FBD Rás 2010 - Stage 6: Carrick-on-Suir to Gorey (127kms)

On what was the shortest, but undoubtedly one of the toughest stages on this year’s FBD Insurance Rás, German rider John Degenkolb (Germany Thuringer Energie) scooped his third major win of the year in Gorey.

The 21-year-old followed up on his two stage victories in the Tour of Brittany by outsprinting Dan Craven (Britain Rapha Condor Sharp) into Gorey. The duo had broken clear together towards the end of the 127 kilometre leg, and were strong enough to hold off the chase behind.

‘It was a very good stage for me and my team,’ he said afterwards. ‘We did some very good work today and in the end we got the win. The hills today were very hard…the first category climb was a four kilometre mountain. I had good legs today, my team too. They made the pace and then I attacked, going away with Dan Craven and winning the sprint.’

Craven said that they tried to split things up going over the category one climb of Corabutt, but that other teams wouldn’t work. He was then active towards the end, attacking twice and then getting into the decisive move.

‘On the second last King of the Mountains, I was in a small break and then jumped away from them as they were caught, going away on my own,’ he said. ‘Then I realised, ‘hey, maybe I am feeling better than it feels I am, or maybe everyone else is feeling worse than I am feeling.’

‘I realised that I wasn’t going anywhere on my own as there was a bit of a headwind, so I sat up. The bunch caught me, and then on the last King of the Mountains, I saw John Degenkolp go straight from the bottom. Everyone around him wasn’t really going, so I just gave it my all and got across to him.’

From that point on, the two worked well together. Craven said that his main aim was to gain time for the General Classification fight and so he wasn’t too preoccupied with the stage win; chasing the final yellow jersey is his biggest priority and his strong ride today means that he remains in with a chance of the overall victory.

It was a nervous day in the saddle for the race leader Alex Wetterhall. His Sweden – Team Sprocket squad worked hard to keep him in yellow and to contain a large number of attacks from his rivals. He eventually finished in a large bunch sprinting for third, losing 50 seconds to Degenkolb and Craven but preserving his advantage over his closest challengers.

Shane Archbold (New Zealand) led in the chasers, galloping to the line ahead of Lucas Schadlich (Germany Thuringer Energie) and Mariusz Wiesiak (Japan - Nippo). Stephen O’Sullivan (Meath Engraveit.ie/Jade.ie) was best Irishman in eleventh, while Connor McConvey (An Post Grant Thornton M. Donnelly Sean Kelly) also finished in the same time and is top home rider in seventh overall.

McConvey’s team-mate David O’Loughlin was one of the strongest riders on the stage, attacking after approximately 30 kilometres and pushing on ahead with 2009 FBD Rás champion Simon Richardson (Britain Sigmasport Specialized) plus Wetterhall’s team-mate Fredrik Johansson.

The Mayo rider took top points on four of the day’s seven climbs, underlining his strength when he temporarily rode away from the other two on the first category Corabutt. The display boosted his hold on the pink King of the Mountains jersey. He now has a 15 point advantage over Richardson and if he can continue gaining points tomorrow, can start Sunday’s final stage with what will be a very solid lead in the competition.

The trio stayed clear until 30 kilometres from the end, being caught just before Carnew, and from there Craven and Degenkolb ramped up the pace and went on to fight it out for the stage win. Others tried to get across to them but were unable to do so.

Wetterhall admitted to being under big pressure at times. ‘I had a rough beginning and my team worked very hard for me to keep the jersey. They did a good job, but I had to do a lot of work myself. As a team, we are really strong, but it starts to hurt now. There is more climbing tomorrow so I hope to recover for that one.’

He said that he was most worried when a big group jetted clear with 30 kilometres to go. ‘We had nobody in the move,’ he explained. ‘My team had done a lot before that and they were pretty cooked. I was on the front myself and I couldn’t close it down. I was up there for a couple of minutes, just chasing, chasing and chasing.

‘After a while, one of my team-mates came up and helped me, and we managed to close it down anyway. That was the most worrying part of the race. Later, all five of us were on the front, going pretty fast to stop attacks. Things worked out fine in the end.’

Wetterhall is eight seconds clear of his nearest rival, the Austrian Josef Kugler (Austria Arbö KTM-Gebrüder Weis). His next-closest challenger is Peter Williams (Motorpoint Marshalls Pasta), who is one second further back, but after that, team-mate John Anderson (Sweden - Team Sprocket Pro) is a minute and a half behind.

Craven’s effort today moves the former race leader up to fifth overall, while Degenkolb progresses to twelfth. In all there are nine riders within two minutes of the yellow jersey. Two stages remain including tomorrow’s tough 151 kilometre race from Gorey to Kilcullen, and with the race being so notoriously difficult to control, there is still plenty of racing ahead.

‘It’s hard to say who is the biggest threat, as there are a lot of strong riders here,’ he said. ‘Of course I am worried about the guys who are next to me. There are two more days and everybody reacts differently on these stage races. Some guys might have good legs tomorrow, some may not. We will see.’

Saturday’s seventh stage travels over some of the toughest roads in Wicklow. Four categorised climbs are lying in wait, including the cat 1 Drumgoff and Wicklow Gap ascents, and so he’ll hope that he is one of those with good sensations.

FBD Insurance Rás (2.1, May 23 – 30)

Stage 6, Carrick on Suir – Gorey:

1, John Degenkolb (Germany Thuringer Energie) 127 kilometres in 2 hours 59 mins 58 secs
2, Dan Craven (Britain Rapha Condor Sharp) same time
3, Shane Archbold (New Zealand) at 50 secs
4, Lucas Schadlich (Germany Thuringer Energie)
5, Mariusz Wiesiak (Japan - Nippo)
6, Joseph Lewis (Australia Drapac Porsche)
7, John Anderson (Sweden - Team Sprocket Pro)
8, Alessio Signego (Japan - Nippo)
9, Peter Williams (Motorpoint Marshalls Pasta)
10, John McEvoy (Motorpoint Marshalls Pasta)
11, Stephen O'Sullivan (Meath Engraveit.ie/Jade.ie)
12, Wouter Sybrandy (Britain Sigmasport Specialized)
13, Matt Cronshaw (Britain Rapha Condor Sharp)
14, Kit Gilham (Britain Sigmasport Specialized)
15, Andrew Roche (Motorpoint Marshalls Pasta) all same time

General classification after 6 stages:

1, Alexander Wetterhall (Sweden - Team Sprocket Pro) 17 hours 46 mins 18 secs
2, Josef Kugler (Austria Arbö KTM-Gebrüder Weis) at 8 secs
3, Peter Williams (Motorpoint Marshalls Pasta) at 59 secs
4, John Anderson (Sweden - Team Sprocket Pro) at 1 min 28 secs
5, Dan Craven (Britain Rapha Condor Sharp) at 1 min 32 secs
6, David Pell (Australia Drapac Porsche) at 1 min 34 secs
7, Connor McConvey (Belgium An Post Grant Thornton M. Donnelly Sean Kelly) at 1 min 45 secs
8, Jon Tiernan-Locke (Britain Rapha Condor Sharp) same time
9, Joseph Lewis (Australia Drapac Porsche) at 1 min 46 secs
10, Rob Partridge (Wales) at 1 min 49 secs
11, Pieter Ghyllebert (Belgium An Post Grant Thornton M. Donnelly Sean Kelly) at 2 mins 4 secs
12, John Degenkolb (Germany Thuringer Energie) at 2 mins 19 secs
13, Stuart Shaw (Australia Drapac Porsche) at 2 mins 35 secs
14, Andrew Roche (Motorpoint Marshalls Pasta) at 2 min 57 secs
15, Ian Bibby (Motorpoint Marshalls Pasta) at 3 mins 29 secs