A fine performance from Lasse Norman Hansen (Denmark Blue Water Cycling) saw him solo home to victory on Stage seven of the Rás today. The Danish rider finished seven seconds clear of Kai Exner (Germany Bike Aid) with Irish rider Sam Bennett (An Post Sean Kelly) taking third on the podium just ahead of team mate Gediminas Bagdonas.
Going into the penultimate stage there was plenty to play for with just a one minute gap covering the top sixteen riders but today’s results see’s no change on the top of the overall classification. Nicholas Baldo (Switzerland Atlas Jakroo) still retains the yellow jersey and goes into the final stage holding a thirteen second lead ahead of fellow Frenchman Thomas Rostollan (France AVC Aix En Provence).
After conquering the energy sapping hills of Donegal over the last couple of days, the riders were sure to be weary legged this morning and they faced another exhausting day of racing in scorching temperatures. As well as being the longest stage of the race the route to Cootehill is also the most technically demanding. Concentration levels had to be at their peak as the roads from Bundoran onwards would prove to be narrow and lumpy increasing the likelihood of crashes but also potentially suiting a group to try and break away.
From early on the Irish riders signalled their intentions with Bennett attacking immediately before a group of four which included Bennett’s team mate Ronan McLaughlin, future Olympian Martyn Irvine (Taiwan RTS Racing), Philip Lavery (Britain Node4 Giordana Racing) and county rider Aaron Buggle (Carlow Dan Morrissey Speedy) broke clear.
Stage four victor Mark Sehested Pedersen (Denmark Blue Water Cycling) and former Rás winner Simon Richardson chased hard and bridged the gap making it a leading break of six. The group worked efficiently, sharing the effort and after 44 kilometres they had built up a significant lead of one minute 52 seconds.
Irvine was starting to feel the pace at the front and was dropped on the category two climb at Bellavalley, eventually easing back into the bunch. Lavery on the other hand was in determined mood and jumped 15 seconds ahead of McLaughlin, Richardson and Buggle while Pedersen briefly struggled to keep pace at the back before rejoining the group along with Irvine’s team mate David McCann.
The category three climb on Kavanagh’s hill proved to be the pivotal point in the race with some aggressive attacking by the main field reducing the breakaways lead to just 28 seconds coming into Newbliss. With ten kilometres to go a trio of Hansen, Exner and Irish amateur rider Christopher Reilly (Meath Stamullen M.Donnelly) jumped clear but Reilly unfortunately couldn’t keep pace. The leading pair manufactured a 25 second lead and on the final kilometre Hansen accelerated clear to a rapturous applause from the spectators.
The victory for Hansen gave the Denmark Blue Water Cycling team their second stage win in this year’s Rás and he was clearly delighted with the win.
“It’s an amazing feeling to come around the last corner and see the crowds and the finishing flag being waved. The plan was to keep in touch at the front and then be aggressive in the final stages and thankfully it worked today”.
Speaking on tomorrow’s final stage, Hansen admitted it would be difficult to deny the Switzerland Atlas Jakroo team of the yellow jersey.
“It is always difficult to make an impact on the classification on the final day because the team tactics plays a bigger role but we will do our best and try to win again”.
Marcin Bialoblocki (Britain Node4 Giordana Racing) retained the green points jersey drawing level on top with Bagdonas while his team mate David Clarke once again took the King of the Mountains jersey. Best under 23 rider went to Richard Handley (Britain Rapha Condor Sharp) while the leading county rider was Dublin’s Brian Ahern (Dublin Dundrum Town Centre).
Stage 7 results
Stage 8 rider list with GC