Although the riders are yet to crack the Austrian race leader Lukas Postlberger, who up until now has had a vice-like grip on the yellow jersey he inherited at the end of stage two when the previous race leader Francesco Reda was disqualified, the An Post Chainreaction team had another very successful day at the An Post Rás on Thursday.
Racing in the strong winds the Belgium-based Irish squad is so accustomed to, the team broke the race apart again for the second day in succession and picked up its third stage win of the week.
In addition to that it moved national road race champion Ryan Mullen from fourth to third place overall, distancing another Irish rider who had been in that place, Martyn Irvine.
With the Briton Josh Edmondson maintaining his second place in the general classification, the team will make more attempts to crack Postlberger in the three remaining stages.
First to the line in Ballina was the team's Kiwi rider Aaron Gate, who clipped clear with Italian Marco Tizza (Team Idea 2010 ASD) and the Dutchman Jaap de Man (Team 3M) with just over five kilometres of the race left.
They just about held off the chase group behind, with Gate beating Tizza to the chequered flag and Matteo Malucelli (Team Idea 2010 ASD) overtaking De Man for third place.
A slight gap in the group saw Postlberger and Edmondson finish three seconds down, while Mullen conceded a further three seconds but jumped up to that third place overall.
He was satisfied with his ride at the finish, not least because he appears to have recovered from the chest infection he was suffering from up until yesterday.
“I was feeling much better today,” he confirmed. “It worked out really well at the end. I wasn’t going to make up much time to the race leader inside the final 10 kilometres but I attacked looking for the stage. They got me back but we had a few cards to play and Aaron got away with two others.”
The 142.4-kilometre stage was run off in partially damp conditions. Early on Irish county rider Simon Ryan (Limerick Mego RT) went clear after just over 20 kilometres, anticipating the splits in the crosswinds. Joined by Nick Bain (New Zealand), they in turn were caught by 16 others, including race leader Postlberger plus Mullen, Gate, Edmondson and Aidis Kruopis – of the An Post Chainreaction team, Tizza, Malucelli and De Man.
Irvine was stranded behind but despite hard chasing by himself and his team, he narrowly missed out on making the junction and would drop from third to ninth overall.
Inside the final 25 kilometres a number of attacks were fired off, but Mullen’s effort to get clear of Postlberger was closed down by the race leader. Instead, Gate played his card and secured the team’s third win of the week.
Racing continues Friday with the longest stage, a 160.1-kilometre race from Ballina to Ballinamore.