Lukas Postlberger was yesterday crowned the winner of An Post Rás following a week that saw him deal with crashes, crosswinds, and even the theft of his bike the night before the final stage.
The 23-year-old rising Austrian star overcame every challenge thrown at him in the past eight days and stormed down the final straight in Skerries, arms outstretched and wearing a wild smile when he crossed the line.
“I’m so happy to win,” said the Tirol Cycling Team man.
“This has been a tough week for me and my team. I have never been to Ireland before to race so I did not know what to expect but we had to deal with a lot this week.”
Postlberger took the lead on day two after the opening day’s winner, Francesca Reda of the Italian Team IDEA squad, was ejected from the race for being illegally towed by his team car.
The remaining Italian riders have been criticised for some erratic riding all week and it was one of their number who took down Postlberger in an accidental crash on Saturday. The race leader was forced to change bikes and chase back to the bunch. However, the setback did little to stall his momentum.
He charged back to the front on Saturday, kept the yellow jersey and on yesterday’s final run from Drogheda to Skerries he was untouchable, setting a furious tempo at the front to discourage attacks.
“I was strong all week and felt I could have won every stage,” he said bullishly.
“My team have been amazing and when I crashed on Saturday they paced me back to the bunch without any trouble. I am so proud of them for the way we rode this week.
“My bike was stolen last night, the weather was awful this week at times but to win here in great weather makes it all OK.”
Another man who put in some storming displays was Mullingar man Damien Shaw, the full-time fireman riding for the Louth/Team ASEA squad following up his runner-up place on Friday with another on Saturday and a third place yesterday.
“I got stronger as the week went on and I just wanted to be aggressive. I’m sorry I couldn’t get a stage win but I could have done no more. I wouldn’t win a sprint in a Sunday race and I was never going to win one at the Rás,” he said in reference to Friday’s and Saturday’s results where he was beaten by faster men in the final metres.
Yesterday, Shaw bridged across to two former WorldTour riders, Aidis Kroupis (An Post Chainreaction) and former Team Sky rider David Vigano (Team IDEA) late in the stage. He ran out of gas as the finish line approached but was proud of his effort after an injury-ravaged year.
“I did all I could. I rode across to the two lads but hadn’t much left for a sprint. I knew the bunch would be screaming up behind me so I guess getting third was no bad result.”
Kroupis won the final stage making it four stage wins for An Post Chainreaction team for the week. They also took second and third on general classification through Josh Edmondson at 1’05” and Ryan Mullen at 2’19”.
Ian Richardson (UCD CC) finished 10th overall and took home the county rider prize while Mullen won the U23 classification and the Cork Aquablue team of Sean Lacey, Anthony Walsh, Sean McKenna, Cathal Moynihan and Ronan McLaughlin took home the County team prize. Kroupis won the King of the Mountains jersey while Aaron Gate won the green Points jersey.
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