genesis and the Australian National Team.
As the break hit the second categorised climb of the day, Kennett, who is a track specialist, was clearly struggling, and was dropped by Feeley and Dunbar. This was bad news for the break, as he had added some good firepower, and the gap back to the main field started to tumble quickly. In the main field, a very select group of nine riders managed to go clear on the climb, with most of the overall contenders present and accounted for. Race leader Fankhauser was there, with Gate and Regan Gough (New Zealand) present as well, along with Jai Hindley (Australia), Josh Edmondson (NFTO Pro Cycling), Holmes, James Gullen (Pedal Heaven), Elliott Porter (Neon Velo), and Troels Ronning Vinther (Riwal Platform).
The group managed to slash the gap to the break dramatically, but the peloton swallowed them up again before they could make contact. Dexter Gardias (Pedal Heaven) was next to attack, and he did manage to get across to the two leaders, only to have the bunch catch up with them to bring it all back together with some 40 kilometres still left to race.
The distance to the finish meant that the time was ripe for another attack, and George Fowler (NFTO Pro Cycling), Jordi Sloof (Join-S De Rijke) were happy to oblige, but their effort came to naught as they were brought back before the final categorised climb of the day.
After a flurry of attacks on the climb itself and shortly thereafter, a group of three riders finally managed to put some daylight between themselves and the peloton. Josh Edmondson (NFTO Pro Cycling), James Gullen (Pedal Heaven) and Taco van der Hoorn (Join-S De Rijke) managed to build a lead in excess of half a minute, and with only some ten kilometres to go, the move was looking dangerous, especially from the perspective of race leader Fankhauser. Van der Hoorn had started the day only nine seconds off the race lead, so any time gap at the finish line could see him elevate himself in the overall standings, potentially into the yellow jersey.
As the kilometres counted down the bunch closed in on the leaders, but it was not until the final kilometre that they were caught, with a big bunch gallop for the line. Gate took the win by a bike throw ahead of Brochner and Holmes, with a bit of a gap to the rest of the field, but not enough of a gap to give the rest of the peloton a different time on the line. Gough was next best of the Kiwis in the race, taking ninth on the stage, with Taylor Gunman (Madison Genesis) in 26th.
Gate was very happy to have claimed the stage win, after a number of top three finishes during the previous stages of the race. “It was a great ride by the entire team today. Jack Wilson was up there following off the potentially dangerous early moves. When the break got established we could leave it up to the other teams to control the race for a while as it was not a big move. After 90 kilometres and some grippy climbs it all kicked off again cutting the bunch in half,” he said.
With the earlier pressure having softened up the field, Gate’s team put in an effort to bring things back together for the sprint.
“After the three got away in the late break we waited as long as possible before putting in the big effort to pull it back. It was timed to perfection reeling them in with about 800 metres to go. Emiel (Wastyn) managed to snake me through the bunch and allow me to open up with 200 metres to go. It was an awesome effort by the whole team today and felt great to finally connect the dots and get a win for the team”.
In the general classification, Fankhauser still holds a lead of two seconds over Holmes and Shaw, with Hindley in fourth, three seconds off the race lead, followed by Gate in fifth, another two seconds back. Gunman is lying just outside the top ten in 13th place, 19 seconds off the race lead, with Gough in 19th, 1:11 back.
Photo: Inpho Photography