Irish domestic amateur Damien Shaw came within a whisker of landing a stage win at the An Post Rás yesterday, emerging just metres short following a thrilling 160km of racing from Ballina to Ballinamore.
The Team ASEA man was edged out of victory by UK rider Ian Bibby (NFTO), while his fellow countryman Ed Laverack (Condor JLT) rounded out the podium for third.
That trio had been part of the day’s 13-man escape that broke clear inside 15 kilometres yesterday and built a maximum advantage of over five minutes on the peloton, although none of them threatened the yellow jersey of overnight race leader Lukas Postlberger (Tirol Cycling team).
Shaw kept his powder dry for late on and he signalled his intent to win when he attacked his fellow breakaway men inside 20 kilometres to go and he was joined by Bibby and Laverack.
They came to the line together before a huge crowd and though Shaw looked like he had the legs to take the stage, a fast-finishing Bibby nicked it from him on the line. “Initially I was disgusted not to have won,” said Shaw, “but when I reflect on it now I have to be happy.
“I’ve had a hard year with crashes and injuries. I crashed hard in Majorca training in January, came down in a bad one in Nenagh last month and in Ulster as well.
“I wasn’t even sure if I’d be in the Rás a few weeks ago after that crash in Nenagh because I broke a bone in my arm.
“I’ve been quiet enough so far this week, just haven’t been given much rope to get up the road but I knew a day like today suited me and I knew the break could stay away to the finish because the last few days have been extremely hard and it had to cease at some point.” Shaw was fourth on a stage last year and his teammate Bryan McCrystal put in the performance of recent times on Monday when he escaped up the road and almost took a solo win for the team.
“This is another victory of sorts for the county rider, the full-time working man. I’m a fireman. I’m back to work next week. It would have been nice to go into work with a stage win but it wasn’t to be. I did all I could today.”
The 13-man break featured other Irish riders in An Post Chain Reaction man Conor Dunne, Peter Hawkins (North Down Graham Powerhouse Sport) and Mark Dowling (Meath/DID Electrical Dunboyne).
Dowling had to be content with fourth but he’s moved himself right up into contention for the mountains jersey after mopping up maximum points going over the three categorised ascents.
The other big story of the day was the battle for yellow, with Ryan Mullen still keeping the Irish flag flying.
The An Post Chainreaction man finished in the same time as the race leader Lukas Postlberger (Tirol Cycling Team) and is still 2’19” down overall. His teammate Josh Edmonson is still second at 1’05” Mullen looked to be in difficulty today when he tailed off the back of the peloton and it emerged afterwards that he’s been suffering with a chest infection this week.
All other jersey wearers retained what they started with; Ian Richardson (UCD CC) still has the overall county jersey, Mullen has the U23 white jersey and Rob Partridge (NFTO) is still in the mountains jersey. Today’s stage takes the riders from Balinamore to Drogheda, Co. Louth before tomorrow’s final showdown in Skerries.
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