Cycling: Baldo holds on for Ras triumph
Nicolas Baldo finished safely in the peloton in Skerries yesterday, a few places behind stage winner Gediminas Bagdonas, to take overall Ras victory.
"This is my biggest stage-race win," said the delighted Swiss Atlas Personal rider, who had been in the yellow jersey since Thursday.
"Eight days of racing, two stage wins and seven days in yellow for the team, it has been an incredible week.
"My team-mates were all strong today and I'd like to thank them for all the work they did in the last few days.
"We had a bit of luck too. When I punctured on the Glengesh Pass, there was no problem and I got back okay. Everything worked for us this week, even the sunshine. I like when it's hot and I know this is unusual for Ireland so everything went well for us."
The Frenchman's team controlled yesterday's stage to perfection, reeling in a seven-man move which included Irish duo Sean Downey (An Post) and Robin Kelly (Carlow Dan Morrissey Speedy Spokes) just as the race hit Skerries and headed out onto the finishing circuit for the first time.
The yellow jersey sat safely in the peloton as his Swiss squad, helped by the teams of second-placed Thomas Rostollan (Aix en Provence) and Martin Hunal (Sparta Prague), kept the tempo high enough to ensure a bunch gallop into Skerries.
The outcome of this final sprint was also crucial to the destination of the final green jersey.
Last year's overall winner Bagdonas (An Post) went into yesterday's stage equal on points with stage one winner Marcin Bialoblocki of the British Node4 Giordana Pro team, meaning that whoever took the higher placing on the final stage to Skerries would win the points classification.
In the sprint to the line, Bagdonas was hoping team-mate Sam Bennett could take stage glory but the Carrick-on-Suir rider left it too late and had to settle for second behind his An Post team-mate as Polish rider Bialoblocki took third.
"We knew we needed to get the green jersey and we did that," said second-placed Bennett. "I might have got the stage myself but I played it a bit too cool. I waited until the last 100m and then ran out of road in the finish and didn't have enough time to get by him.
"But he's (Bagdonas) been very strong all week and deserved the win. It's nice to finish the week with first and second."
With Baldo, Lang and team-mate Jonathon Fumeaux all finishing in the top 10, Swiss Atlas Personal also took home the international team award while the Dublin Eurocycles team took the county team award.
Connor McConvey of An Post was best of the Irish overall in seventh place, while Adam Armstrong (Dublin Eurocycles) took best county rider in 14th place, just seven seconds off Ryan Sherlock of Tipperary Iverk Produce.
"I didn't get the stage win I wanted but third on a stage and 14th overall is not too bad," said Belfast-based Armstrong, who put in a tremendous performance this week despite holding down a full-time night shift in his local Tesco.
"I kind of started running out of road today but that's to be expected. At least I've proved to myself that I can do what I thought I could do. I'd love to go to the continent to race now but I'm back in work tomorrow night at 10.0 and I'm not looking forward to it.
"They were trying to get me back in tonight but there was no chance of that."