Swiss Thiery rolls off front for emphatic Rás stage win
Swiss rider Cyrille Thiery soloed to victory from a ten-man breakaway to take stage honours and the first yellow jersey of race leader at the end of stage one of the Rás Tailteann in Athlone.
After a minute's silence to remember Rás legend Gabriel Howard in Drogheda, the 27-year-old, riding for the Swiss national team, first showed his hand when taking the day's opening climb at Slane 14kms later and soon afterwards was part of an 11-man move that went clear and dominated the day's proceedings.
Jake Gray (Team Ireland) and Damien Shaw (Holdsworth Pro Cycling) were the only two Irish representatives in the move alongside Thiery's team-mate Claudio Imhof; Belgium's Robbe Ghys, British riders Dexter Gardias (Canyon Eisberg) and William Harper (St Piran Elite), Dutch duo Luuc Bugter and Jason van Dalen (Delta Cycling X) and American Benjamin Wolfe (Jelly Belly Maxxiss).
Mullingar man Shaw was active in the front group, taking the Hot Spot sprints in Rochfortbridge after 84km and again in Kilbeggan at 99.4km, where the leaders had 1:40 over the German-led peloton.
With the gap reducing dramatically in the final kilometres though, Thiery opted to go it alone, jumping clear with a kilometre remaining, and he held on to take victory by four seconds from Bugter (Netherlands Delta Cycling X), with Ghys, Van Dalen and Gardias (Britain Canyon Eisberg) rounding out the top five.
outsprinted Ireland's Robert Jon McCarthy led home the peloton 23 seconds later, just ahead of Matteo Cigala (Westmeath Viner-Caremark - Pactimo) who outsprinted Paidi O'Brien (Dublin Team Gerard DHL) claim the county rider's award for the stage.
After time bonuses, Thiery holds a ten-second overall lead, and also went home with the points and mountains jerseys after a very strong display.
"With the team, we were thinking that this could be a bunch sprint," said the Swiss rider afterwards.
"But after 40, 50 kilometres, I saw a lot of attacks and this little group went. I was one of the last guys to come into the group. It was good to get a good gap, and at the end I could win the stage."
Shaw is best of the Irish in third place overall, 11 seconds down, with Gray in seventh and McCarthy in 11th.
"The gap came right down to 20 seconds at one stage and I thought about maybe sitting up," said Shaw afterwards. "Once we came out into the big roads, I thought, 'That's it, they'll see us and we're caught.' But for some reason it stuck."
Today sees the riders tackle the 148.7-kilometre second stage from Athlone to Tipperary.