Postlberger retains yellow jersey after stage four of An Post Rás

Lithuania’s Aidis Kruopis wins 155km Bearna to Newport race in a sprint finish

Lithuania’s Aidis Kruopis won the foruth stage of the An Post Rás after a sprint finish. Photograph: Sportsfile

Lithuania’s Aidis Kruopis won the foruth stage of the An Post Rás after a sprint finish. Photograph: Sportsfile

 

This year’s An Post Rás may be flatter than previous editions but, as predicted by race organiser Tony Campbell prior to the race, the course change has led to a far more competitive event and, at this halfway point, big gaps in the general classification.

Wednesday’s 155 kilometre race from Bearna to Newport was completely bereft of categorised climbs. However the exposed roads and high winds of the Connemara landscape blew the bunch apart and ensured that by the finish only six riders are within three minutes of the yellow jersey.

Still wearing that garment is the Austrian rider Lukas Postlberger, who finished fifth on the stage and thus conceded no time to his rivals. First home was the Lithuanian Aidis Kruopis who outsprinted the Italian Davide Vigano (Team IDEA 2010 ASD), the Briton Ian Bibby (NFTO), Irishman Martyn Irvine (Madison Genesis) and three others on the uphill rise to the line.

Also in the group were Irish road race champion Ryan Mullen, who along with Kruopis and Joshua Edmondson represented a very strong An Post Chain Reaction representation in the move. Kruopis’ victory was the second stage win this week for the Irish-sponsored, Belgium based team, while Edmondson’s improvement six places up to second overall continues the strong showing.

Irvine and Mullen also progress, going from ninth and tenth overall to third and fourth.

The day’s crucial move began very soon after the drop of the flag when Irishman Dominc Jelfs (Madison Genesis) and Eric Johnstone (Canada) broke clear. This lit the touch fuse and flurries of attacks followed, with various groups getting across including a 13 man chase group which included all five An Post Chainreaction riders.

This produced a 22 man front group, from which former An Post Chainreaction rider Ronan McLaughlin (Cork Aquablue) jumped clear with Dutchman Jimmy Janssens (Team 3M) after 90 kilometres. They built a lead of almost two minutes and while they were caught 35 kilometres from the end, their aggression and the whittling down behind produced a 16 man lead group with many key riders.

Further attacking reshuffled the move, with Kruopis amongst the most active. Eight riders thundered into the final kilometre together and while last year’s overall winner Clemens Fankhauser (Hrinkow Advarics) overshot the final bend and lost his chance, the other seven sprinted it out for the win.

Kruopis and Vigano, who previously raced with the WorldTour Orica GreenEdge and Sky teams respectively, were quickest, while Irvine placed fourth, Postlberger fifth and Mullen seventh.

While Irvine is just one minute 43 seconds back overall, he played down his general classification chances on Wednesday evening. That said, he admitted he would love to join the list of Rás winners. He pledged to keep riding aggressively in the four remaining stages.

“It came easy to me today,” he said. “I am a rider who is powerful in the wind, it suited me. It is a similar MO for the res of the week. I’ll keep attacking; I am either off the front or off the back.”

The race continues Thursday with another wind-exposed stage, a 142.4 kilometre race to Ballina.

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