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Rás rides back into Mayo

Westport wakes up to Rás

Martin Ayres

MAYO is hosting a feast of international cycling action as the 60th An Post Rás crosses the county over the next two days. This morning (Tuesday) the 160-strong field sets out from Gort, Co Galway on stage three of the race, heading for Westport, via Maumtrasna, Tourmakeady and Killawalla. The racers will enter Westport via the Ballinrobe Road, before sprinting for stage victory in Mill Street.
Wearing the yellow jersey of race leader today will be Switzerland’s Pirmin Lang, whose victory on stage two knocked Marcin Bialablocki of Poland off top spot. But with an overall lead of just a few seconds, the Swiss professional’s grip on the jersey is likely to come under heavy pressure when the race reaches Maumtrasna. The mountain road is the first category one climb of this year’s race and will test tired legs after 104 kilometres of racing.
Projected arrival times for today’s stage are: Maumtrasna, 13.10; Tourmakeady 13.27; Killawalla 13.45; Westport 14.00. Times are based on the fastest (tailwind) estimate and could vary by up to half an hour or more.

Mixed fortunes for Mayo teams
THERE is strong Mayo interest in this year’s Ras with two five-man Mayo teams taking part — Castlebar-Western Edge Medical Communications and Mayo Centra.
There was drama on stage one when Centra’s Donal Harrington crashed heavily at 30 kilometres. He was left bleeding from a head wound but pressed on to the Kilkenny finish, where he crossed the line with the last group over 30 minutes down. Before going for stitches, Harrington said he was determined to start on Tuesday.
It was a good day for Padraig Marrey (Centra) who is competing in his tenth Rás.
Marrey, 39, finished near the front of the main group, just two seconds down on stage winner Bialablockim and eighth out of 82 finishers in the amateur ‘County’ category.
Also in the group were Castlebar’s Chris Coyle and Patrick Clarke, together with Louisburgh’s Charles Prendergast (UCD), who was back in action for the first time since Easter due to illness.
Bloodied but unbowed, Harrington arrived at yesterday’s stage start in Kilkenny with 10 stitches above and below his right eye. Hard man Harrington, whose sporting hero is Rocky Marciano, shrugged off his injuries and finished in the main group at Gort, together with Marrey and John James Flaherty. Centra’s Micheal Brady and Michael Flanagan also finished within 10 minutes of the winner, to improve their overall positions.
Castlebar also had a trouble-free day, with Patrick Clarke featuring in a chasing group that pursued the winning break for 40 minutes before being reeled in by the peloton.
A ‘lumpy’ run in the Gort finish split the field apart, but David Brennan, Ciaran Clarke and Chris Coyle finished in the second group, while Patrick Clarke and Peter Tuohy - a  late replacement for Bernard Twomey - were not far behind.
So both teams were in good heart as they headed for their hotels to prepare for today’s third stage to Westport.

Next stop Bundoran
TOMORROW (Wednesday) the 35 Rás teams from 13 nations set out on a 135-kilometre stint from Westport to Bundoran.
Local fans can get a close-up view of riders when they sign-on outside the Westport Leisure Park on James Street from 9.30 to 10.30am. Signing on will be followed by a ceremonial send off in Bridge Street at 11am. The peloton will make a circuit of the town before turning into Castlebar Street and the start proper on the N5 on the outskirts of Westport.
The route than takes in Castlebar (11.16), Charlestown (12.07) and Tubercurry (12.38) en route to Sligo and the stage finish in Bundoran. The Rás then spends two day in the hills of Donegal where the battle for the yellow jersey is likely to be won or lost. Finally the route heads east to finish in Skerries, Co Dublin on Sunday.

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