For the second time in the long history of the FBD Insurance Rás, the race was stopped today and neutralised to the finish. A jeep pulled out on the race course and several riders heading the main bunch hit it head on, incurring injuries that put them out of the race.
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Three competitors from the Spanish Burgos 2016-Castilla y Leon team plus an Italian rider with the Japan – Nippo squad were badly hurt and were taken to hospital after the dramatic incident, which happened on the descent after Bellavalley Gap and approximately 30 kilometres from the finish in Carrick on Shannon.
According to reports after the race, the Italian suffered a broken leg, while one of the Spaniards had a similar injury and also lost part of his finger. It is expected that it can be reattached.
Race leader Dan Craven (Rapha Condor Sigma) was towards the front of a main bunch which was hurtling down the descent, the riders trying to overcome a two minute deficit to a large breakaway group. He said that he too nearly hit the deck.
“Six guys went down, and I was actually in seventh position. I was the first guy who didn’t fall,” he said, pointing to light abrasions on his leg caused by a glancing blow. “Some riders went over the top of the jeep. That’s why the race had to be stopped, as you have to make sure the riders are okay - and alive - in a situation like that.”
Several minutes before the crash, the break had crested the top of the climb with Irish rider Stephen O’Sullivan leading them across the summit. Yesterday’s runner-up Mark McNally was second over the prime line, and he and his An Post Grant Thornton M. Donnelly Sean Kelly team were driving the pace onwards in order to preserve their advantage and overcome his seven second deficit to Craven.
In all there were well over a dozen riders in the escape, including several Irish competitors. These included the 2008 FBD Rás champion Stephen Gallagher (Britain Sigmasport Specialised), who was one of those who initially kicked clear 75 kilometres after the start in Dundalk.
The others were Rhys Pollock (Australia Drapac Porsche), Stuart Shaw (Australia Drapac Porsche), John Degenkolb (Germany Thuringer Energie) and Ben Greenwood (Britain Rapha Condor Sharp), and these were soon joined by the Irish quartet Mark Cassidy (Belgium An Post Grant Thornton M. Donnelly Sean Kelly), John Dempsey (Tipperary Dan Morrissey), Rory Wyley (Tipperary Dan Morrissey) and Sean Lacey (Limerick BDO Get Back).
Others, including the promising young Irish riders Philip Lavery (Murphy and Gunn/Newlyn) and Connor McConvey (An Post Grant Thornton M. Donnelly Sean Kelly) later bridged across, increasing the group’s size and advantage.
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Providing none of McNally’s close rivals clipped away at the end, he looked poised to take over the race lead. He seemed unhappy when he came over the line, but then saw the bigger picture a little later. “It is disappointing, you could see the jersey being there at the end of the day,” he said. “But the most important thing is that the riders are okay.
“I think we actually saw the jeep, it was coming down a side road when we went past,” he said.
The race was stopped for nearly an hour while the riders were being treated, and then it was decided to neutralise the remaining 30 kilometres. The riders cruised in to the finish, but things will restart tomorrow with a 171 kilometre leg to Oughterard.
How it unfolded:
The full field of 153 riders signed on for the second stage of this year’s FBD Insurance Rás, a 155 kilometre race from Dundalk to Carrick on Shannon. It was mainly flat, although the second category climb of Bellavally Gap came inside the final third of the distance.
There were a number of early attacks, with Thomas Martin (Dublin Eurocycles) and Simon Williams (Ireland Subway National Team) pushing ahead after twelve kilometres of racing and remaining clear for seven. Soon after their recapture Maximillan May (Germany Thuringer Energie) and Rob Partridge (Wales) surged away, but crashed and were passed by others trying to steal a march.
A longer-lasting break began approximately 40 kilometres after the drop of the flag, and saw Niklas Gustavsson (Sweden - Team Sprocket Pro), Matthew Rowe (Wales) and Stephen O'Sullivan (Meath Engraveit.ie/Jade.ie) gain time.
