Iron man Eibegger triumphs in Tipp

Almost 10 years to the day since Mayo’s Davy O’Loughlin claimed an incredible solo stage win atop Carrick-On-Suir’s Seskin Hill in the latter stages of the An Post Rás, Austrian powerhouse Markus Eibegger did something remarkably similar in yesterday’s gruelling journey from Clonakilty.

Eibegger, riding for Synergy Baku Cycling project — with more than a few Irish connections — spent most of the day out front in the breakaway before attacking it when the cooperation in that escape began to fall apart.

He then spent almost 90 kilometres in a two-man move with Canada’s Remi Pelletier-Roy as the breakaway, led by the An Post-Chainreaction team and the Austria Tirol Cycling Team of overnight leader Clemens Fankhauser, was reabsorbed by the peloton.

However, though Pelletier-Roy (Canada National Team) was mopped up and would eventually cross the line almost four minutes down, Eibegger pressed on and was never caught by the much depleted chasing pack.

And even when a seven-man chase group — containing county riders Eoin Morton (UCD Arrow CC) and DID Electrical Dunboyne rider Mark Dowling — got across in the latter part of the stage, the 29-year-old Austrian waited for the 1.5km Seskin Hill before powering away.

Once the road shot skywards, he blasted away from those he was with, to take an enormous victory after a final hour of racing that saw riders drenched and hit by plummeting temperatures.

An Post-Chainreaction’s Owain Doull was second, with double stage winner and former yellow jersey Patrick Bevin (New Zealand) in third.

Dowling, of the DID Dunboyne team was best Irish man in seventh, while more significantly, Sean Downey moved up to sixth overall after finishing 11th on the stage. He is now just 55 seconds off the yellow jersey of Frankhauser, with the top seven separated by just over a minute.

“It was a really tough stage today, riding out in front with the head wind for so long,” said the winner.

“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,” he added.

For manager David McCann, who won the race in 2004, it was their second win of the week and a very special moment for him.

“That win today reminded me of Davy’s win back in 2004, he was just unstoppable that day as well. Markus did exactly what he was told to do and after dropping out of contention on Thursday, that was a very special ride today and one of the best wins in this race I can remember.

“We also have a guy in fifth overall (Christoph Schweizer) at 55 seconds and the yellow is still there to contend for,” added McCann.

Sean Downey is the only Irishman who can realistically still win the race and the An Post Chainreaction rider says he done his chances of victory no harm today.

“I moved up two places today so I’ve put myself in a very good position overall (@58 seconds). A few guys came around me on the climb but the main thing was to put time into the guys who were close to me on General Classification and hopefully move up and that’s what I done.

“Saturday is a big day and it’s all or nothing now for me. It would be a dream come true to win it so we’ll have to have our tactics spot on.”

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