Bevin takes control of Ras with superb solo fightback
The longest day on this year's An Post Ras and with no less than 10 categorised climbs on the 183km journey from Charleville to Caherciveen, few were expecting yesterday's fourth stage to end in a bunch sprint.
Fewer still were expecting race leader Patrick Bevin to win that sprint and consolidate his overall lead, especially after the Kiwi found himself two minutes down and out of the jersey with 60km of the stage left.
Although third-placed Alessandro Pettiti became virtual leader on the road as he flew along the Iveragh Penninsula among a dozen riders with a two-minute lead up front, Bevin's New Zealand squad never gave up the chase and had the group closed down to a minute as they passed through Caherciveen the first time and headed on to a tough 40km finishing loop.
It was here that Bevin showed his strength. With his team-mates all used up, the 23-year-old Kiwi took the race by the scruff of the neck after the first category climb of Coomanaspic with 20km to go and single-handedly dragged the escapees back into the fold, finally catching the last two, Pettiti and Owain Doull of An Post Chain Reaction, inside the last 6km.
"Once the guys closed the gap down, I rode from the top of the last climb without any help," said Bevin. "I rode through the groups and was quite surprised really to get back on to the leaders. I took it step by step. We caught one group and then another group. Next thing they were telling us that the front of the race was just 20 seconds up the road."
After all his hard work though, Bevin still showed a clean pair of wheels to the rest of the 32-man front group and outsprinted last year's Ras winner Marcin Bialoblocki and Pete Williams for his second stage win.
"I couldn't help myself," he smiled afterwards. "When we pegged them back with 5km to go I got a bit of respite and hid in the wheels. The finish was there and I found my way through the wheels. I'm over the moon, but I got so much help from my New Zealand team though. The stage win is a testament to their work."
With a commanding lead and four days left, Bevin is looking solid for overall victory in Skerries on Sunday. Bevin still holds a 1'55" lead over Clemens Fankhauser of Austria with Pettiti tied on time for third.
The race leader also leads the points classification while Pettiti had some consolation when he picked up enough points during his escape yesterday to don the King of the Mountains jersey at the stage end.
Belfast man Peter Hawkins of the British-based Madison Genesis team remains best placed of the Irish contingent in 12th overall at 2'26", with An Post Chain Reaction's Sean Downey next, a further 30 seconds back in 19th.
Cork Aquablue's Damien Shaw took over as best county rider overall yesterday while Alex Peters of the British Velosure Giordana squad is best U-23 rider.