Several riders tried to get across, namely Colm Cassidy (Dublin UCD), David Brennan (Mayo Castlebar Western Edge ), Kit Gilham (Britain Sigmasport Specialised), Mark Cassidy (Belgium An Post Grant Thornton M. Donnelly Sean Kelly), Neil Delahaye (Ireland Subway National Team), Bastian Burgel (Germany Thuringer Energie), Thomas Martin (Dublin Eurocycles) and Frazer Duncan (Dublin Eurocycles), but they were caught after 50 kilometres of racing.
Twenty one kilometres later, the leaders were also hauled back.
The key move of the day went after 75 kilometres and saw 2008 FBD Rás champion Stephen Gallagher (Britain Sigmasport Specialised), Rhys Pollock (Australia Drapac Porsche), Stuart Shaw (Australia Drapac Porsche), John Degenkolb (Germany Thuringer Energie) and Ben Greenwood (Britain Rapha Condor Sharp) build a lead, then later be joined by Mark Cassidy (Belgium An Post Grant Thornton M. Donnelly Sean Kelly), John Dempsey (Tipperary Dan Morrissey), Rory Wyley (Tipperary Dan Morrissey) and Sean Lacey (Limerick BDO Get Back).
Tobyn Horton (Sweden - Team Sprocket Pro), Jon Mould (Wales) and Peter Williams (Motorpoint Marshalls Pasta) joined up after 84 kilometres of racing, at which point in time the peloton was 38 seconds back.
Ten others then set off in pursit: Alexander Wetterhall (Sweden - Team Sprocket Pro), Matt Cronshaw (Britain Rapha Condor Sharp), Colm Quinn (Meath Martin Donnelly), Michael Singer (Austria Arbö KTM-Gebrüder Weis), Mark McNally (Belgium An Post Grant Thornton M. Donnelly Sean Kelly), second overall this morning, as well as John Anderson (Sweden - Team Sprocket Pro), Ivan Meloro Coco (Burgos 2016-Castilla y Leon), Westley Gough (New Zealand), Jakob Steigmiller (Germany Thuringer Energie) and Eugene Moriarty (Meath Engraveit.ie/Jade.ie).
While Quinn was dropped, the other nine bridged up to the leading dozen 99 kilometres into the stage. Two kilometres later Philip Lavery (Dublin Murphy & Gunn/Newlyn) and Pieter Ghyllebert (Belgium An Post Grant Thornton M. Donnelly Sean Kelly) made it across after a long chase, putting 23 riders ahead.
Realising that this was a very significant break, Neil Delahaye (Ireland Subway National Team), Hannes Grundliger (Austria Arbö KTM-Gebrüder Weis), Roger Aiken (Team Planet X), Conor Murphy (Dublin Eurocycles) and Thomas Martin (Dublin Eurocycles) also tried to bridge, picking up Quinn in the process.
The six chasers were 45 seconds in arrears at the start of the category two Bellavalley Gap, while the peloton was just over two minutes behind.
As expected, the climb whittled down the groups somewhat, with Quinn and Delahaye amongst those going south.
Stephen O'Sullivan (Meath Engraveit.ie/Jade.ie) led the break past the summit, 56 clicks from the finish, with McNally, Shaw, Meloro, Degenkolb and Greenwood next. Meanwhile Ryan Sherlock (Dublin Eurocycles) had got across to the chasers, but punctured out of that group.
McNally was race leader on the road and he and his An Post M. Donnelly Grant Thornton Sean Kelly team drove the pace along, knowing if they did so that they would have a strong chance of taking the yellow jersey. However everything came to a halt when several of the riders in the chasing group behind hit an oncoming car with 30 kilometres of racing left ahead.
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The race was stopped, due partly to the roads being partially blocked, and also because the race ambulances were taken and used to bring the riders to hospital. After about an hour, the riders were told the stage would not continue, and so the bunch rode slowly together in towards the finish.
Fortunately, the injuries sustained by those who hit the jeep were not life-threatening.
The race will restart tomorrow with a 171 kilometre leg from Carrick on Shannon to Oughterard. It has two category two climbs near the finish, but is otherwise mainly flat.