The Azerbaijan Synergy Baku Team picked up their second stage win of this year’s An Post Rás when Rico Rogers won a mass bunch sprint into Carlow on race day six.
The Aussie rider finished narrowly ahead of Owain Doull (Great Britain National Team) who took second place and yellow jersey leader Marcin Bialoblocki (Britain UK Youth Pro Cycling), who claimed third.
There is no change at the top of the general classification after stage six with Polish rider Bialoblocki sitting on top, ahead of Belfast’s Connor McConvey (Azerbaijan Synergy Baku) and Rasmus Guldhammer (Denmark Blue Water Cycling), who finished in eleventh and fifth place respectively. All three riders remain on the same time going into the penultimate day tomorrow.
Stage six from Mitchelstown, Cork into Carlow was envisaged by many to be the stage where the race would really begin to take shape.
The 155 kilometre route presented no major difficulties in the first two hours of racing but tired legs were sure to be tested after the 100 kilometre mark, with five climbs rearing up between there and the finish, including the category one ascent of Gorteen.
It was a lively start to the race, with the first attack coming courtesy of Christoph Schweizer (Azerbaijan Synergy Baku ) and Irish riders Ryan Sherlock (Ireland Polygon Sweet Nice) and Conor Murphy (Dublin West Eurocycles). The trio, however, couldn’t stay away and were reeled in swiftly by the peloton.
It was then the turn of several county riders to attack, as Mehall Fitzgerald (Tipperary Carrick Iverk), John Dempsey and Brian McCrystal from the Louth Prague Charter team and Marc Potts (Derry Duffin Transport) all tried to break away at various times – again to no avail.
It was around the 20 kilometre mark when the first significant break was established. Irish riders Art McManusa (Dublin South), John Lynch (Dublin Central UCD), Stephen Halpin (Ireland Polygon Sweet Nice) and Olan Barrett (Cork Aquablue) went clear along with American Jacob Rytlewski (USA Astellas Oncology). Schweizer and Michael Northey (Britain Node 4 Giordana) gave chase but could not bridge the gap and were swallowed up by the main field.
The five-man breakaway showed no signs of slowing down and going into Cashel their lead had extended to two minutes over the peloton. Halpin, McManusa, and subsequently Lynch, then struggled to keep pace out in front and dropped back into the bunch, which was being controlled comfortably by Bialoblocki’s UK Youth Pro Cycling team.
Michael Northey and Tim Barry (Cork Aquablue) chased hard, eventually catching Rytlewski and Barrett, however the latter’s day was to take a turn for the worst when he punctured shortly after entering Freshford.
With the three leaders approaching the first of five climbs, it was still all to play for but as predicted, the final part of the stage proved to be decisive.
Going over the last ascent of Clogrenan, the break was caught with only 15 kilometres to go. The main field was split into two at this point with the yellow jersey positioned comfortably in the front group.
Bialoblocki kept in touch coming into the straight and as the bunch sprinted for the line Rogers showed scintillating speed to narrowly claim the stage win.
My teammates, and a few other teams, did a great job today. Everything went very well - Bialoblocki
The Melbourne native was full of smiles at the finish and heaped praise on the work of his Azerbaijan Synergy Baku team mates.
“It’s brilliant to win a stage on the An Post Rás. I didn’t get to compete in it last year and I desperately wanted to. I felt like I missed out so to come here and claim a stage win, while having the team right up there in the GC is a great feeling. I couldn’t have done it without the effort of my team mates.”
A relaxed Bialoblocki spoke of his delight at once again retaining the yellow jersey and he was happy how the stage went.
“I felt good today. It was an easy stage for me as the riders out front all day posed no problems to the standings in the GC. I was relaxed and I am happy to be still be in yellow.”
Bryan McCrystal, who took the County prize on the stage, says his focus is now on winning the prize again over the next two days.
“I would like to win the county prize for the stage again tomorrow and Sunday”, said the Louth Prague Charter rider.
“The overall county prize is out of the question seeing as I punctured a couple of times on stage one. Hopefully my teammate Roger Aiken will win the overall.”
Martin Hunal (Czech Republic AC Sparta Praha) reclaimed the King of the Mountains jersey with Simon Yates (Great Britain National Team) once again winning the Under-23 jersey and McCrystal putting in a great ride to earn the County Rider jersey.
An Post Rás stage six: Mitchelstown to Carlow
1 Rico Rogers (Azerbaijan Synergy Baku) 3 hours 43 mins 55 secs
2 Owain Doull (Great Britain National Team)
3 Marcin Bialoblocki (Britain Uk Youth Pro Cycling)
4 Nick Stopler (Holland Koga Cycling Team)
5 Rasmus Guldhammer (Denmark Blue Water Cycling)
6 Daniel Foder (Denmark Blue Water Cycling)
7 Nicholas Vereecken (Belgium An Post Chain Reaction)
8 Benjamin Edmuller (Austria Arbo Gebrder Weiss)
9 Samuel Harrison (Great Britain National Team)
10 Ryan Aitcheson (Usa Astellas Oncology) all same time
Overall classification after six stages
1 Marcin Bialoblocki (Britain Uk Youth Pro Cycling) 20 hours 25 mins 50 secs
2 Connor McConvey (Azerbaijan Synergy Baku)
3 Rasmus Guldhammer (Denmark Blue Water Cycling) both same time
4 Richard Handley (Britain Rapha Condor JLT) at 24 secs
5 Remi Pelletier-Roy (Canada National Team) same time
6 Daniel Foder (Denmark Blue Water Cycling) at 46 secs
7 Martin Hunal (Czech Republic Ac Sparta Praha) at 48 secs
8 Simon Yates (Great Britain National Team) at 52 secs
9 Roger Aiken (Louth Prague Charter Team) at 1 min 14 secs
10 Jasper De Buyst (Belgium National team) at 1 min 39 secs