James Gullen of team Pedal Heaven took a superb win on stage three of An Post Rás today. The Briton challenged several times on the category one climb of Conor Pass and despite being behind at the summit with seven kilometres to go, Gullen caught those ahead on the descent. He then attacked in the final two kilometres to solo to victory.
Runner up Aaron Gate (An Post Chain Reaction), Nikodemus Holler (Germany Stradalli Bike Aid) and 2014 race winner and today’s yellow jersey, Clemens Fankhauser (Austria Tirol Cycling), finished just two seconds behind him.
Eddie Dunbar (Ireland National Team) once again finished within the top ten, moving him up the general classification (GC) to an impressive fourth place.
Albeit the shortest stage of the week, stage three proved to be a difficult test for the riders. The route held relatively flat at the start and an ambitious breakaway from Cork Aquablue’s Sean McKenna, yesterday’s stage winner, Eoin Morton (Dublin UCD Fitz Cycles), and Nicolai Brochner (Denmark Riwal Platform) shook up the pack early on. The trio were soon joined by 16 other riders but were unable to maintain a lead and were dissolved back into the peloton.
At the 43 kilometre mark, Gullen pulled away and a strong contingent of 21 chasers, including county riders Sean Lacey (Cork Aquablue) and Mark Downey (Ireland National Team), quickly pursued. The pack reeled Gullen in and established a one minute six second lead over the bunch.
Following the grade three ascent at Knockabout Cross, four riders punctured out of the group, while the strong chasing efforts of the Australian National Team dwindled the leaders’ gap to 28 seconds as the riders entered through Castleisland.
The breakaway tried desperately to shake off the chasers but their efforts proved unsuccessful; it was all together again as the peloton hurdled towards the formidable Conor Pass. The climb quickly reduced the peloton but Mark Dowling (Louth Asea Wheelworx) grit his teeth and attacked.
The Irishman was quickly followed by Gullen who launched a series of attacks. However, despite being passed by several riders before the summit, he returned on the descent, timing his final attack to perfection.
Gullen hurdled on to cross the finish line in Dingle in front of roaring crowds. Commenting on the stage victory, Gullen’s first remark was of the stunning scenery around the Dingle Peninsula.
“This stage was incredible. The gorgeous panoramic views on the climbs were just breathtaking. I felt like stopping to take it all in. I’m chuffed with the win. We’ll play it by ear now and just take each day as it comes and hopefully you might be speaking to me again!’
It was another impressive display by Corkman Dunbar; he took fourth and fifth on each of the climbs and is now sitting comfortably in fourth spot on the GC.
Jai Hindley of the Australian National Team claimed the U23 Overall Rider, while Ian Richardson of Dublin UCD Fitz Cycles moved to top of Irish County Rider classification. Gate now dons the green points jersey while Holler becomes the new King of the Mountains. Clemens Fankhauser’s impressive performance is rewarded with the yellow jersey.
Day four takes the riders on a 162.8 km route starting off in Dingle and making their way through Castlemaine, Milltown, and Killorglin before hitting a category one climb at Bealach Oisín. The riders will then go on towards Waterville, up the category two climb of Coomakista, through Caherdaniel, Castlecove, and up the ascent of Letterfinish before crossing the finish line in Sneem, Kerry.
Regular updates on this year’s An Post Rás are available on www.anpostras.ie or twitter.com/anpostras