Heartache for Ras leader Hawkins as he crashes out
Five years after Meath man Mark Cassidy crashed out of the An Post Ras near Patrickswell while wearing the yellow jersey, Peter Hawkins has suffered the same fate in the same part of the country.
Hawkins was forced to abandon the race with a suspected broken collarbone. He was among a number of riders who came down on a slight descent and although the Belfast man, like Cassidy in 2008, remounted and tried to continue, the pain was too much and he was brought to Limerick Hospital.
"Peter was distraught when we put him in the ambulance," said the manager of his British professional team IG Sigma Sport.
"After passing riders lying on the floor from the crash we found Peter on his bike struggling. He'd obviously come down quite heavy. He had quite a bit of blood on him. We got him back to the bunch but he wasn't talking that much. Then we called the doctor.
"The doctor thought it was a collarbone but Peter was still putting weight on it so he's either very, very good at bearing the pain or maybe it's not actually broken, maybe it's strained ligaments or something.
"He was so pleased yesterday with getting the jersey in his home race. His family are close by and they were coming to see him in a few days' time but cycling is bad like that. One minute you're sky high, the next minute you're on the floor."
At the other end of the emotional spectrum, Carrick-on-Suir sprinter Sam Bennett was delighted with his second career Ras stage win in Listowel, his An Post Chain Reaction squad having delivered him to the line in ideal fashion, with the road opening up ahead of him with 200m to go.
"I'm so happy," said Bennett, who took his first Ras stage victory at the age of 18 in 2009. "I was confident I had the speed when I went. I could see that I had maybe a bike length coming up to the line, so I was able to celebrate. We came here for stage wins and we've got two now. We'll take it one day at a time now and see what we can get."
Polish rider Marcin Bialoblocki took over as race leader, having finished third on the stage behind Bennett and Danish sprinter Morten Ollegaard.
With seven others tied on the same time, Bialoblocki leads the race on stage placings as the mountains loom.
"There's a long way to go and everyone will be marking me but I'm very strong, I'm going very well and I'm not afraid of anyone," said the UK-based pro.
With Hawkins forced out, Connor McConvey of the Azerbaijan-registered Synergy Baku team is now the highest placed Irishman overall, in third place, while stage winner Bennett is ninth, four seconds behind.