French rider Thomas Rostollon (France AVC Aix En Provence) moved up to second in the overall classification today after cruising to a comfortable win on a tough Stage 5 of the Rás. He came home nine seconds ahead of Martin Hunal (Czech Republic AC Sparta) and Jonathan Fumeaux (Switzerland Atlas Jakroo) was just behind.
It was a good day all round for the Switzerland Atlas Jakroo team as Nicholas Baldo finished in fourth place, which meant he took the yellow jersey from team mate Pirmin Lang, who finished in ninth position. Stage 3 winner and current Rás champion Gediminas Bagdonas took fifth, regaining the green points jersey.
Today’s route from Bundoran to Buncrana was earmarked by all as being the most challenging and punishing stages in recent Rás history with no fewer than seven categorised climbs, one of those being the category one backbreaking ascent of Mamore Gap, widely regarded as being the steepest road climb in Ireland.
The early roads were fast with the peloton averaging 47 kilometres on the first hour making it difficult for riders to establish any breakaways. Small groups attacked, getting a couple of hundred metres clear but they were then reeled in by the bunch.
A group of ten riders including Irish riders Sam Bennett (An Post Sean Kelly) and Adam Armstrong (Dublin West Eurocycles), went clear on the first climb at Barnesmore Gap, building a fifteen second lead, but the peloton chased hard and they were eventually absorbed back in.
It was then the turn of Baldo and Fumeaux to breakaway at the 50 kilometre mark and they were joined by Lasse Norman Hansen (Denmark Blue Water Cycling). The trio amassed a 52 second lead ahead of chaser Daniel Bichlmann (Germany Bike Aid) while the peloton fell one minute 10 seconds back.
At the half way stage though the breakaway had been caught and the race was together again. The sun was beating down on the riders and it was clear from some of the faces in the peloton that a combination of the conditions and energy sapping roads were beginning to take their toll.
Coming up to the category three climb of Maghera Beg (78.8km) five riders went clear twenty seconds ahead: Rostollon, Bichlmann, Richard Lang (Britain Rapha Condor Sharp), Matthew Higgins (Britain Node4 Giordana Racing) and Christian Varley (Isle of Man Bikeline P/B Micro). They were chased by a group of eleven including Donegal man Ronan McLaughlin (An Post Sean Kelly) who came agonisingly close to winning yesterday’s stage.
Four of the breakaway riders fell back into the chasing group and it was Rostollon who persisted up front alone going 38 seconds clear. The Frenchman rode well over the category 3 climbs at Slavery and Old Mountain and took top points over the category 2 climb at Pinch Mountain. With 20 kilometres to go and Mamore Gap in his sights his lead had increased to 49 seconds.
Fumeaux in the meantime was working well, blasting up the Mamore Gap and cutting Rostollan’s lead to just 30 seconds. With just 10 kilometres to the finish line Fumeaux was joined by his team mate Baldo and Czech rider Hunal. Rostollon comfortably saw out the victory to huge applause from the crowds of spectators with a sprint to the finish ahead of the three chasing riders.
New overall leader Baldo was clearly delighted to take claim of the yellow jersey.
“It’s a huge pleasure to take the yellow jersey on the Rás. Each stage is a war so if we want to be in with a chance then we must be present at the front and be aggressive from the start”.
“The climbs today were very steep and short which didn’t suit me because I have quite a big frame, but my legs felt strong so it wasn’t a problem for me today”, Baldo added.
Speaking on his team’s chances of retaining the yellow jersey, Baldo insisted he would continue to attack to ensure it stays on his back.
“There are only five riders in each team so there are attacks all day long. It is very hard to keep the jersey but we will continue to be aggressive and try to win each stage”.
Stage 5 Stage Result sponsored by One Direct