British riders filled the top four places on the second stage of Rás Tailteann as youngster Louis Sutton took over leadership of the race after a storming solo ride to stage victory into Castleisland.
he 20-year-old from St Albans, riding for the Spanish Brocar Ale team, was part of 12-strong breakaway group for much of the 155km stage.
“I managed to clip away from the peloton in a group with around 60km to go,” said the delighted stage winner. “I was quite surprised that we opened a decent gap considering that the breakaway wasn’t very cohesive. There were only half of us working together.”
Alongside Sutton in that front group were compatriots Michael Chadwick (Embark-Bikestrong), Joe Hill (Spirit BSS) and William Perrett – guesting for the Dublin Spellman Port team – Dutchman Jim Kes (West Frisia), Brazilian Alex Malacarne (Trinity Racing) as well a strong Irish contingent comprising Ulster’s Gareth O’Neill, Spellman’s Darragh McCarter, Odhran Doogan (Dublin Orwell), Cork duo Richard Maes and Daire Feeley (All Human-VeloRevolution) and Paul Antoine Hagan of the national team.
As this group fractured on the run-in to Castleisland, Sutton jumped clear with three others on the final climb of the day at Crag Cave, the top of which came just 6km from the line, before jumping clear on his own near the top.
Showing the form that saw him dominate last month’s Grande Premio Azores stage race in Portugal, Sutton managed to fend off a frantic chase behind to finish 11 seconds clear of Perrett, with Chadwick taking third ahead of George Kimber of BSS at 54 seconds.
“I knew the final climb was quite steep,” said the new race leader. “I managed to use that to get away from the other three. Just tried to hold on as much as possible on the way down the other side. There was a lot of suffering but it was worth it.”
Behind, overnight race leader Matthew Teggart (Ulster) was scrambling to get across to the front of the race. The Banbridge man managed to catch some of the break and take fifth on the stage, just ahead of Feeley, but lost a minute and one second on the day, surrendering his yellow jersey to Sutton in the process.
“That was one of the hardest finishes I’ve done on any Ras stage,” said Teggart. “In the end it was carnage, ones and twos up the last hill. I didn’t know how many were still in front but I felt okay and managed to bridge to Feeley. We worked as hard as we could coming down the hill in the headwind. I wasn’t expecting the time gaps to be so big at the end. It was just a pity there were still so many guys from the breakaway up ahead.”
While Sutton leads both the Rás overall and the U23 classification now, with an 11 second advantage over Perrett, Teggart has some consolation in the fact that he is just 49 seconds back in third and also leads the points competition going into today’s third stage to Lisdoonvarna. Ireland’s Dean Harvey will be hoping to add to his lead in the mountains classification with ascents of the Burren and the Corkscrew today.