The penultimate stage of An Post Ras saw Edward Dunbar of the Irish National Team take the win on a day that really saw the General Classification solidify in favour of four riders who are now separated by less than 20 seconds. Aaron Gate continues his grip on the points classification after taking eighth place.
The 155km between Dungarvan and Baltinglass were tough and rolling from beginning to end, with four categorised climbs and one of them the category 1 climb up Mount Leinster. Though not a summit finish the day was expected to stretch the field. As expected early moves went clear only to be brought back again within the first 18km.
Eventually though a large group escaped with Data#3 Cisco’s Dylan Newberry, Ireland’s Christopher McGlinchey, NFTO’s Liam Stones, Pedal Heaven’s Dexter Gardias, Neon Velo’s Jeremy Durrin, CCB Racing’s Noah Granigan, North’s David Watson, Team iTap’s Daire Feeley and Asea Wheelworx’s Marcus Christie joined by Join-S De Rijke’s Robbert De Greef and Simon Ryan of Mego Raw Cycles.
After 45km the gap to the bunch was a mere 42 seconds as the field began tackling the categorised climbs. That gap grew though as behind the break a chase group formed that contained a number of big names including Aaron Gate of An Post-Chainreaction. Originally a group of six chasers 1.33mins back, Gate had to dig in to bridge across to form a group of 15 riders. Behind them Dunbar attacked with Gate’s teammate Damien Shaw and Australia’s Michael Storer. The trio had a minute to bridge to the break, while the fifteen in the chase group were 36 seconds behind them and the bunch were at 1.10mins.
But with the yellow jersey of Clemens Fankhauser of Tirol Cycling in the bunch, the big names up ahead could not be ignored and he and the team set about bringing them back. They caught the chase group but let the break hang out in front a little longer. At the 101km mark; the bottom of Mount Leinster, the breakaway had 32 seconds in hand. While the break would be swept up attacks would begin in earnest as Nikodemus Holler of Stradalli Bike Aid went up the road with Luke Grivell-Mellor of JLT Condor. Mellor was dropped but then a very dangerous counter attack went up the road featuring Edward Dunbar, Clemens Fankhauser, Lucas Hamilton of Australia and teammates Jai Hindley and Michael Storer.
Behind them a big chase group had formed which included Aaron Gate and Cycling New Zealand’s Hayden Roulston as they looked to minimised the damage that the class group ahead could do. But the leaders were committed and drilling it on the front. The numbers that Australia had in the leading breakaway played into their hands as Hamilton, Storer and Hindley drove the break on with Fankhauser in their midst. With 20km to go the gap was 50 seconds to the chasers behind.
With everyone in the front group having a reason to push the pace there was good cooperation between them and the gap continued to stretch slightly; not getting over the minute mark, but not decreasing either. Roulston and Gate worked hard with Madison Genesis to bring things back but it would come down to a five-up group sprint to see who would take the win.
It was Ireland’s Dunbar who took the honours ahead of Hindley and Fankhauser, whose presence in the break with Hindley, Hamilton and Dunbar set the four apart as the GC contenders with just 19 seconds separating the four of them. Behind them Rasmus Mygind escaped the bunch to take sixth, while Taco Van Der Hoorn of Join-S De Rijke finished just ahead of points leader Aaron Gate, who added a few more points to cement his lead in the classification a little more with just one stage remaining. Hayden Roulston crossed the line next to take 24th place on the stage; with Scott Thomas of Data#3 Cisco and New Zealand teammates Regan Gough and Nick Kergozou in a large group further back together.
The result means that Aaron Gate now sits in 6th place on the GC 1.10mins down on Fankhauser, with Roulston 18th and Regan Gough 27th overall.
Photo: ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy