Matthew Teggart wins thrilling first-stage finish as Rás Tailteann returns

Cycling Ulster rider takes yellow jersey as stage race returns for first time in four years

Hopes that the relaunching of the Rás Tailteann after an absence of four years could see a return to Irish success panned out on Wednesday, with Matthew Teggart sprinting to victory on stage one and several home riders featuring in the top 10.

Competing for Cycling Ulster in the race, Teggart got the better of a rider who is normally a team-mate of his on the British UCI-registered WiV SunGod team, Rory Townsend.

Townsend is the road captain of the Ireland National Team for the Rás and looked in line for the stage win until Teggart nipped past him close to the line.

“I think it was a photo finish with my team-mate Rory,” said Teggart. “I know how quick he is, so I am delighted with that.”

The 26-year-old has had a very strong season racing at home and abroad and started as one of the most-tipped Irish riders. He previously won stage three of the 2017 Rás and held the race lead for one day after stage four.

“I am obviously delighted to take stage one and the first yellow jersey,” he said. “It might be a bit early for the yellow jersey, mind you, but I’m absolutely delighted with that. Usually that’s not the sort of finish for me, a really, really fast, flat bunch sprint. But I just timed it really well, I left it late with the headwind. I was coming at them with speed and I just about got there.”

The Rás was last held in 2018 and the combination of a lack of sponsorship and then the Covid-19 pandemic meant that it is only now resuming. Stage one began in Tallaght and was enlivened by a number of attacks and regropings along the 140.2 kilometres to Horse and Jockey, as well as three bonus sprints and the category three climb of Glosna (km 75.5) plus the category two climb of Deenside (km 93.3), shortly after Castlecomer.

Four riders went clear on the second of those ascents, with Irish trio Lindsay Watson (Cycling Ulster), Ronan Killeen (Mayo Unit 7 Castlebar) and Nathan Kurensky (Spain Brocar-Ale) joining forces with the Briton Dean Watson (Britain Embark-Bikestrong) to open a lead of 55 seconds.

Dean Watson subsequently went for broke, racing clear of the others and holding a gap of 12 seconds with 10 kilometres remaining. He was, however, reeled in and a large group then sprinted for victory, with Teggart timing things to precision.

The Rás Tailteann continues on Thursday with a 154.8 kilometre stage to Castleisland. The 10 kilometre finishing circuit includes the steep climb of Crags Cave, which could well provoke splits.

Shane Stokes

Shane Stokes

Shane Stokes is a contributor to The Irish Times writing about cycling