Ireland's Eddie Dunbar wins stage seven of An Post Rás
Eddie Dunbar (Irish National Team) put on a dazzling display of riding today to win stage seven of An Post Rás and become the second Irish rider to claim a stage win on this year’s race.
The Corkman was part of a five man lead break and won a hard fought sprint to the line, finishing just ahead of Jai Hindley (Australian National Team) and yellow jersey leader, Clemens Fankhauser (Austria Tirol Cycling).
Dunbar’s performance moves him up to fourth in the general classification (GC), trailing the 2014 Rás winner, Fankhauser, by 19 seconds going in to the final stage in to Skerries.
The penultimate days racing took the riders 155 kilometres from Dungarvan, Waterford to Baltinglass, Wicklow. With six arduous days of racing already conquered, tired legs were sure to play a part in today’s proceedings. There was no let up though for the 152 riders that took to the start line as they faced four climbs, including the torturous category one ascent of Mount Leinster, which reared up just 40 kilometres to the finish line.
Seven riders began today’s stage within ten seconds of Fankhauser, promising an action packed day of racing and it didn’t disappoint. Attacks began from the drop of the flag, many led by Louthman Bryan McCrystal (Louth Asea Wheelworx), but nothing could stick.
Current King of the Mountains (KOM), Nikodemus Holler (Germany Stradalli Bike Aid), was majestic on the climbs once again. The German conquered the first three category three climbs of Killinaspick, Ballygallon and Raheendonore with ease and mounting the final ascent of Mount Leinster he attacked out front alone.
Dunbar kept sight of Holler though and led a group of five riders including, Fankhauser and a trio of Australian National Team riders, Hindley, Michael Storer and Lucas Hamilton, to make it six out front.
Holler began to tire and was dropped by the others on the descent, just 40 kilometres to the finish. The lead break, powered by Fankhauser, built a one minute lead over a chasing pack of 18 riders including Irishmen Mark Dowling (Louth Asea Wheelworx) and Damien Shaw (An Post Chain Reaction).
The chase group’s efforts proved to be in vain however and with only 5 kilometres to go, the glory was sure to go to one of the front five. Dunbar was relentless in his attacks and on the final stretch in to Baltinglass the Corkman grit his teeth and jumped clear, crossing the line milliseconds ahead of Hindley to rapturous applause from the locals who lined the streets.
Dunbar, who was a late inclusion in to this year’s Rás, was thrilled to take a victory in a race he has watched growing up as a youngster.
“It hasn’t sunk in yet. To win a stage on a UCI race in your home country is a dream come true. I’ve watched the race since I was knee high and I’ve always wanted to be one of the ‘men of the Rás’ so it’s a great feeling to be standing here as one of them. ”
Commenting on tomorrow’s final stage, Dunbar admitted it would be a tough task to wrestle back the lead held by Fankhauser.
“The Australian guys are really strong and so are the Austrian team so to overtake them on GC will be difficult. You just never know though, I’ll be giving it my all though and we’ll see what happens. Fankhauser goes in to the final day holding a three second lead over Hindley and a 13 second lead over Hamilton. There is no change to the jersey’s holders from yesterday; Hindley remains in the Under 23 jersey, Holler retains the KOM, Aaron Gate (An Post Chain Reaction) wears the green points jersey and Ian Richardson once again sits atop of the county rider classification.
Sunday’s final stage rolls out from Newbridge, Kildare at noon and takes the peloton through Meath on to the finish at Skerries.