Eddie Dunbar digs deep to stop Rás hopes unravelling in Sneem

Eddie Dunbar avoided disaster to stay in contention for the yellow jersey at the An Post Rás yesterday, the young Corkman battling to limit his losses to just 14 seconds after a late mechanical threatened to derail his chances.

The Irish national team rider was with the main group racing towards the finish in Sneem after a 162-kilometre trek from Dingle when he was forced to seek service from his team car.

With the main bunch racing full-tilt at that point, Dunbar also summoned assistance from his teammates who stopped to pace him back up – though with less than five kilometres to go, they risked losing big time.

“He did brilliantly to hang onto the main group until 3k to go but it was a full-on racing into the finish and on a fast downhill,” said team manager David McCann.

“So it was quite dangerous and he got just tailed off before the 3k to go sign.

“He had to stop and get service but he got the same time as the group he was in (when he had the mechanical).

“I told his teammates Matt Teggart and Chris McGlinchy give it everything to try to get him back on and they did; they got him back to the bunch but they fell just a few seconds short.

“It was a fantastic piece of teamwork and means we are still challenging for the yellow jersey,” he added.

Dunbar is one of just four Irish riders still in contention for the yellow jersey currently being worn by Clemens Fankheuser of the Austria Tirol Cycling team.

Mark Downey is 15th at 29 seconds, Damien Shaw (An Post Chain Reaction) is 16th in the same time while Conor Dunne (JLT-Condor Cycles) is at 1’01”.

Yesterday’s stage was billed as a decisive day on the race but the big splits that many expected never materialised as Fankheuser’s team controlled matters from start to finish.

After a period of immense pressure early on, a seven-man break went clear and in it were two county riders Bryan McCrystal (LOUTH/Asea Wheelworx) and Anthony Walsh (CORK Aquablue).

Walsh would suffer cruel luck when he punctured out of it as they ascended the category one Ballaghisheen Pass after 90 kilometres while it would be pared back further when Casper Van Folsach (Riwal Platform) and Ike Groen (Join-S De Rijke) both lost contact, the latter because of a crash on the descent of the category two Coomakista.

The four up front pressed on for Sneem but with Tirol setting a strong tempo at the front, the gap was trimmed as the kilometres ticked down.

And the inevitable catch was made just as the leaders approached the top of the fourth and final climb of the day at Letterfinish.

McCrystal really imposed himself on the climbs while out front, cresting Ballaghisheen in second and Coomakista at the head of the race.

And amazingly, he ended the day as leader of the mountains’ classification.

As one of the biggest men in the peloton, he laughed at the irony of it all. “It’s hilarious isn’t it? I’m not supposed to be a climber! It was good to get the jersey and great for the team because it keeps the county man well-represented.

“I was feeling good today and I’m very happy the way the legs have come around after a hard week already.” Dutch rider Nicolai Brochner (Riwal Platform) won the stage from the An Post Chain Reaction team pair of Emiel Wastyn and Nicolas Vereecken.

Mark Dowling (LOUTH/Asea-Wheelworx) was best of the Irish in sixth and he took the county rider prize, though UCD-Fitzcycles.ie man Ian Richardson still holds the blue jersey as leader of that classification.

Today’s stage takes the riders on a 148-kilometre journey from Sneem to Clonakilty and there are five categorised climbs.

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