Rás home hopes fade in Donegal

It was coming for a few days and yesterday on the brutal Donegal terrain the An Post Rás was blown to pieces as overnight leader Matt Teggart lost the yellow jersey in bittersweet fashion.

Rás home hopes fade in Donegal

It has been a dream week for the 21-year old first-year pro with An Post Chain Reaction as he won Tuesday’s third stage into Bundoran and took the race lead a day later in Buncrana.

Granted, he was tied on time at the head of the general classification with a half dozen others but on yesterday’s 180-kilometre journey to Dungloe he slipped outside the top 10 and lost virutally all hope of winning outright.

But that disappointment was tempered in the best possible way as his teammate Regan Gough from New Zealand won an utterly cruel stage in blistering temperatures.

The Kiwi track star has kept his powder dry all week but he unloaded his freakish potential yesterday when he infiltrated a strong break that also included Cameron Meyer (Australia National Team), Edward Laverack (Britain JLT Condor), James Gullen (Britain JLT Condor), Ike Groen (Netherlands Delta Cycling Rotterdam) and Daan Meijers (Netherlands Delta Cycling Rotterdam).

Groen and Gullen both started the day level on time with the yellow jersey and with each of them having a teammate in the escape they were always going to commit to the effort.

They managed to pull clear after the category three ascent of Ballymastocker with 75 kilometres completed.

And though nobody knew it at the time, those riders proved too strong for the chase behind and they were never caught.

They stayed out front for over 100 kilometres and by the time they reached the finish they were over four minutes clear of a chase group and a whopping nine minutes ahead of the peloton which contained the yellow jersey of Teggart.

Gough edged out ex-pro and multiple track world champion Meyer who finished second ahead of third place Meijers while JLT Britain rider James Gullen was the biggest winner of all as he became the new race leader.

“I made the front group so I had to sit and wait all day,” said the winner.

“I held tight and backed myself to go for the finish. It was a very warm day but riding on the coast, we got some lovely cool air which really helped.”

In contrast to his elation, it was a bad, bad day for the Irish riders who look to be out of the running for the yellow jersey despite a massive chase from an eight-man group.

In there were Mark Downey (Ireland National Team), Damien Shaw (Ireland An Post Chain Reaction), Robert-Jon McCarthy (Britain JLT Condor), Michael O’Loughlin (Britain Team Wiggins), Troels Ronning Vinther (Denmark Riwal Platform Cycling), Morgan Kneisky (France Armee de Terre), Thomas Rostollon (France Armee de Terre) and Stephane Poulhies (France Armee de Terre).

They closed to within 1’30” at one point but they would get no closer and they would lose over four minutes.

Up front, it was really hotting up with any number of scenarios likely.

Groen was also equal on time with race leader Teggart starting the stage and when he made the break he was looking very good for yellow.

But when he was distanced on the run-in to the finish, another man who started level on time with Teggart, James Gullen stayed with the lead group and was fourth on the stage just six seconds behind the winner Gough.

That meant he gained time on Groen – a significant 1:05 – and put himself into the race lead.

“It was beautiful and really hot today,” Gullen said after.

“I wish I could have enjoyed the scenery a bit more but it was pretty hard work out there.” Best of the Irish was Robert-Jon McCarthy (JLT-Condor) who was in the chase group. He took seventh on the stage, some 4:38 behind the stage winner.

Damien Shaw (An Post-Chainreaction) and Michael O’Loughlin (Team Wiggins) are now best placed of the Irish overall and they are fifth overall at 4:32 while O’Loughlin, having a superb race, is ninth at 7:13.

The latter is also leading the U23 classification while Matteo Cigala (Aqua Blue Sport Academy) was best county rider.

Dennis Bakker (Riwal Cycling) leads the points classification while Michael Storer (Cycling Australia) leads the climbers’ classification.

Today’s stage takes the riders on a rather more humane 132-kilometre journey from Dungloe to Donegal town and there are seven categorised climbs to negotiate.

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