Cycling: Simpson cleans up with stage victory
When An Post Ras stage five winner Myron Simpson takes to the start line today, some of his peers may not recognise him.
For the past five days, Simpson and his New Zealand national squad team-mates have been looking a bit rough. Along with former yellow jersey holder, the long-haired 'bullet with the mullet' Shane Archbold, Simpson and the rest of the team have been sporting dodgy looking beards all week.
Now that Simpson has claimed a stage win, however, the squad have promised to spruce themselves up in time for today's start in Blarney. "We've been waiting for a win to have a shave," laughed Simpson after yesterday's victory, where he soloed clear of a six-man breakaway group in the final three kilometres to snatch stage glory from a fast-finishing peloton by just four seconds.
"We can finally have a shave now," smiled the 20-year-old Auckland native of a deal between the Kiwi riders that meant none of them could shave until somebody got a stage win on the Ras. "We've got the win now and the boys will be looking clean on the start line tomorrow."
Although the Kiwis are actually the New Zealand track squad, they have been very aggressive in this year's Ras. Archbold has come close to a stage victory three times and held the yellow jersey for a day, Aaron Gate is fifth overall and wears the white Irish Sports Council jersey for the best U-23 rider.
"We're going pretty good for trackies," smiled Simpson. "We're focusing on the road now until August or September and then it's back to the track."
A world-class act on the velodrome, Simpson proved himself equally adept on the tough roads of Cork yesterday when he went clear in a six-man break 55kms into the day's proceedings. Also up there was Lachlan Norris of Australian squad Drapac Porsche, German Johannes Kahra (Thuringer Energie), Irishman David O'Loughlin of the Waterford Comeragh squad, Britain's Tobyn Horton (Motorpoint) and Aussie Dean Windsor (Rapha Condor).
Of this sextet, Windsor was the highest placed overall at just over three and a half minutes behind race leader Gediminis Bagdonas of An Post. Windsor became virtual race leader on the road when the group's advantage reached four minutes at around the 100km mark, but the merging of the Ukrainian team with the An Post squad at the head of the peloton ensured their capture just 500m from the line.
By then, however, Simpson had deserted the sinking ship and had gone clear inside the final three kilometres. He claimed victory by a mere four seconds, with Horton, who jumped clear of the break in the final kilometre, taking second by the skin of his teeth from German Bastian Burgel as the rest of the peloton finished alongside him.
Bagdonas held on to yellow for the third day in a row thanks to some strong riding by his team-mates again yesterday.
The Lithuanian kept his overall lead of 1min 16secs over Ukrainian Oleksandr Sheydyk and Bulgarian Nikolay Mihaylov heading into today's sixth stage to Tramore. He also leads the green jersey competition by a single point from Archbold, while Sheydyk retained his King of the Mountains jersey.