The 28-year-old went into the race lead on last Thursday’s stage from Cahersiveen to Clonakilty and though he only had a 25-second lead since then, he has had awesome help from his four team-mates to defend it since.
He took the title by 25 seconds from Alex Peters (Britain Madison Genesis) and Nic Hamilton of the Canada National Team in third, some 45 seconds off.
“I am shocked. It’s amazing to win this race. It’s been a really tough eight days but it’s something I’ll always remember,” said the winner. “This is the best day of my career for sure. This country is amazing and the people are very special. I am honoured to be crowned Rás champion,” he added.
Yesterday’s stage was won by arguably the most aggressive rider of the week, Davide Ballerini of the Italy team ‘Idea 2010 ASD’ when he attacked the day’s seven-man breakaway with 9km remaining and managed to hold off the field to the line.
“I’ve been trying and trying all week for a stage, I’ve been in so many breaks but when I missed the big move on Thursday, that kind of ended my overall ambitions,” he said. “But today I made up for that. I’ve had a great week, really enjoyed the race and will hopefully be back next year.”
In that break alongside the Italian were Irishman Chris Reilly (Louth Cycling Team), Rob Partridge (Britain Velosure Giordana), Alistair Slater (Great Britain National Team), David Chopin (France Bretagne Velotec), Alessandro Pettiti (Italy Team Idea 2010 ASD) and Lars Horring (Netherlands Parkhotel Valkenburg).
They managed to pull out a lead of over three minutes at one point on the 134km trek from Newbridge, but some hard chasing from the peloton reeled them back in, save for Ballerini who had 38 seconds to spare over Daniel Klemme (Synergy Energy Baku Cycling Project) and Pierrick Naud (Canada National Team).
Reilly, who usually rides for the Liquidworx-Fitscience team, said he was heartbroken to not get something out of yesterday.
“I have been getting stronger and stronger all week and I knew today was my last chance to get on the podium,” he said. “So I went as hard as I could and made the break, and when I was the only county rider there I really began to think I could get a county rider prize, at least.
“I’m gutted we got caught by the bunch, I really wanted something here.”
Mark Dowling of the DID Dunboyne team took the county rider prize for the third day in succession, while best of the Irish overall was Sean Downey of the An Post-Chainreaction team who ended the race a very strong sixth, at 58 seconds, though knowing just 13 seconds would have taken him to third overall.
Mullingar’s Damien Shaw won the county rider classification overall and his team, Aquablue, took the county team prize.
Former yellow jersey Patrick Bevin of New Zealand won the points classification, Peters was best U23 rider and Markus Eibegger (Azerbaijan Synergy Baku) won the climbers’ classification, having sewn that up even before the start of yesterday’s stage.