Taking over from stage one winner Conor Dunne at the top, Peter Hawkins (IG Sigma Sport) became the second Irish leader of this year's An Post Rás yesterday in Nenagh.
“I think it is probably one of the biggest results I’ve got . . . tomorrow is going to be one of the best days of my career,” the 21-year-old Belfast rider said, speaking shortly after being presented with the yellow jersey at the end of the flat, aggressive 160 kilometre stage.
The stage from Longford witnessed numerous splits and breaks, but it eventually boiled down to an 11-man move inside the final 40kms. Hawkins was there, as were fellow Irish riders Connor McConvey (Azerbaijan Synergy Baku) and Sam Bennett, with the latter normally quick enough to fight for the win.
However, he had been active all day and sacrificed his chances for An Post Chain Reaction Seán Kelly team-mate Shane Archbold, leading out the Kiwi, who thundered in to grab the stage victory.
“I’m thrilled with the win. I was injured at the start of the year and haven’t had too much racing with the way the injury fell but my form has come good,” he said.
Former stage winner Marcin Bialoblocki (Britain Uk Youth Pro Cycling) was second in the sprint to the line, while Hawkins was fourth, McConvey sixth and Bennett ninth.
Dunne missed the move and rolled in as part of the main bunch 46 seconds later, slipping to 12th overall.