Friday 19 January 2018

Malucelli 'unleashes all his anger' in sprint

Matteo Malucelli celebrates after winning stage three of the An Post Ras in Bearna PAUL MOHAN / SPORTSFILE
Matteo Malucelli celebrates after winning stage three of the An Post Ras in Bearna PAUL MOHAN / SPORTSFILE

Gerard Cromwell

Matteo Malucelli blasted into Bearna at the head of a massive bunch yesterday to claim a second stage victory for the IDEA-CONAD squad on day three of the An Post Ras.

It's been a turbulent few days on the race for the Italians since Francesco Reda became the first leader of the race on winning Sunday's opening stage in Carlow.

Yellow jersey Reda was disqualified the following day, for hanging onto his team car in order to rejoin the peloton after a puncture in the last 20km, while team manager Alberto Elli was also thrown off the race before yesterday's stage start for threatening behaviour towards the race commissaires that evening.

Despite threatening to pull his entire team off the race, the remaining four Italians turned up at the start in Tipperary yesterday and by the end in Bearna had garnered a second stage win on the race, with Malucelli taking his biggest victory to date.

"It's incredible," said the 21-year-old. "Yesterday I worked hard all day for Francesco. This morning, Davide Vigano said 'today it's your turn to do the sprint' and he stayed with me all day."

"He attacked with 5km to go and when he was caught he did a special job to protect me and brought me to the front for the sprint.

"When somebody like that puts their trust in you, you have to repay that trust.

"I waited until 150 metres to go and then unleashed all my anger. To win today. . . I still can't believe it."

Yesterday's 160km stage began with a flurry off attacks, with county riders Daniel Stewart (Antrim Phoenix) and Robin Kelly (Mayo Coleman Electronics - T.K.E) the first to open a decent gap.

Although they eked out a minute and a half's advantage over the peloton, they were caught by Bridgetown, after 52km.

By Broadford, 10km later, they had been replaced by a new lead sextet containing Aussie Morgan Smith, Belgian Jimmy Janssens, and four county riders: Roger Aiken (Louth Team Asea), Marc Potts (Down Graham Powerhouse Sport) and Cork Aquablue duo Anthony Walsh and Sean McKenna.

These six held a maximum lead of five minutes and five seconds as Aiken led them over the first of two third-category climbs at Aylebaun after 87.5km.

A rain shower on the descent saw fourth overall Elliott Porter (Team 3M) require a new bike after a crash split the main peloton in two as up ahead, Janssens beat McKenna to the top of the category three climb of Killanena after 95km.

By then however, the chase was well and truly on, with the Austrian Tirol team of race leader Lukas Postlberger doing much of the work behind.

The leaders' advantage was 1.50 with 25 kilometres to go but a turn into a stiff headwind soon wore them down, and Aiken was first to sit up and return to the bunch.

With the An Post Chain Reaction team of stage two winner Aaron Gate now at the head of affairs, a bunch sprint was always on the cards but at the line in Bearna it was Malucelli who won by a bike length from Kiwi Alex Frame and Andreas Hofer, with Down's Peter Hawkins best of the Irish on the day in a fine fourth place.

Postlberger retained his yellow jersey for another day, 1.03 ahead of British pro Mike Cuming (JLT Condor) with Belgian Jaap de Man (Team 3M) in third at 1.04.

Meanwhile, Nicola Boem was the surprise winner of the 10th stage of the Giro d'Italia.

Team Sky's Richie Porte had been expected to make up ground on overall leader Alberto Contador during the 200km flat stage from Civitanova Marche to Forli but a mechanical problem ruined the Australian's day and he trailed in one minute five seconds after the winner.

Former Tour de France champion Contador maintained his three second lead over Astana rider Fabio Aru in the overall standings.

Irish Independent

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