Carrick-an-Suir native Sam Bennett won a thrilling bunch sprint into Listowel to claim two consecutive stage wins for the An Post Chain Reaction Sean Kelly team in the An Post Rás.
Hot on the heels of Bennett was Morten Oellegaard (Denmark Blue Water Cycling) who took second place with Poland’s Marcin Bialoblocki (Britain UK Youth Pro Cycling) in third.
Bialoblocki’s second top-three finish in consecutive days earns him the yellow jersey and puts him top of the general classification going into stage four.
Today’s 141km stage from Nenagh into Listowel was hillier than the previous two days, with two category three climbs.
Thirteen kilometres from the start, the second category climb of Bolingbrook had the potential to split the peloton early on, and this proved to be the case.
Three riders attacked aggressively following the descent at Bolingbrook. Antrim native Sean Downey (An Post Chain Reaction Sean Kelly) and Dan Barry (Node 4 Giordana) broke away, building a 22-second lead over the chasing Roger Aiken (Louth Prague Charter).
Aiken rode hard, eventually bridging the gap and the three-man move charged further ahead of the chasing peloton, establishing a huge gap of over six minutes at one stage; several groups of chasers tried to reel the trio in, but to no avail.
Back in the peloton, a bad crash around Ballyneety ended yellow-jersey leader Peter Hawkins’ day.
The Belfast native finished in fourth place on yesterday’s stage, putting him top of the general classification, and he had looked a real threat for the remainder of the race.
However, following on-the-scene medical advice, he was forced to withdraw from the race with a suspected broken collarbone.
Meanwhile, the hard work at the front by the breakaway eventually took its toll on the riders. Following the final climb of the day at Athea, the trio were reeled in by the bunch, and with only 15 kilometres to go to the finish-line the peloton was all together once again.
A last-minute attack by the quartet of Daniel Fodor (Denmark Blue Water Cycling), Michael Northey (Britain Node 4 Giordana), Stuart Wight (Canada National Team) and Joseph Kelly (Great Britain National Team) was quickly swallowed up by the main group, and coming down the final straight a huge effort by Bennett saw him lead the bunch sprint over the line.
Owain Doull of the Great Britain National Team claims the Post Office sprints classification green jersey.
Martin Hunal (Czech Republic Sparta Praha) is the leader of the king of the mountains classification.
Samuel Harrison of the Great Britain National Team holds the lead in the under-23 rider classification.
Meehal Fitzgerald of Tipperary Visit Nenagh.ie was the best county rider of the day finishing 13th.
In the team classifications, Belgium An Post Chain Reaction Sean Kelly team leads overall, while Cork Aquablue is the best county team overall.
It's all to play for going into stage four tomorrow with eight riders in the general classification on the same leading time.
"The team hit the front with a kilometre to go and they led me out perfectly, unbelievable teamwork" - Sam Bennett
Bennett told the press: "We kind of thought it was going to come to a bunch sprint. We have three riders on the team that are sprinters, so we were taking it in turns, so today I said, 'Please, can I have my turn.'
"The team hit the front with a kilometre to go and they led me out perfectly, unbelievable teamwork. I'd like to thank them, and I got it, so it's good."
Post-race, new yellow-jersey holder Bialoblocki said: "It was quite an easy stage, nothing serious, no big mountains, but I was a bit nervous because everyone was trying to be at the front. And I rode some rough sections; it wasn't great.
"But it went well, I came third and I'm quite happy.
"My form is really good, everything is going well."
Regarding tomorrow's stage and what his team tactics will be as he attempts to defend the jersey, Bialoblocki said: "It's hard to say, because it's a very hard stage with lots of climbs.
"Everything can happen, but I'm not worried."
An Post Rás stage three: Nenagh to Listowel
1 Sam Bennett (An Post Chain Reaction Sean Kelly) 141.4km in 3 hours 23 mins 29 secs
2 Morton Oellegaard (Denmark Blue Water)
3 Marcin Bialoblocki (Britain UK Youth Pro Cycling)
4 Joshua Hunt (Britain UK Youth Pro Cycling)
5 Owain Doull (Great Britain National Team)
6 Nicholas Vereecken (Belgium An Post Chain Reaction)
7 Benjamin Edmuller (Austria Arbo Gebrder Weiss)
8 Kristofer Dahl (Canada National Team)
9 Rico Rogers (Azerbaijan Synergy Baku)
10 Tim Mertens (Belgium National Team)
General classification after stage three
1 Marcin Bialoblocki (Britain Uk Youth Pro Cycling) 9 hours 36 mins 44 secs
2 Shane Archbold (Belgium An Post Chain Reaction)
3 Connor McConvey (Azerbaijan Synergy Baku)
4 Rasmus Guldhammer (Denmark Blue Water Cycling)
5 Samuel Harrison (Great Britain National Team)
6 Jasper De Buyst (Belgium National Team)
7 Steve Lampier (Britain Node4 Giordana Racing)
8 Lars Vierbergen (Holland Koga Cycling Team) all same time
9 Sam Bennett (Belgium An Post Chain Reaction) at 4 secs
10 Kenny De Ketele (Belgium National Team) same time