Sokol grabs stage win at Charleville after late attacks by Aiken are foiled

Stage win puts pressure on overall race leader Patrick Bevin

After Monday's second stage saw an upheaval in the battle for the yellow jersey in the An Post Rás, yesterday was a day where the opportunists pounced to try to put overall leader Patrick Bevin under pressure and also to hunt a stage victory into Charleville.

The first aim didn't pan out but the second worked perfectly, with the nine-man move foiling the sprinters back in the bunch and enabling the Austrian rider Jan Sokol to take a fine win.

The Azerbaijan Synergy Baku rider was strongest inside the final 500m, sprinting in ahead of Riccardo Pichetta (Italy Team IDEA 2010 ASD) and Oliver Wood (Great Britain national team).

“The break went right after the start,” said Sokol. “The guys worked well together to get a good advantage. In the final it got a little technical and it was about who waited longest [to make his move].”


National cyclo cross champion Roger Aiken (Louth North) was one of two Irish riders in the break and attacked twice inside the final two kilometres. He was brought back the first time but believed for a moment that he’d hit the jackpot on the second.

"I looked behind with a kilometre to go. I had a gap and I thought it might work out, but the big Canadian guy brought me back," he told The Irish Times. "I didn't know that there was that climb at the finish, and it caught me out. That was it, my card was played."

Aiken's two efforts plus that climb sapped his reserved and he rolled in eighth; the other Irish rider in the break, Damien Shaw (Cork City Aquablue) sprinted in a fine fourth and proved once again he can mix it with international riders. He previously finished third in the national road race championships last June.

Tricky finish
Irish-born Australian Robert Jon McCarthy (Ireland An Post Chainreaction Sean Kelly) took fifth, with the tricky finish catching out the rider who won the opening stage on Sunday.

Sokol admitted that McCarthy had been the rider he most feared. “I was really concerned about him and I always had an eye on him. But with this short little uphill before the last 200m, it was a really hard sprint. It was just who had the legs out of the corner.”

Overnight leader Bevin was helped greatly by his New Zealand team, limiting his losses and finishing in a main bunch which raced in sixteen seconds back.

His grip on the race was threatened when Sokol, Aiken, Shaw, Pichetta, Wood, McCarthy, David Wohrer (Austria Tirol Cycling), Andre Benoit (Germany Team Kuota) and Pierrick Naud (Canada) went clear in the first fifteen minutes of the 154.2km stage from Lisdoonvarna.

They built a lead of four minutes and with Naud having started the day a further ten seconds adrift of Bevin, he went close to becoming race leader on the road.

The bunch rallied, though, bringing the gap to a more manageable level.

Bevin accepted that his team burned a lot of energy yesterday, but said they had little choice. “What else could we do? We respect the jersey,” he stated.

“To be honest, we weren’t very worried about bringing it right back. We were happy to give up a minute [by the finish]. There was nobody within four minutes of the jersey. It is not our job, we were not going to waste energy to bring it back and then not win the stage.”

He and his team will have to be more vigilant on today’s fourth stage; it brings the riders 183.6km to Caherciveen and will see them face no less than ten categorised climbs.

Aiken may try again, having won both mountain primes yesterday.