With three riders level on the same time going into the final two days, today's rendezvous with the Wicklow Mountains means it's do or die in the An Post Ras.
Polish pro Marcin Bialoblocki, riding for the UK Youth team, leads the race on stage placings, with just a single second needed for Belfast man Connor McConvey or Dane Rasmus Guldhammer to take over in yellow.
Bialoblocki's tenure in yellow came under no real threat when a five-man group containing American Jake Rytlewksi (Astelas Oncology) and five Irishmen – Stephen Halpin (Polygon), John Lynch (UCD), Olan Barrett (Cork Aquablue) and Art McManusa (Dublin South) – built up a two-and-a-half-minute lead on the road to Carlow.
"I just saw a bit of a stall, so I thought I might as well go," said 33-year-old Arklow native Lynch of the five-man escape bid.
"I knew I probably wouldn't get over the climbs, so I thought if I got up the road, got a bit of a gap and got over the first couple of them before the bunch caught me, I'd be happy.
"I was hoping a few more would come over and the five of us got away. We just kept tipping through and hoping they might let us go, seeing as we're a good few places back. You might as well get up the road and do something."
By the time Barrett took the An Post Hot Spot sprint in Urlingford after 77km, the break had begun to disintegrate and the pros had moved to the front of the race with the hills looming.
"Once the road started going up I was gone," admitted Lynch afterwards.
"But it's nice to ride the race and live like a pro for a week. You get well looked after and you don't have to do anything except ride your bike. I'm a carpenter by trade and I'm back shuttering concrete on Monday."
With the break caught, race leader Bialoblocki's UK Youth team were busy pulling the shutters down on the numerous attacks on the run-in to Carlow.
The Polish rider took third behind stage winner Rico Rogers of Synergy Baku and Owain Doull of Great Britain, and comfortably retained his yellow jersey at the end of the stage.
"It was a very nice day, like a Saturday ride with the local team," said a fresh looking Bialoblocki at the finish.
"Everything went very well. My teammates did a good job for me. There was no danger. We kept it steady and then people started attacking and we brought back the break. I was feeling very good today.
"I was thinking about winning the stage, but, in the end, it was very dangerous. One of the An Post guys swung into me in the sprint and I had to brake and then it was too late."
With the Wicklow Mountains looming today, McConvey will be hoping to wrest the yellow jersey from the shoulders of Bialoblocki on a day peppered with no less than eight climbs.
"There were a few testing digs today, but it didn't seem hard enough to break it up because the racing was controlled early on and everybody was fresh," said McConvey afterwards.
"I would have liked it to be a bit more aggressive and selective, but it wasn't. It's no big deal. I'm still in contention, but tomorrow is do-or-die really."