Post men deliver Gate to Dungarvan Rás stage victory
Having already finished second and third on previous stages of this year's An Post Rás, Kiwi track star Aaron Gate finally got to the top of the podium yesterday when he outgunned a heaving peloton to give Seán Kelly's An Post Chain Reaction team victory on stage six into Dungarvan.
A bronze medallist with the New Zealand team pursuit squad at the London Olympics, Gate used his track speed to show a clean pair of wheels to stage four winner Danish sprinter Nicolai Brochner (Riwal Platform) and British pro Matt Holmes (Madison Genesis) after his postal squad delivered him to the front just in the nick of time.
With just 500 metres to go, the men in green helped reel in a dangerous-looking breakaway group that contained GC contenders Josh Edmondson (NFTO), James Gullen (Pedal Heaven) and Taco van der Hoorn (Join-S De Rijke), setting up the bunch sprint finale, where victory saw Gate increase his lead in the points competition.
"The team did such an awesome job getting me up there today and I can't thank them enough," said the delighted Kiwi afterwards.
"We've got a strong team here and we've all been riding really well, taking different approaches to different stages but we came here to win a stage so we're happy today."
Although his race lead was threatened a couple of times during yesterday's exciting stage - most notably when Ireland's Eddie Dunbar pulled out a four-minute advantage with two others midway through the stage - Austrian race leader Clemens Fankhauser's Tirol team put up a good fight, and he held on to the yellow jersey for another day.
"Dunbar was dangerous on the GC but for us it wasn't too bad because he was the only guy, so in the worst-case scenario I'd be second on GC tomorrow," said the affable Austrian.
"When the stage got a bit hilly after 100km we caught the breakaway and there were a lot of attacks from the GC contenders. I couldn't cover all of them and three really dangerous guys, including Josh Edmondson, went away.
"I told the guys to keep them close and they managed to control it a little and we waited for the sprinters' teams to join in. Luckily, they closed the gap with 500 metres to go."
With the penultimate stage heading into the mountains tomorrow, Fankhauser holds a slim two-second lead over Matt Holmes of Madison Genesis and Irish national champion Damien Shaw (An Post Chain Reaction).
"I feel good on the climbs, but tomorrow will be a tough day. I hope I'm in good condition, otherwise we go home with empty hands."