'Dream come true' for McCarthy after Ras stage triumph
Robert-Jon McCarthy and Shane Archbold of the An Post Chain Reaction took the top two spots on the podium yesterday after the duo dominated a mass bunch sprint into Roscommon at the end of the opening stage of the An Post Ras.
McCarthy pulled on the first yellow jersey of this year's race having been given an armchair ride to the line by his Kiwi team-mate Archbold to take his first ever Ras stage win.
It was a triumphant return to Ireland for Fermoy-born McCarthy, who moved to Adelaide with his family as a 14-year-old and is now a regular member of the Australian national team.
"It's unbelievable, a bit of a dream come true," said the 19-year-old. "I always wanted to win a stage of the Ras and now I've done it. It's an absolute dream come true."
As their team patron Sean Kelly might say, McCarthy's An Post Chain Reaction squad played the waiting game; with Banbridge man Sean Downey in the early 10-man move, they could relax and let other teams bring them to heel if they wanted to try and win the stage.
Alongside Downey were compatriots Peter Hawkins of Madison Genesis, Cork Aquablue's Bryan McCrystal, Eoin Morton (Dublin UCD Arrow) and Fraser Duncan (Meath DID), Kiwi Marc Ryan, Canada's Nic Hamilton, British pro Nathan Edmondson (Velosure Giordana), Italian Davide Ballerini (Team Idea 2010 ASD) and Dutchman Lars Horring (Parkhotel Valkenburg).
The in-form Duncan made the most of the move by taking the intermediate sprint and three seconds time bonus in Coole after 76km. The Belfast man then ensured he went home with the King of the Mountains jersey by cresting the only climb of the day at Richmount at the head of the group.
With these 10 opening up a gap of over two minutes, the Azerbaijan- registered Synergy Baku squad of last year's runner up Connor McConvey took up the chase and were joined by the Austrian Tirrol team shortly after.
Although McCrystal, Morton and Hawkins all attacked in the final kilometres, the escapees were reeled in with 2km to go and the stage was set for a bunch sprint into Roscommon town.
Here, McCarthy and Archbold took a fine one-two ahead of German sprinter Daniel Klemme of Synergy Baku with Kiwi Patrick Bevin and Great Britain's Chris Lawless next.
"My part was so easy after the job the team did for me," McCarthy said.
"We had Sean Downey in the break all day so we could sit back in the armchair and just wait and wait for the sprint. Jack Wilson was unbelievable in the last few kilometres and then Owain Doull took over from him and then Shane. I only had to do 200 metres in the end.
"It was an absolutely perfect lead-out and I can't thank them enough for it."
Donegal's Ronan McLaughlin of the Inishowen Gateway Hotel team was first county rider across the line in 26th place, although the four seconds garnered in intermediate sprints yesterday sees Duncan lead the county rider classification overall.
McCarthy now has a four-second advantage over team-mate Archbold in the overall standings, with Klemme six seconds back in third and Duncan and Downey tied in fourth place on the same time.
McCarthy also leads the points and U-23 classifications with his An Post Chain Reaction leading the team race as the Ras heads towards Lisdoonvarna today.
"It couldn't have been better," said second-placed Archbold of the opening stage. "It was the first win of the year for the team and great to do it at the first stage of the Ras. Obviously we're going to have a hard day tomorrow trying to defend yellow but that's part of it. It's always good to get the first win out of the way and it'll keep Kurt (Bogaerts, the team boss) a bit calmer."