If anyone doubted that the Irish county riders, those with nine to five jobs, could take on professionals and beat them on stages of the An Post Rás, yesterday’s stage showed it was still possible. Despite the race’s presence on the UCI calendar plus the resulting armada of foreign squads which make the trip each year, two Irish amateurs emerged best into Charleville.
The longest stage started in Mullingar and saw a 103 kilometre escape by Eoin Morton (Dublin UCD Fitzcycles) and Bryan McCrystal (Louth Asea Wheelworx), the former pro footballer with Leeds United. Their attack was perfectly timed, coming after 80 kilometres of short-lived breakaways that wore down the peloton's concentration.
Once the duo went, those back in the bunch weighed up their chances, backed off and gave them some rope.
It was a big error. Morton and McCrystal’s lead ballooned to seven minutes and they opened an advantage that would give them the platform they needed. While the bunch mounted a chase, the miscalculation plus the strength of those out front was enough to see them reach Charleville first.
“What a cliché, but literally I am speechless. How do you sum it up?” said Morton, who outsprinted McCrystal to the line. “A lad with a nine to five job takes a stage in the Rás. I honestly have no words to describe it. I don’t even believe it. I’m on cloud nine.”
Morton had already visited the podium on stage one, taking the opening day’s sole mountain prime and securing the jersey in that competition. He was first to the summit of stage two’s only climb, that of Shallee, tightening his grip on the jersey, while McCrystal had his own big goal.
He had started the day just 23 seconds off the yellow jersey of stage one winner Taco van der Hoorn (Netherlands Join-S De Rijke) and buried himself trying to take over at the top. However, he finished four seconds behind Morton and, crucially, just seven ahead of the chasing bunch.
Battle for yellow
Van der Hoorn ended the day six seconds ahead of Dylan Kennett (New Zealand), while Irish riders Jack Wilson (An Post Chainreaction), Conor Dunne (Britain JLT Condor) and Eddie Dunbar (Ireland national team) lurk 13 seconds back in fourth, fifth and sixth overall.
The race now heads into the mountains, with Tuesday’s 133.2km stage from Charleville to Dingle featuring the category one Conor Pass.
This tops out less than 10 kilometres from the finish and will cause big splits, likely shaking up the battle for yellow.