McLaughlin heroics go unrewarded


CYCLING:IF THE move had been successful, we’d be calling it one of the greatest An Post Rás stage triumphs of the modern era. For the sake of 100 metres, it’s been regarded as one of the bravest efforts.

Determined to take his first Rás stage win in his home county, Ronan McLaughlin was clear alone for over an hour and a half but, agonisingly, was overhauled in sight of the finish line, slumping to the ground afterwards in fatigue and disappointment.

Speaking half an hour later, the An Post Grant Thornton Seán Kelly rider was still regretting what could have been. “I still haven’t accepted that I got caught up 100 metres before the line,” he told The Irish Times.

“I was caught up in two crashes yesterday and the disappointment of losing time then plus wanting to win in Donegal meant I gave it everything today.”

He’s improving constantly and getting closer and closer to a big win, but on this occasion, it was not to be.

Instead, Mark Sehested Pedersen (Denmark Blue Water Cycling) edged out stage one winner Marcin Bialoblocki (Britain Node4 Giordana Racing) to the line in Bundoran, the duo the first home out of the fragmented front group.

Former race winner David McCann (RTS Racing) was best Irishman in fourth, Philip Lavery (Node4 Giordana Racing) was ninth and an exhausted, exasperated McLaughlin was 10th.

Overnight race leader Pirmin Lang (Switzerland Atlas Jakroo) finished nine seconds behind Pedersen in 19th place and hung onto the yellow jersey. He remains level on time with the Britons Richard Handley (Britain Rapha Condor Sharp) and James Moss (Britain Node4 Girodana), but Irishman Connor McConvey slipped to six seconds back, having been on the same time going into the stage.

He remains the best Irishman in fifth, while McCann is 15th seconds further back in 11th.

Yesterday was the first of three stages in Donegal; if McLaughlin’s legs are up to it, it was the first of three opportunities for him to try something on home soil. He showed his determination by being involved in practically every break early on yesterday, and when each of them was closed down, jumped clear alone, 70 kilometres from the end of the 135-kilometre stage.

It looked like a suicidal move but as he built time over chasers Christopher Jennings (Britain Rapha Condor Sharp) and Sondre Hurum (Norway Oneco Mesterhus), and opened a four-minute lead over the bunch, his strength was clear. He may ultimately have been caught, but yesterday was probably the best show of ability and guts in his career thus far, a hugely impressive effort.

He said he’d try again if possible on today’s stage to Buncrana, which passes close to his home town of Muff. The 149km stage crosses no less than seven climbs, including Mamore Gap, one of the toughest in Ireland. “If it was any other area of the country I might be really downbeat tomorrow after today not working out, but the fact I am coming home is going to spur me on,” he said. “My legs may be tired but I’ll definitely try again; I have to.”

The stage is certain to have a major effect on the general classification, and will be crucial for the ambitions of McLaughlin’s team. The squad is aiming to triumph for the third time in five years, and is one of the strongest thus far.