Matteo Malucelli (Team IDEA) displayed his superior sprinting skills in an explosive dash to the line to secure the stage three victory today of An Post Rás. In what was an electrifying bunch sprint finish in to Bearna, Co. Galway, Malucelli pipped Alex Frame of the New Zealand National team to the line, with Andreas Hofer (Hrinkow Advarics Cycleangteam) taking third place and Irishman Peter Hawkins (Down North Graham Powerhouse) coming home in fourth.
Today’s stage featured only two category three climbs but the twisting, undulating roads in to Bearna were to prove a real test for the riders.
County rider Marc Potts (Down Newry Wheelers) was aggressive from the off, leading a number of early attacks, none of which managed to stick. Potts’ persistency paid off however and at the 65 kilometre mark, entering Bodyke, the Irishman managed to break clear. He was followed by five other riders; Roger Aiken (Louth Team Asea), Anthony Walsh and Sean McKenna (Cork Aquablue), Jimmy Janssens (Team 3m) and Morgan Smith (Team Subaru – Albion).
The six man breakaway forged a gap of five minutes coming up to the first category three climb at Aylebaun, on the 78 kilometre mark.
Aiken had the bit between his teeth and made light work of the Aylebaun ascent, taking the prime just ahead of Janssens. Belgian rider Janssens got his revenge shortly after though, comfortably securing the day’s second climb at Killanena.
Back in the bunch, headed by yellow jersey rider, Lukas Postlberger, the peloton was working efficiently, chipping slowly away at the breaks lead. With 35 kilometres to go, the advantage looked to be still with the break as they still held a sizable three minute and five second gap out front.
Their lead began to drastically dwindle however with 25 km to go after a burst of acceleration from the chasing pack reduced it down to just one minute, forty five seconds; the race could have gone either way at this point. Roger Aiken sat up with 10 km to go, leaving a five man lead group with a forty five second advantage trying desperately to hold on into a stiff headwind.
With only three km to go the lead group were caught and a thrilling sprint finish ensued to the excitement of the roaring locals. Malucelli eventually prevailed with an impressive show of power on the finishing straight to give his team their second stage win of the race.
Lukas Postlberger (Tirol Cycling Team) retains the Yellow Jersey and Points Classification jersey after an eight place finish today. Best County Rider once again went to Ian Richardson (Dublin UCD) while Jaap de Man (Team 3M) was ever present to claim the Under-23 classification. Robert Partridge (Team NFTO) also keeps hold of the mantle of King of the Mountains.
Dublin UCD rider, Ian Richardson, put on another scintillating display of riding to finish on the same time as the stage winner, leaving him in joint fifth place on the general classification.
Richardson was again all smiles at the finish line and is taking a lot of confidence from his performances.
“It’s an incredible boost for my confidence, knowing that you’re in the top five riders on the GC (General Classification). It makes you fight that bit more and want it that bit more. I’m just going to keep riding as hard as I can and who knows what will happen on the rest of the stages. “