Gate bolts clear as An Post stamp their authority on Ras
A late attack saw flying Kiwi Aaron Gate take his second stage win at this year's An Post Ras at the end of stage five in Ballina yesterday.
Along with his An Post Chain Reaction team-mates Ryan Mullen, Aidis Kruopis and Josh Edmondson, Gate infiltrated an 18-strong lead group that went clear around 23km into the day's 142km stage and, as they did the previous day, the Irish postal squad used their numerical superiority and experience of racing in crosswinds on the continent to make sure that group stayed clear to the line.
Instigated by county rider Simon Ryan (Limerick Mego) and Nick Bain of New Zealand, the big move of the day also contained Bain's teammate Alex Frame, race leader Lukas Postlberger and his team-mate Sebastian Schonberger (Tirol), Dominik Hrinkow (Hrinkow Advarics Cycleangteam), Belgian Jaap de Man (Team 3M), British duo Robert Partridge and James Lewis of NFTO, French rider Elie Gesbert (Team Pays De Dinan), Italian trio Matteo Malucelli, Marco Tizza and Davide Vigano (Team IDEA Conad) and Marc Potts (Down Graham Powerhouse Sport).
Despite a strong chase from the Madison Genesis squad of third overall Martyn Irvine, who missed the move, the group began to pull clear and by the time King of the Mountains leader Partridge had led them over the climbs of Glenlassera and Ceide Fields after almost 100km, the nearest chasers were over four minutes down. They were to lose a further two minutes before the stage end.
With Potts losing contact, Ryan fought gamely to hang onto the front group despite being dropped on the climb to the Ceide Fields and then suffering a mechanical issue in the last 25km.
"It was a hard day with the crosswinds and lineouts," said Ryan after finishing 16th on the stage and winning the daily county rider award.
"I wasn't positioned too well on the second climb. I was right at the back in the wind and I lost contact going over the top. I knew the descent from my days on the Junior Tour, though, and I got a bit of shelter and was delighted to regain contact.
"To be the last county rider left, up there with all the pros today was a dream come true really."
The lead group finally began to fracture in the last 25km, with the An Post quartet taking turns to attack on the run-in.
Eventually, Gate got clear with De Man and Tizza in the last kilometres and although the rest of the group regained contact and stage three winner Malucelli managed to pass De Man on the line, Gate held on for his second and the postmen's third stage win of this year's race.
"It definitely worked out well for us," said the Kiwi. "The cat and mouse started in the last 25km but the strength in numbers played in our favour."
With three days left, Postlberger holds a minute and five seconds advantage over Edmondson with Irish champion Mullen third at 1'52" and leading the U-23 classification.
"I felt comfortable and was able to stay in the front group," said the Austrian race leader. "But the An Post guys are really strong, so tomorrow is going to be really hard, and so is the day after that, and the day after that!"