An Post Chain Reaction Sean Kelly team put in a dominant performance on Sunday to claim a magnificent first and second place finish on the opening stage of the 2014 An Post Rás. Irish-born Robert Jon McCarthy and Kiwi rider Shane Archbold jumped to the front of the bunch coming in to the last corner with McCarthy first across the line to take the victory. Third place went to Daniel Klemme of the Azerbaijan Synergy Baku team who finished just ahead of Patrick Bevin (New Zealand National Team) in fourth.
Some 159 riders made the starting list for this year’s race with the peloton setting off from Dunboyne, Meath and travelling 149 kilometres in to Roscommon for the first stage finish. The relatively flat opening stage route made for a fierce and frantic pace with three time bonus sprints adding an extra incentive for aggressive racing.
At the 30 kilometre mark, going through Trim, Rás debutant Jack Wilson (An Post Chain Reaction Sean Kelly) broke to the front of the peloton alongside Bryan McCrystal (Cork Aquablue) and forged a twenty second gap. The duo fought hard to extend their lead but were reeled in shortly before the first prime in Athboy, won by last year’s Rás winner Marcin Bialoblocki (Britain Velosure Giordana).
The peloton were setting a ferocious pace, covering 47.4 kilometres in the first hour and it was at this stage where the first significant breakaway was formed. A group of ten, including Irish riders Sean Downey (An Post Chain Reaction Sean Kelly), Fraser Duncan (Dunboyne DID), Eoin Morton (UCD Arrow), McCrystal and Peter Hawkins (Britain Madison Genesis) broke clear, building a lead of 3 minutes 10 seconds as they approached the 100 kilometre mark.
The chasing peloton rode hard to bridge the gap and eventually succeeded, reeling in the breakaway with only 10 kilometres to go. With the main field back together, it all came down to a frantic bunch sprint to the line with Australian rider McCarthy proving fastest.
McCarthy leads the general classification, claiming the first yellow jersey of the week as well as the points classification and Under-23 jersey. Irish amateur Duncan won both the King of the Mountains and County Rider jersey.
A delighted McCarthy was thrilled with the victory after such a frantic finish.
“I’m over the moon. It was a real team effort. Sean Downey was in the break for most of the stage and which allowed us to have the armchair in the bunch and then Jack taking me and Shane to the front in the last kilometre. As we turned the corner on the final stretch myself and Shane were out in front and all I had to do was sprint for 150 metres. I’m delighted.”