The An Post Chain Reaction Team claimed an incredible first, second and third on the final stage of the 2013 An Post Rás, while Marcin Bialoblocki (Britain UK Youth Pro Cycling) held off the challenges of Connor McConvey (Azerbaijan Synergy Baku) and Rasmus Guldhammer (Denmark Blue Water Cycling) to stay top of the general classification and be crowned this year’s An Post Rás champion.
Carrick-an-Suir native Sam Bennett sprinted home to take the final stage victory, with his An Post Chain Reaction team mates Nicholas Vereecken and Shane Archbold, finishing right on his shoulder in second and third place respectively.
Bialoblocki went into stage eight top of the GC, on the same time as McConvey and Guldhammer, and the Polish rider secured the coveted yellow jersey by finishing in sixth place, just ahead of Guldhammer in seventh.
McConvey’s 14th place finish was enough to earn the Belfast native a highly impressive second place overall finish.
Today’s undulating 145 kilometre route from Naas to Skerries provided many of the well-placed GC riders one final opportunity to go clear and attack Bialoblocki’s time lead.
The latter part of the stage followed familiar roads, requiring the riders to complete two laps of a 14 kilometre circuit around the seaside town, including the short sharp ascent of Black Hills.
It was a lively start from the off, with Stuart Wight (Canada National Team) and Robert Hassan (Scotland National Team) attacking early on and going clear. Mark Sehested Pedersen (Denmark Blue Water Cycling) and Ireland’s Simon Ryan (Tipperary Visit Nenagh) joined the duo shortly after, making it a breakaway of four out in front.
Azerbaijan Synergy Baku’s, Christoph Schweizer, gave chase from the main bunch, eventually bridging the gap and joining the leaders after 65 kilometres, while Ryan struggled to keep pace, dropping back into the peloton.
The front group worked well together, quickly establishing a lead of one minute 57 seconds.
Yellow jersey leader Bialoblocki was meanwhile riding at the front of the main field, keeping a close eye on those around him capable of snatching his time lead.
Entering Skerries, the breakaway’s lead began to dwindle with Pedersen and Wight swallowed up by the peloton, leaving Hassan and Schweizer alone out in front.
That duo rode hard to stay away but it proved too much in the end and heading to the final ascent of Black Hills, 20 kilometres out, it was all together again.
Several riders attempted a last minute breakaway on the climb but all were quickly reeled in. With the bunch hurtling towards the finish line, the trio of Bennett, Vereecken and Archbold accelerated away in the sprint, giving the Waterford native his second stage win of this year’s Rás.
Czech rider Martin Hunal (Sparta Praha) claimed the king of the mountains jersey with the Great Britain National Team riders, Simon Yates and Owain Doull, winning the under-23 and green points jersey respectively. A truly magnificent performance all week from Irish man Roger Aiken saw him finish in eight position in the GC and take the county rider jersey.
“It feels incredible. It’s such a relief to hold on to this jersey for six days" - Bialoblocki
It was Bialoblocki however, who took the honour of claiming the coveted An Post Rás yellow jersey and the newly crowned champion admitted it was the biggest achievement of his career, acknowledging the hard work of his UK Youth Pro Cycling team mates.
“It feels incredible. It’s such a relief to hold on to this jersey for six days. The Rás is such a tough race and my team mates worked so hard for me over the eight days so I owe this victory to them.
“There was a lot of pressure going into this final stage. It was important that I kept close to Connor (McConvey) and Rasmus (Guldhammer) throughout the day. If I crashed or punctured, it could have all been lost so I am really happy it worked out”, Bialoblocki added.
An Post Rás stage eight: Naas to Skerries
1 Sam Bennett (Belgium An Post Chain Reaction) 3 hours 14 mins 08 secs
2 Nicholas Vereecken (Belgium An Post Chain Reaction)
3 Shane Archbold (Belgium An Post Chain Reaction)
4 Dan Barry (Britain Node4 Giordana Racing)
5 Moreno De Pauw (Belgium National Team)
6 Marcin Bialoblocki (Britain Uk Youth Pro Cycling)
7 Rasmus Guldhammer (Denmark Blue Water Cycling)
8 Owain Doull (Great Britain National Team)
9 Evan Oliphant (Scotland National Team)
10 Morten Oellegaard (Denmark Blue Water Cycling) all same time
Final overall classification after eight stages
1 Marcin Bialoblocki (Britain Uk Youth Pro Cycling) 27 hours 6 mins 35 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) at 40 secs
6 Daniel Foder (Denmark Blue Water Cycling) at 46 secs
7 Martin Hunal (Czech Republic Ac Sparta Praha) at 48 secs
8 Roger Aiken (Louth Prague Charter Team) at 51 secs
9 Simon Yates (Great Britain National Team) at 52 secs
10 Jasper De Buyst (Belgium National team) at 1 min 39 secs