In-form Daire Feeley determined to defend yellow jersey as Adam Ward takes Rás stage honours


It was all change at the top of the leaderboard of Rás Tailteann after a tough slog through the Burren saw Adam Ward of Team Ireland take the biggest victory of his career at the end of stage three in Lisdoonvarna and Roscommon man Daire Feeley take over as race leader.

eeley, who rides for the Cork All Human VeloRevolution team and who ended last season as the highest-ranked rider on the domestic scene, was aggressive throughout the stage, first going clear in a three-man move in the opening kilometres.

Although that was soon reeled in, Feeley was to the fore again when a nine-man group went clear shortly after Crecora, 30kms into the 172km stage.

That group also included eventual stage winner Ward, Ulster’s Darnell Moore, Meathman Luke Smith (Moynalty), Carlow Dan Morrissey duo Devin Shortt and Conor Hennebry and British trio James McKay (Cycling Sheffield), Josh Housley (Spirit BSS) and his team-mate Joseph Rees.

“I saw a group going up the road with Darnell Moore, Luke Smith, Conor Hennebry and a few other strong Irish boys in it,” said Feeley. “I said to myself, ‘If this was a normal Sunday race I wouldn’t be letting them boys up the road’. I jumped across and we co-operated fairly well and opened a good gap.”

Having begun the day in eighth overall, at 1’01’’ behind overnight leader Louis Sutton of the Spanish Brocar Ale team, Feeley’s group had four minutes by the time they got to Ennis with 50km remaining, making him race leader on the road.

With 30km remaining, Sutton’s Spanish squad had knocked a minute off their deficit as Ward attacked the front group, with Feeley the only one capable of following him. The duo had 25 seconds on the rest of the breakaway as they began the third-category climb of The Burren after 150km.

A concerted chase by the peloton saw them close to within two minutes by the top of the Corkscrew, with 10km to go, where Feeley crested the summit ahead of Ward to take over the lead in the mountains competition before driving the duo along on the run-in, knowing that he was riding into the overall lead in Lisdoonvarna.

“Adam Ward was super strong all day, so I jumped on his wheel when he attacked and we worked together all the way to the finish,” said Feeley. “I said to him, ‘Let’s go to the finish and whoever takes it, takes it’. The legs started to feel better when I knew the yellow jersey was within reach.”

In the sprint to the line, Feeley met his match and it was Ward who took stage victory for the Irish national team.

“I think we both had our own interests today,” said 20-year-old Ward. “Daire had his own interests for the overall so he was committed and we both worked hard to stay away to the line. I was willing to fully commit and I reckoned I could take the stage.

“Last night our manager Martyn Irivine said, ‘You want to be second into the last corner because it’s still about 400m to go.’ I was second into the corner and I went early with 300 to go on the drag to the finish. I looked around and saw that I was clear and I had a bit of time to sit up and enjoy it. I remember coming to watch the stage finishes of the Rás with my dad so to be in the middle of it now is something special.”

Finishing second, 1’07’’ ahead of Meath’s Luke Smith, Feeley did enough to give himself a 51-second advantage in the overall standings over stage two winner Louis Sutton, with Ward leapfrogging up to third at 1’05”. Feeley also leads the county rider and mountains classifications.

“It hasn’t sunk in yet,” admitted the new yellow jersey. “I can’t believe it. It’s brilliant! I have the yellow jersey in the Ras! If I was 13-year-old Daire and I was looking at my position now… I’d be very, very happy. We’re here for the yellow jersey and we’ll do absolutely everything we can to defend it.”

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