Gullen in Pedal Heaven after late surge to Rás stage win
A daring attack in the last two kilometres of racing saw British rider James Gullen of the Pedal Heaven team claim stage three of the An Post Rás into Dingle yesterday as 2014 winner Clemens Fankhauser from Austria found himself back in the familiar yellow jersey of race leader.
Yorkshire-based Gullen had been active throughout the 133km stage, the 26-year-old first going clear alone in the opening 40km before spending much of the day in a large 22-man escape group.
This lead group dangled just clear of the peloton as the main climb of the day approached after 120km, but with the Australian national team doing much of the driving on the first-category ascent of Conor Pass, they were reeled in on the climb.
With 7km to go, German rider Niko Holler (Bike Aid) and former winner Fankhauser were the only two able to follow an attack by Aussie duo, Lucas Hamilton and Jai Hindley, over the summit, although Aaron Gate (An Post Chainreaction) Ed Laverack (JLT-Condor Cycles) and Eddie Dunbar (Ireland) regained contact with the leaders on the fast descent into Dingle.
With 2km to go however, Gullen also closed in on the lead group and having used his momentum to jump straight past them, held on to take stage victory by just two seconds from Gate, with Holler third and Fankhauser fourth.
Although he needed just six more seconds to take over the yellow jersey, Gullen was happy with his stage win.
"It's quite nice not to have taken yellow in a way, because with small teams here it's very hard to control the race. The stage win means the pressure is off a bit now so we can see how it goes each day and hopefully follow the right moves."
Dunbar was best of the Irish on the stage, finishing eighth but was caught on the wrong end of a two-second time split in the chasing group.
After crashing hard on stage two, Fankhauser bounced back yesterday and now holds a slender three-second lead over Hindley with both third-placed Gate and fourth-placed Dunbar within five seconds.
"After my crash yesterday, I thought my race was over because I landed heavily on my shoulder," said the new race leader.
"I was hoping the pain would get better but it didn't so I went to the hospital, spent all evening there waiting for a doctor who said I had nothing broken.
"It hurt a lot early on today and I didn't think I could finish the stage but after about an hour I felt better and at least the legs have been good the last few days and it's always nice to be in the yellow jersey."
Today takes the riders on another gruelling 162km trek from Dingle to Sneem, with four categorised climbs along the way.