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STAGE RACING : Rás Tailteann Last Updated: 28 May 2018 - 12:57:43 PM

By Rás Press Release
26 May 2018,

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Climbing superbly on a tough day through the Wicklow Mountains and then resisting the chase behind on the mainly flat roads towards the finish, Julian Varley (Britain Team KTM) took the biggest success of his career on Saturday in Naas.

Team KTM’s Julian Varley celebrates winning the stage - Photo Credit ©INPHO/Bryan Keane

The 21-year-old Briton reached the line 18 seconds clear of a 16 man group led in by Robbe Ghys (Belgian National Team), Jacob Rathe (USA Jelly Belly P/B Maxxis), Jason van Dalen (Netherlands Delta Cycling X) and Luuc Bugter (Netherlands Delta Cycling X).

Lindsay Watson (Antrim Velo Cafe Magasin PowerHouse Sport) was best of the home riders in sixth, taking the prize for the best county rider on the stage, while Mark Dowling (Cycling Leinster) also finished in the group and deposed best overall county rider Ronan McLaughlin (Westmeath Viner – Caremark – Pactimo) of his blue jersey.

“It is the best result of my career, easily,” said Varley. “I won some races in the UK, but never UCI events. I knew I had good legs for the climb. I knew I just had to go big or don’t today.”

He made his move on the second of the day’s two first category climbs, the Wicklow Gap, jumping away about halfway up the climb and opening up a lead over a select group containing the race leader Cyrille Thiery (Switzerland National Team) and many of the other main contenders.

Two riders – Irishman Mark Dowling (Cycling Leinster) and the Briton Maximilian Stedman (Britain Canyon Eisberg) – got clear and tried to bridge across.

They chased Varley over the summit and down the descent, then on the flatter roads afterwards, but were unable to reel him in The leader built an advantage of well over a minute over the yellow jersey group, making him race leader on the road and provoking a hard chase behind.

This acceleration mopped up Dowling and Stedman inside the last 15 kilometres, and cut down Varley’s advantage. However he was able to hold on for the win, and crossed the line arms aloft.

“I went for it on the last big climb, got aero down the descent and then full gas for the last ten kilometres into a headwind and on grippy roads,” he said.

“I thought taking the race lead was possible. I had 45 seconds on yellow, but all you can do in that situation is give it everything. I was going yellow, I was going for the stage win, I got the stage but maybe not the yellow. We will see tomorrow.”

Dowling said he was impressed with Varley’s strength. “He was very strong – we were riding quite hard behind, and there were no stalls in our group or anything. So fair play to him, I would say he definitely did the ride of the race.”

Race leader Thiery and teammate Lukas Ruegg cut the gap sufficiently to hold onto the yellow jersey. Thiery now has just one day to go and is on the verge of a very important win.

“For sure at the beginning of the first category one climb [Drumgoff], it was quite hard. They all tried to attack me,” he said. “The second climb was a bit more relaxed. I never panicked. From the beginning of the race I have a great team. I lost one teammate yesterday but I never panicked. I had Lukas Ruegg in the group. For sure the guys from GC tried to attack, but I could follow. In the final I had to let this guy from KTM go. I didn’t expect that he was so strong. But I had Lukas with me, he could ride with me and we saved the yellow jersey.”

He remains ten seconds clear of Bugter, 11 ahead of Shaw and 13 up on Robbe Ghys (Belgian National Team), who is also the best young rider.

Ruegg had a strong day in the mountains and retakes the lead in the King of the Mountains classification, Bugter holds the points classification and Dowling takes over from Ronan McLaughlin (Westmeath Viner – Caremark – Pactimo) as the best county rider.

How it played out:

Stage seven from Carlow to Naas was arguably the toughest of the race, with the 141 kilometre leg through Wicklow dotted with eight climbs. These were Ballythomas Hill (category two, km 41.8), the category three climbs of Mondlea (km. 44.9), Annagh Gap (km. 47.4) and Cronebeg (km 73.3), the category two climb of Garrymore (km. 81.4), the category one pairing of Drumgoff (km 92.5), Wicklow Gap (km. 107.4) and then the third category Slieve Cruagh (km. 122.3).

The day’s first big attack comprised James Curry (Ireland National Team), Sean McKenna (Ireland Holdsworth Pro Racing Team), William Roberts (Wales Racing Academy – National Team), Fintan Ryan (Cycling Leinster), Simon Ryan (Cork STRATA 3 – VeloRevolution Cycling Team), Simon Jones (Dublin UCD FitzCyles) and Seán Hahessy (Westmeath Viner-Caremark – Pactimo). However they were recaptured soon afterwards by the Switzerland National Team of race leader Cyrille Thiery.

