Bibby holds off battling Shaw after epic breakaway
British professional Ian Bibby of NFTO took stage six of the An Post Ras in Ballinamore yesterday, outsprinting Louth's Damien Shaw (Asea) and Welshman Ed Laverack.
Having spent much of the 160km stage out front in a 13-man move - which also contained Belgian-based Irish pro Conor Dunne (An Post Chain Reaction) and two more county riders, Mark Dowling (Meath DID Electrical) and Peter Hawkins (Down Nth Graham Powerhouse Sport) - the lead trio managed to jump clear of their fellow escapees in the final kilometres.
In the gallop to the line, Bibby proved fastest.
"It was pretty hilly but it looked as if it would always come down to a sprint finish so we knew the stage would suit me," said the 28-year-old from Preston.
Shaw was just a bike length behind as he took the daily award for best county rider.
"With the level of fitness I have this week I don't have the jump to attack so I was hoping for a steadier tempo on the run in," admitted the Mullingar-based firefighter.
"I've been keeping a low profile all week with the aim of coming out and giving it a dig one day, but to go from struggling all week to be in the top two today was a bit of a turnaround."
Twenty-one seconds behind the lead trio, Dowling led home the chase group for fourth and was left to ponder what might have been if the whole group had been sprinting for victory.
"I think I would have won the stage," said the disappointed Meath man afterwards.
"From going for the mountains points, I seemed to have a better acceleration than the rest of the group so I said I'd gamble on taking a flyer at the finish, but in the end I played it far too cute."
The early escape was instigated by Hawkins just after the start on the outskirts of Ballina, and after a chase group got across, they had a one-minute advantage as Dowling led them over the category three at Drumsheen after just 12km.
By Tubbercurry, after 28km, their lead had grown to 2'45" and it swelled to a maximum lead of five minutes and 15 seconds by Ballintogher after 62km.
The race winning move containing Bibby, Shaw and Laverack went clear on the descent of the category three Corratober with around 25km to go.
Behind, the yellow jersey of Lukas Postlberger wasn't unduly worried about the advantage opened by the 13 leaders.
"Today was a good stage to defend," said the Austrian. "We knew the best rider in the break was 13 minutes away so we had no problem with them staying away."