Cycling: Bialoblocki takes opening Ras stage with late surge
Polish strongman Marcin Bialoblocki spearheaded a late four-man escape into Kilkenny yesterday to take victory on Stage 1 and don the first race leader's yellow jersey of this year's An Post Ras.
On a high-speed stage, aided by a strong tailwind, the quartet slipped away in a seemingly innocuous move with 15km remaining, just as everybody else had resigned themselves to a bunch sprint finish into Kilkenny.
The four escapees quickly built up a maximum lead of 25 seconds over the chasing peloton but were brought to within six seconds of recapture on the line. On the uphill finish on Patrick Street, Bialoblocki surged clear to take victory ahead of Danish rider Jacob Nielsen (Blue Water Cycling), Nicolas Baldo of the Switzerland Atlas team and former winner Simon Richardson (Britain Sigma Sport).
Bialoblocki was surprised to hold off the fast-finishing peloton in the closing kilometres. "It was a fast stage," he said.
"Most of the day we had a tailwind and nobody could get clear but I got away with about 15km to go and Simon Richardson came across with two others. We worked well together and yeah, we stayed away. I knew I had good legs, good form, and I know I am going well."
Indeed it was a good opening day for Bialoblocki's British-based professional team, Node4 Giordana, with team-mate David Clarke giving himself a nice 33rd birthday present of the King of the Mountains jersey and Dubliner Philip Lavery taking the white Irish Sports Council jersey for best U-23 rider, having taken an intermediate time bonus at the Hill of Allen after 54km.
"I knew the Hill of Allen was coming up so I just followed somebody out of the bunch and the bunch stalled," said Lavery. "I was thinking more about the overall than the white jersey really."
Bialoblocki now leads the race by four seconds from Nielsen, with Baldo in third at eight seconds. Last year's winner Gediminas Bagdonas, sixth on yesterday's stage, is ominously lurking in fourth overall.
Lavery is best of the Irish, 13 seconds down in sixth place overall, with Peter Hawkins, also riding for a British-based professional team, Sigma Sport, a further second back in seventh.
Meanwhile, Matteo Rabottini won the 15th stage of the Giro d'Italia, holding off Joaquin Rodriguez in a close finish yesterday as the Spaniard took back the overall lead from Ryder Hesjedal.
On the second hilltop finish of the race, Rabottini crossed in 5 hours, 15 minutes, 30 seconds, edging out Rodriguez on the final curve of the 169km (105 mile) leg. Rabottini, who had led for more than 150km (93 miles), emerged unscathed from a crash on the last descent to claim his second professional victory.
Today is a rest day after two days in the mountains.