Nicholas Walker of the Cinelli-Down Under team took the fourth stage of the Ras today in an uphill sprint from the remnants of a breakaway.
Whilst it was a fine result for Walker, it was the battle that raged for the race lead that overshadowed the Australian’s performance.
The fourth stage of the race, a 178km hilly affair from Cahirciveen to Killorglin, saw the peloton split coming over the first category climb of Conor Pass as Rapha Condor took the race by the scruff of the neck.
Rapha placed a rider in the early break, forcing the Halfords Bikehut team of race-leader Ian Wilkinson to do the chasing.
It was at this point that Wilkinson was distanced as the efforts of chasing the break had begun to show on his team-mates and he was forced to shut down attacks alone, many of them from the Rapha team.
A 22-rider strong group, which included Walker, Simon Richardson (Rapha) and Russell Downing (CandiTV-Marshalls Pasta), bridged to an earlier break and were never seen again.
Once over the Conor Pass, Rapha grouped together to distance Wilkinson further and the gap back to the Halfords rider soon swelled to over two minutes.
Rapha did all the work as the group headed into Killorglin, but it was Australia’s Nicholas Walker who took the win on the day ahead of Jan Barta and Russell Downing.
Richardson was the big winner on the day, though, taking the race lead from the shoulders of Wilkinson.
“Today was perfect, it couldn’t have gone any better,” said Richardson.
“I had an armchair ride all day thanks to my team-mates. I put in a bit of an effort to drop Wilkinson [on Conor Pass] but then the team destroyed everyone.
“I hope to keep the jersey until the end. We’ve got the strongest team in the race, I think, and it’s a very experienced team too. There’s a bit less climbing from now on but it’ll be a hard race to control”.
ALL ACCORDING TO PLAN FOR RAPHA
“[It all went] exactly to plan,” explained Rapha team manager, John Herety.
“We aimed to get someone up the road early on and we did that. The plan was to get Halfords to work very early on and that’s what we did.
“Darren Lapthorne attacked for us and that put Halfords on the back foot and Wilkinson had to do the chasing on his own”.
STAGE FOUR RESULTS:
1. Nicholas Walker (Cinelli-Down Under)
2. Jan Barta (Arbo KTM Junkers)
3. Russell Downing (CandiTV-Marshalls Pasta)
4. Jaco Venter (China Trek Marco Polo)
5. Niko Eeckhout (An Post Sean Kelly)
6. Sam Bennett (Tipperary Dan Morrissey)
7. Benny Deschrooder (An Post Sean Kelly)
8. Alexander Gottfried (Kuota-Indeland)
9. Paul Healion (Irish National Team)
10. David McCann (Irish National Team) all same time
1. Simon Richardson (Rapha Condor)
2. Mads Christensen (Designa Kokken) at 2-49
3. Jan Barta (Arbo KTM Junkers), at 3-02
4. Darren Lapthorne (Rapha Condor) at 3-24
5. Bert Roesems (Cinelli-Down Under)
6. Ian Wilkinson (Halfords Bike Hut) at 3-34
7. Chris Newton (Rapha Condor) at 5-29
8. David McCann (Irish National Team) at 6-09
9. Russell Downing (CandiTV Marshalls) at 6-12
10. Alexander Gottfried (Kuota-Indeland) at 6-43
Official race website: www.fbdinsuranceras.com