Last year’s overall winner Gediminas Bagdonas (An Post) out-galloped a large bunch into Skerries yesterday to take victory at the end of stage eight of the An Post Rás as overnight leader, Frenchman Nicolas Baldo, finished safely in the main field to bring the final yellow jersey home to France.
Baldo’s Swiss-based Atlas Personal professional team have been in command at this Rás ever since his teammate Pirmin Lang took over in yellow on Monday having won stage two into Gort. Lang lost his place at the top of the General Classification three days later but happily for the Swiss squad, it was teammate Baldo who took over in Buncrana.
After an audacious stage win the following day, when he rode away from the rest of the race while wearing the yellow jersey into Killybegs, Baldo’s squad ensured a 13 second deficit to second placed Thomas Rostollan (Aix En Provence) was as close as anyone got to him for the remainder of the Rás.
“It’s wonderful, and I want to thank my team very much for this win,” said a delighted Baldo in Skerries yesterday. “They rode really hard all week and they were incredible. We got some help from the Czech and French teams but during the week they were magnificent. We had seven days in yellow and two stage wins for the team. It has been an incredible week. This is my biggest ever stage-race win and I’m so happy. The landscape all week has been amazing and the weather was really great. I like to race in the sunshine so this week was perfect for me.”
After throwing his hands in the air upon taking third place on Saturday, not realising there were two riders up the road, Carrick-On-Suir rider Sam Bennett almost got his stage victory yesterday and probably would have if it hadn’t been for a ding-dong battle for the points jersey between teammate Bagdonas and Polish rider Marcin Bialablocki (Node4 Giordana), who started the day equal on points.
Bagdonas, whilst leading An Post teammate Bennett to the line, looked over his shoulder for Bennett but the youngster had left it too late and with Bialablocki closing fast Bagdonas was forced to continue his sprint and take the stage win.
“I might have got the stage myself but I played it a bit too cool,” said Bennett afterwards. “I waited until the last 100m and then ran out of road in the finish and didn’t have enough time to get by him. But he was too powerful and I couldn’t get by him but he’s been very strong all week and deserved the win. We knew we needed to get the green jersey and we did that and it’s nice to finish the week with first and second.”
Bagdonas’ stage victory was enough to give An Post the green jersey while Richard Handley of the British Rapha Condor team took the white jersey for best U23 rider, finishing in fifth overall, just 18 seconds down on winner Baldo.
For Ryan Sherlock of Tipperary Iverk Produce, yesterday was the last chance to wrestle Adam Armstrong of Dublin Eurocycles for the best county rider award but he ended the day just seven seconds behind Armstrong in 16th overall.
“It was those seven seconds that I lost on the bunch sprint on the day to Bundoran that split us,” said Sherlock, who finished two places behind the Dublin Eurocycles man in 16th overall. “But it shows that the Irish amateurs are right up there and with a bit of luck one of us could have got a stage win.”
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