Philip Lavery (Cork STRATA 3 – VeloRevolution Cycling Team) went clear heading towards Tullow, but was reeled in. However, after about 23 kilometres of racing, 11 riders were 13 seconds clear.

They were Marc Potts (Ireland National Team), Rory Townsend (Britain Canyon Eisberg), Fraser Rounds (Britain Team KTM), Nikodemus Holler (Germany Bike Aid), Adriaan Janssen (Netherlands Delta Cycling X), Thery Schir (Switzerland National Team), Taylor Shelden (USA Jelly Belly P/B Maxxis), Christopher Reilly (Cycling Leinster), Paidi O’Brien (Dublin Team Gerard DHL), Dillon Corkery (Dublin Team Gerard DHL) and Patrick Clarke (Mayo Ballina Molloys Pharmacies).

These leaders had a 20 second lead in Shllelagh (km 26.8). They were joined soon afterwards by Jake Alderman (Britain Saint Piran Elite Cycling Team) and had the same 20 second lead starting the day’s first climb, the category 2 Ballythomas Hill. The slopes caused the lead group to fragment somewhat, with Shelden beating Schir, Janssen, Alderman and Holler to the prime line

The group pushed on to the day’s next climb, the category three climb of Mondlea (km. 44.9). The peloton reeled them in there, with Lukas Ruegg (Switzerland National Team) beating mountains jersey wearer Ulises Alfredo Castillo Soto (USA Jelly Belly p/b Maxxis), Shelden and Adne van Engelen (Germany Bike Aid) to the top.

Ruegg and Castillo Soto were again the first two to the top of the category three climb of Annagh Gap (km. 47.4), with Daniel Bichlmann (Germany Bike Aid) and Jake Alderman (Britain Saint Piran Elite Cycling Team) third and fourth.

Soon afterwards nine riders attacked, namely Robert-Jon McCarthy (Ireland National Team), Conn McDunphy (Ireland Holdsworth Pro Racing Team), Maximilian Stedman (Britain Canyon Eisberg), Rory Townsend (Britain Canyon Eisberg), Jake Alderman (Britain Saint Piran Elite Cycling Team), Daniel Bichlmann (Germany Bike Aid), Adriaan Janssen (Netherlands Delta Cycling X), Lukas Ruegg (Switzerland National Team) and Ulises Alfredo Castillo Soto (USA Jelly Belly p/b Maxxis).

After 61 kilometres of racing they were 55 seconds ahead of two chasers, with the peloton one minute and nine seconds back. Those chasers were caught very soon afterwards. The leaders raced on to the lower slopes of the category three Cronebeg, where they were just 34 seconds ahead.

Peter Kibble (Wales Racing Academy – National Team) then bridged across to the nine leaders, who increased their lead again and were one minute and 38 seconds clear after about 74 kilometres of racing.

The move spelt danger for the yellow jersey as five riders – McDunphy, Stedman, Janssen, Ruegg and Kibble – had all started the day just 35 seconds back. The move gained time and held a gap of two minutes over two chasers, Christopher O’Reilly and Shane Smith of Cycling Leinster, with the peloton a full two minutes and 25 seconds back.

Ruegg beat Castillo Soto to the summit of the category two Garrymore (km. 81.4), with Townsend, Stedman, Kibble and Alderman next over the line.

The toughest mountains break things up:

Starting the first category climb of Drumgoff, the gap had dropped to just over a minute and a half and, within a kilometre, plummeted to just 40 seconds. The race blew apart there, with several of those in the front group, including McCarthy and mountains leader Castillo Soto being dropped.

Six riders – McDunphy, Stedman, Alderman, Janssen, Ruegg and Kibble – remained together on the climb, while behind Mark Dowling (Cycling Leinster) attacked on the early slopes to try to bridge. Ruegg took top points at the summit of Drumgoff (km 92.5), with Stedman, Kibble, McDunphy, Alderman, Janssen and Dowling next.

After the summit, those six leaders remained out front. The chasing group containing the race leader Thiery and points leader Luuc Bugter (Netherlands Delta Cycling X) were 30 seconds back, while another group containing best county rider Ronan McLaughlin (Westmeath – Viner – Caremark – Patcimo) were a further 15 seconds back.

The yellow jersey group caught the six leaders on the approach to the Wicklow Gap and the yellow and green jersey attacked. However they were reeled in just before the start of the climb.

