Defending champion Gediminas Bagdonas (An Post) survived a massive crash in the peloton with around 50km to go yesterday to rejoin the front of the race with the help of his team and take victory on stage three of the An Post Rás in Westport yesterday.
The first rain of the week for the riders combined with the twisting narrow descents of Connemara to cause a series of crashes during the stage, one of which saw Danish rider Jacob Nielsen (Blue Water Cycling) hospitalised with a punctured lung and suspected broken ribs.
Mountains leader Dan Craven (Britain Sigma Sport) appeared to suffer concussion after a serious crash on the descent of Gowlaun around 98km into proceedings brought down half of the peloton, but the Namibian continued to the finish, despite blood dripping from a face wound on the run-in and not knowing how he got to the line.
“I think it was me who caused the crash,” said Craven, who had taken more points towards his King of the mountains jersey just before the descent. “I think my back wheel slid out on a corner. The next thing I knew I was on my spare bike, I was pedalling and there was blood.
“I can’t really remember what happened. As I was cycling, one or two things started coming back. I kind of remember going around a wet corner on the descent, it wasn’t too sharp, it was just a normal bend and my back wheel just coming out.”
Even after the stage, having finished three minutes down on the leaders, Craven was clearly still dazed from the bang to his head. “If that’s what really happened, I don’t actually know. I’ve no idea where the blood is coming from. I just need to get back to the hotel and work out what’s happening.”
Overnight leader Pirmin Lang (Atlas Personal Jackroo) managed to hold onto his yellow jersey in Westport but at one point was 40 seconds adrift of Bagdonas’s chase group and losing his grip on the race.
“I’m happy to stay in yellow today, after all the crashes,” said the Swiss race leader. “I had to turn off-road to avoid the crash but I come from a cyclo-cross background so it’s not a problem for me. We got caught out and were a long way down but we worked hard and closed the gap with 10km to go, so I’m really happy to stay here and keep the yellow.”
Bagdonas emerged from a ditch in the same spill as Craven, needing a replacement shoe after his shoe-plate broke in the collision and, after his teammates also picked themselves up off the road, set about reeling in the front portion of the peloton, which had disintegrated after the carnage.
Up ahead, Cork man Timmy Barry, riding for the Carlow Dan Morrissey Speedy Spokes team, was also picking himself up off the deck, having crashed out of a three-man lead group on the descent.
“I just came down off the second climb, in the valley before the last one,” said a gutted Barry, who had been in fine form on the domestic front before the Rás. “On one of the sweeping bends my front wheel just went from under me in the rain. I hit the deck, the guy behind me rode into me and the other guy (Sondre Hurum of Norwegian team Oneco Masterhus) kept going. I’ve raced up here before and even in Ras Connachta the roads here seem to get an awful lot more slippery than anywhere else I’ve ridden. People were falling everywhere. I could do with two new elbows and two knees. It’s very rare you do both sides but I managed it today.”
As Bagdonas and his An Post team chased Hurum, race leader Lang and his Swiss teammates chased Bagdonas and they all came together in the final 15km to set up a 50-strong sprint finish in Westport. Here, Bagdonas got the better of stage one winner Marcin Bialablocki (Node4 Giordana) and Dutchman Roy Efting (Koga Cycling), with Bagdonas having to restart his sprint when he threw his hands up too early, just metres before the line.
Peter Hawkins (Sigma Sport) was best of the Irish in sixth while Adam Armstrong of the Dublin Eurocycles team took best county rider for the second day in a row, finishing in 10th.
As Lang and Bagdonas donned their yellow and green jerseys respectively on the podium afterwards, Mountains leader Craven was unable to attend the ceremony as he was being treated by a doctor for a suspected broken cheekbone and it is unclear as to whether he will start today.
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