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Irvine celebrates stunning Irish Rás stage win

Posted 28 May 2011

Martyn Irvine (Asia Giant Kenda) delivers first Irish stage win. Photo credit: INPHO (Lorraine O'Sullivan).

Down native Martyn Irvine became the first Irish winner of this year’s An Post Rás holding off the chasing peloton to claim victory on stage seven from Tramore to Kildare by the narrowest of margins.

The Asia Giant Kenda rider spent almost the entire stage in the leading group and once he had made the decisive bolt for the line, sheer guts and determination ensured he was not going to be denied the win. He beat Ralf Matza (Germany Thuringer Energie) and Bernardo Riccio (Italy D’Angelo D’Antenucci) into second and third respectively.

The penultimate stage of this year’s race was always going to be exciting and there was no let up on the 161 kilometre route from Tramore to Kildare Town. The action started almost as soon as the flag to signal the end of the neutralised section had dropped, when Shane Archbold (New Zealand National Team) attacked.

Photo credit: INPHO (Lorraine O'Sullivan)

The young Kiwi track rider built up a small lead but he was soon hauled in by seven riders including Irvine. The group then forged ahead and built up a lead of over four minutes at the halfway point of the stage, meaning that Archbold was virtual race leader on the road. The chasing peloton was unsurprising headed by the An Post Team Kelly team, who were doing their all to protect Gediminas Bagdonas’ yellow jersey.

By the time the leaders reached the final Category One climb of this year’s race, their lead had been cut to 1:28. The eight riders stayed together over the hill, but 35 kilometres from home it looked certain that they would be caught by the chasing peloton as the lead was cut to under a minute. Then with 27 kilometres to go Irvine attacked, joining up with Kohei Uchima (Italy D’Angelo & D’Antenucci) and Casey Munro (Britain Rapha Condor Sharp).

Photo credit: INPHO (Lorraine O'Sullivan)

The trio looked to push on and they built up a lead of just under a minute with 10 kilometres to go. Irvine, however, was not to be denied as he launched one last ditch attack as the peloton closed in. The Ulsterman held on much to the delight of the huge crowd at the finish line, taking the stage by six seconds.

An emotional Irvine was thrilled to win, having drawn inspiration from his late friend Paul Healion.

“Someone told me that it was my day today and I didn’t get excited and just used my head. When I saw the 5K to go sign I gave everything and it worked out well,” he said.

“I was good buddies with Paul Healion (a 2009 Rás stage winner) It was an inspiration knowing him, he was a great bike rider and I’m delighted to do what he did as well,” he added.

Photo credit: INPHO (Lorraine O'Sullivan).

Meanwhile, An Post Sean Kelly team manager Kurt Bogaerts was pleased that a potentially difficult day was out of the way, but it was not without a scare as Bagdonas suffered a puncture close to the finish. Luckily this occurred three kilometres from the finish line, which according to UCI rules ensured he was given the same time as the peloton.

“It wasn’t the toughest stage today, but it was certainly dangerous for us. We had to maintain a control on the race and the team rode really well,”  Bogaerts said.

 “We will try and do the same tomorrow and keep a grip on the race. It’s far from over as you saw with Bagdonas’ puncture. If it had happened a few more kilometres out then everything would be different. Maybe we got the luck we needed today” he added.

Photo credit: INPHO (Lorraine O'Sullivan)

Photo credit: INPHO (Lorraine O'Sullivan)

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