Roscommon native Daire Feeley, riding for the Cork All Human VeloRevolution team, retained his yellow jersey as leader of Rás Tailteann today as sprinter Rory Townsend took a second consecutive stage victory for Team Ireland in a mass sprint finish into Kilbeggan at the end of stage four.
aving been beaten into second in a photo finish at the end of stage one, 26-year-old Townsend made no mistake today and crossed the line a bike length clear of the youngest rider in the race, 18-year-old Odhran Doogan of Dublin Pinergy, Irish-domiciled Italian Matteo Cigala and the rest of the heaving Ras peloton.
“I was so close on the first stage and then let it slip so to win today is a big relief more than anything,” said a delighted Townsend afterwards, before praising his young Irish teammates for bringing back a late move and setting up the sprint finale.
“When that move went, the lads were riding on the front, keeping it pegged at 30 seconds with a bit of help from a couple of other teams. When two went clear up front, we brought the others back and just left the two out three, to deter attacks. Archie (Ryan) was on the front, just keeping it all together and Adam (Ward) was my last lead-out man. Trinity came through pretty hot so I followed them and it was Matteo (Cigala) opened up the sprint with 200m to go. I shifted onto him and kicked with about 150m to go, got around him and had a decent gap by the line. I’m delighted but the feeling is probably one of relief too.”
Overnight leader Feely also finished in this main group and admitted he enjoyed wearing the yellow jersey on home training roads today.
“To be wearing the yellow jersey today, going through Ballinasloe and Athlone, on roads that I train on regularly, and to see people’s faces on the side of the road that I know, was surreal,” said the race leader afterwards. “It still hasn’t hit me really that I’m leading the Rás.”
Feely and his Cork All Human VeloRevolution squad were kept on their toes today with numerous attacks going clear on what was a rapid stage 154km with an average speed of 47.7kmh.
“The only reason I held onto yellow today was because of the team I have around me,” Feeley said afterwards. “Richie (Maes), Mark (Dowling), Tim (O’Regan) and Vlad (Evseev) were brilliant all day. It was a fast stage which allowed for plenty of attacks but it also allowed us bring things back relatively quickly before they got out of our control.
“I was following wheels any time a gap did open. It suited me because if I did get up the road in a move all I had to do was sit at the back of it, make things as easy as possible. Once we got to Athlone, it was all set up for a bunch sprint and the teams smelling the finish line drove it on then.”
With all of the overall contenders crossing the line in the front group today, there was no change at the top of the general classification, with Feeley holding a 51-second lead over British rider Louis Sutton of the Spanish Brocar Ale team going into tomorrow’s final stage, Blackrock in Louth.
Behind them however, Team Ireland duo Adam Ward and Townsend are at 1’06” and 1’29” respectively, while stage one winner Matthew Teggart of Ulster at 1’40”, with Luke Smith of Meath and British rider William Perrett, guesting for the Dublin Spellman Port team, both just one second further back.
“There’s still a couple of climbs to come, so there’s a bit of concern there,” admitted Feeley of his race lead. “But I have full confidence in the lads that we can do a good job and if we get to the finishing circuits tomorrow hopefully people will start thinking about another bunch sprint, which would suit us.”