A DRAMATIC FINISH on Stage 4 of the An Post Rás today saw Donegal native Ronan McLaughlin (An Post Sean Kelly) caught within metres of the finishing line as Danish rider Mark Sehested Pedersen (Denmark Blue Water Cycling) won a group sprint to claim a sensational victory.
Marcin Bialoblocki (Britain Node4 Giordana) repeated yesterday’s result by claiming second place, Remi Sarreboubee (France AVC Aix En Provence) came in third with Irish man David McCann (Taiwan RTS Racing) and yesterday’s winner Gediminas Bagdonas (An Post Sean Kelly) placed fourth and fifth respectively.
Today’s 134 kilometre route from Westport was very flat and devoid of any categorised climbs, which made for a fast and exciting day of racing. McLaughlin was aggressive from early on and broke away twice in small groups before being absorbed again by the peloton.
However, the young man from Donegal was determined to put on a performance in his home county. After 64 kilometres he attacked yet again, this time alone, building up a thirty-second lead ahead of chasers Sondre Hurum (Norway Oneco – Mesterhus) and Christopher Jennings (Britain Rapha Condor Sharp), leaving a chasing group over three minutes behind and the peloton almost four.
McLaughlin showed no signs of slowing down as he passed through Sligo. For the next 30 kilometres he rode hard while being pushed along by the tailwind and encouraged by manager Kurt Bogaerts from the team car. With only 20 kilometres to go his lead was one minute 18 seconds while behind him a group containing the yellow jersey holder Pirmin Lang (Switzerland Atlas Jakroo) had caught up with the two chasers, Hurum and Jennings. McLaughlin at this stage was being chased by a group of eighteen riders including fellow Irishman Philip Lavery (Britain Node4 Giordana Racing).
Lavery went clear briefly with James Gullen (Britain East Midlands) chasing down McLaughlin before being caught by the group. McLaughlin’s lead was dwindling and by the time the final two kilometres came there was only 20 seconds between them.
With 150 metres to go and the crowd roaring him to the line, an exhausted McLaughlin agonisingly ran out of steam and was caught by the chasing group who sprinted to the finish with Pedersen marginally edging it over Bialoblocki.
McLaughlin was clearly devastated after having put in such a superb performance.
“I gave it everything I had but unfortunately the finish line was 50 metres too far away. I think I did the ten hardest sprints of my life today, but I just didn’t have enough in the tank to finish it off”.
“I was determined to put in a good performance today being from Donegal but it just wasn’t to be – it’s just one of those things,” McLaughlin added.
Pirmin Lang retained the yellow jersey for a third day running with British rider Richard Handley (Britain Rapha Condor Sharp) keeping the U23 jersey as well as moving up to second in the general classification ahead of Bialoblocki. Irish rider Connor McConvey stays in fifth position, one place ahead of An Post team mate and reigning Rás champion Gediminas Bagdonas.
Best of the Irish today was David McCann who finished in fourth place while Sorum Hurum collected the King of the Mountains jersey as Dan Craven did not start after suffering from concussion yesterday and requiring surgery to his chin.