Fankhauser on cloud nine after Ras success
ITALIAN Davide Ballerini stormed to a fine solo victory on the final stage of the An Post Ras as Austrian Clemens Fankhauser sealed overall victory in Skerries.
Ballerini had been part of a seven- man move that went clear early on and also contained his Italian team-mate Alesandro Pettiti, British duo Robert Partridge (Velosure Giordana) and Alistair Slater (GB), David Chopin of France (Bretagne Velotec), Dutchman Lars Horring (Parkhotel Valkenburg) and county rider Chris Reilly of Louth.
"We went coming into Dunsany just as another group came back," said Reilly afterwards.
"I jumped straight away and one of the English boys came with me. We had nearly four minutes at one stage, but it came down fairly quick near the end.
"We had a minute and a half going out onto the last circuit, but with the Italians in the break, they started to jump and we couldn't match them on the hills."
Of the two Italians, stage winner Ballerini was the one to open the biggest gap and was the only member of the lead septet to hold off the fast finishing peloton in those closing kilometres.
It was Tirol Cycling's Fankhauser, however, who sealed the overall win.
The yellow clad Austrian sailed across the line with his hands aloft in the middle of the peloton with a 25- second advantage over nearest rival, British youngster Alex Peters of Madison Genesis, who had the consolation of winning the U-23 classification.
"It's really amazing to win this race," said a delighted Fankhauser afterwards.
"To be honest, I didn't feel so good the last few days. It's been a tough eight days and I was quite tired, but my team-mates did an amazing job.
"It feels great to be a winner of such a nice race. It's been an amazing week and has left a lot of good impressions with me of a very nice country, with great crowds and it's been really great."
Having taken the biggest win of his career, Fankhauser admitted that he hadn't come into the race as one of the favourites, but that once he donned yellow after stage five, his strong Tirol team got him through the final stages.
"I was in pretty good shape coming here," he said.
"So, I wanted to do a good performance on some of the stages and maybe get a top five in the overall, but my team-mates were very strong as well, so I knew I had to be the lucky one to be in the right breakaway.
"I managed to be in two decisive breakaways and after the fifth stage, the team decided to ride for me in the GC and they did a great job."
While Clemens brought the yellow jersey home, former race leader Patrick Bevin took the green jersey of points classification winner back to New Zealand and Clemen's compatriot Markus Eibegger of the Synergy Baku team won the King of the Mountains classification.
Sean Downey of the An Post Chain Reaction squad was best of the Irish in 18th place on yesterday's stage and sixth place overall, while Anthony Murray, riding for the Australian Subaru Albion team (23rd), and leading county rider Damien Shaw of Cork Aquablue (24th) were the only others to make it into the top 25 of the overall standings.