On the early slopes, Conn McDunphy (Ireland Holdsworth Pro Racing Team), Adriaan Janssen (Netherlands Delta Cycling X), Lukas Ruegg (Switzerland National Team), Mark Dowling (Cycling Leinster) built a 12 second advantage. Behind, best county rider McLaughlin’s group caught the yellow jersey group, which in turn reeled in the leaders.

About halfway up the climb Julian Varley (Britain Team KTM) went clear and opened an 18 second lead over the yellow jersey group. That included the race leader Cyrille Thiery (Switzerland National Team), as well as Darnell Moore (Ireland National Team), Damien Shaw (Ireland Holdsworth Pro Racing Team). Conn McDunphy (Ireland Holdsworth Pro Racing Team), Robbe Ghys (Belgian National Team), Maximilian Stedman (Britain Canyon Eisberg), Callum Ferguson (Britain Team KTM), Nikodemus Holler (Germany Bike Aid), Luuc Bugter (Netherlands Delta Cycling X), Jason van Dalen (Netherlands Delta Cycling X), Lukas Ruegg (Switzerland National Team), Jacob Rathe (USA Jelly Belly P/B Maxxis), Peter Kibble (Wales Racing Academy – National Team) and Sjoerd Bax (Netherlands Delta Cycling X).

Behind, Dowling attacked the group and was chasing Varley. Stedman jumped clear and caught Dowling, but the duo were 30 seconds behind Varley. The yellow jersey group was a further ten seconds back.

Varley crossed the top of the Wicklow Gap, 33 seconds ahead of Dowling and Stedman and 44 seconds ahead of the yellow jersey group. Ruegg took second, making sure of his mountains lead, with Peter Kibble (Wales Racing Academy – National Team), Conn McDunphy (Ireland Holdsworth Pro Racing Team) and Adriaan Janssen (Netherlands Delta Cycling X) taking the remaining points.

On the descent, Varley pushed his advantage out over the chasers to 45 seconds. The yellow jersey group was at one minute 2o seconds, making him race leader on the road. He had started the day 45 seconds back, ten seconds behind Stedman and Dowling.

After about 118 kilometres of racing, Dowling dropped Stedman. However he soon rejoined him and led him over the day’s final climb, the category three Slieve Cruagh (km. 122.3). McDunphy took fourth at the front of the yellow jersey group.

Heading into Hollywood (km 124.2), Varley was one minute 10 ahead of the two chasers, and one minute 17 to the next group. The race leader Thiery was doing much of the chasing.

Dowling and Stedman were caught by the yellow jersey group, leaving just one leader. McLaughlin’s group got close to the yellow jersey group and picked up Darnell Moore (Ireland National Team), who had crashed out of the yellow jersey group. McLaughlin then punctured and needed to change a wheel.

With about 15 kilometres left, Varley was holding a one minute 13 second advantage. This dropped to one minute at the ten kilometre to go banner, with the blue jersey group a further 20 seconds back.

With five kilometres to go, Varley was still 45 seconds ahead of the jersey group, while McLaughlin’s group was at one minute.

The lone leader continued to resist the chase and held on to win by 18 seconds over Ghys, Rathe, van Dalen, Bugter, and first Irish and first county rider Lindsay Watson (Antrim Velo Cafe Magasin PowerHouse Sport).

Race leader Cyrille Thiery (Switzerland National Team) finished seventh and maintained his ten second advantage heading towards Sunday’s final stage to Skerries.

Esmark finch Points Classification Overall Team Delta X UCI Continental’s Luuc Bugter, Team KTM’s Julian Varley, stage 7 winner, General Classification overall Switzerland National Team’s Cyrille Thiery, Europcar Mountains Competition Switzerland National Team’s Lucas Ruegg, first county rider Velo Café Magasin’s Lindsay Watson, Keoghs Irish County Rider Overall Cycling Leinster’s Mark Dowling, 3rd on the stage Jelly Belly P/M Maxxis UCI Continental Team’s Jacob Rathe and Sport Ireland Under 23 Rider Overall, Belgium National Team’s Robbe Ghys - Photo Credit ©INPHO/Bryan Keane

What’s next:

The final stage of the Rás Tailteann extends 144.6 kilometre race from Naas to Skerries. The platforms for attacks will be five category three climbs, namely the Hill of Allen, Plukhimin, the Cross of the Cage and the two ascents of the Black Hills on the finishing circuit in Skerries.

Top 5 into Naas Stage 7

1: Julian Varley - KTM,
2: Robbe Ghys - Belgian National Team @ 18 seconds,
3: Jacob Rathe - USA Jelly Belly,
4: Jason Van Dalen - Delta Cycling,
5: Luuc Bugter - Delta Cycling

Download full results here...

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