Carstensen just prevails in congested sprint finish
German sprinter Lucas Carstensen of Bike Aid blasted into Mitchelstown at the head of a heaving peloton to claim victory on stage five of the Rás Tailteann yesterday.
For the fifth day in succession, things came down to a big bunch gallop into town with the powerful German pro out-kicking U-23 leader Robbe Ghys of Belgium and Wednesday's stage winner Jason van Dalen of the Dutch Delta Cycling team.
"I had really good legs all day today," said the 23-year-old from Hamburg at the line.
"I think everybody was a bit cooked after the first four stages but my team believed in me, so they did a lot of the work on the front today. You never know in a sprint but the lead-out was perfect and I really wanted to pay my team-mates back with a win."
The day was marked by a four-man group containing British duo Matt Nowell (Canyon Eisberg) and Joe Evans (Saint Piran), Dutchman Seid Lizde (Holdsworth) and Robert Jon McCarthy of Ireland.
This quartet eked out a lead of almost three minutes, with Evans going into virtual race leadership on the road, but, as has been the case since day one, the bigger continental teams hauled them back just in time to set up another bunch sprint finale.
Once again, there were no big changes in the overall leaderboard with Mullingar man Damien Shaw, riding for the Holdsworth team, still best of the Irish in third place overall, just 11 seconds behind Swiss race leader Cyrille Thiery.
"I'm a little bit surprised it's turned into a GC race for me because I've nothing to base my form off apart from a few English races where I just worked for the team," said Shaw yesterday.
"We had a man in the move today so I was just watching the kilometres go by. It's in my nature to be on the front foot but if it comes to down to getting on the podium by the end of the race then I'll be happy with that."
After five days, it's clear there has been a change to the pattern of racing this year, with every stage ending in a sprint finish so far.
"It's been pretty controlled all week to be honest," admitted the Mullingar man. "There are a couple of strong teams here and they're probably content enough to sprint on the middling to hard days."
"The Dutch are playing it very cute; they are all within touching distance and are strong enough to sprint every day. With 23 riders within 35 seconds of the yellow jersey though it could all get shook up pretty quickly before Sunday."
Meanwhile, Britain's Simon Yates saw his overall lead over defending champion Tom Dumoulin cut in half - from 56 to 28 seconds- up the sharp closing climb to Prato Nevoso on stage 18 of the Giro d'Italia.
German Maximilian Schachmann won the 196km stage from Abbiategrasso after capitalising on a breakaway to finish ahead of Spaniard Ruben Plaza Molina and Italy's Mattia Cattaneo.
Giro d'Italia, stage 19, Live, Eurosport, 1.0