Sunday, May 22, 2011

Wonderful Pistachios in the An Post Ras...

While the Amgen Tour of California may have wrapped up today, one of our California-based teams, the Wonderful Pistachio's are busy racing in the An Post Ras in Ireland. This is an eight day race which started today, and runs to the 29th of May. This is one of the most important races in Ireland, and gives top amateurs a chance to race against professional squads, such as the Pistachio's. 

Some of Ireland's top racers are entered in the Ras, including Sam Bennett and Mark Cassidy, racing for the An Post Sean Kelly Team and, David McCann and Martyn Irvine, racing for the Asia Giant-Kenda Team. The Wonderful Pistachio's bring a five man squad to the race, Menso de Jong, Neil Coleman, Tim Farnham, Tom Faiers, and Collin Samaan. Other professional teams entered include the Rapha-Condor-Sharp, and the Sigma-Specialized Teams from Great Britain; there are also teams from New Zealand, Australia, France, Germany, Ukraine, Italy, and Greece. Today's stage 1 was a UCI 2.2 rated, 148km mostly flat race from Dunboyne to Portumna. Menso de Jong ended the day as the highest placed Pistachio, crossing the line in 23rd spot, 14 seconds behind the day's victor, Dean Downing of Rapha Condor. An account of how the race unfolded can be read here (and the Ras can be followed) at IrishCycling.

Tim Farnham finishes ahead of Colm Cassidy on Stage 1

Stage 2 was 164km in length, again mostly flat, between Portumna and Kilrush. Gediminas Bagdonas, a Lithuanian rider on the An Post Sean Kelly Team won the day, while Shane Archbold, of the New Zealand National Team pulled the overall race leaders' jersey onto his shoulders. Wind was a major factor of the day's stage, the largest group of riders crossing the line more than 34 minutes after Bagdonas took the sprint. For the Wonderful Pistachio's Neil Coleman and Menso de Jong were the best placed finishers at 51st and 52nd respectively, finishing in a large group 9:45 down. After the first two stages, de Jong sits in 36th place, 9:49 behind the leader. Full report is here.

Stage 3 saw the Ras arrive in more hillier terrain which suited eventual stage winner Nikolay Mihaylov, who was first across the finish line in Castleisland, after 175.3 km. Mihaylov of the France AVC Aix en Provence Team, and runner up, Oleksandr Sheydyk of the Ukraine ISD Lampre Continental Team rode clear of a 17 man break on the catagory 1 Crag Cave climb, 13 kilometers from the finish. Gediminas Bagdonas, victor in stage 2 came in with the remainder of the breakaway 15 seconds behind, enough to secure the race leaders' Yellow Jersey. Menso de Jong, was again highest placed finisher from the Wonderful Pistachio Team, crossing the line 37th, 2:32 behind Mihaylov. This moved him up slightly, to 33rd overall after three stages. Full report is here.

stage 3 victor, Nikolay Mihaylov

Stage 4, 142 km between Castleisland and Castletownberre, climbs five rated summits, including the final catagory 1 climb of Healy Pass, just over 23 km from the finish. This is an area I have visited on a couple occasions; it is quite mountainous, with narrow, twisting roads, giving the climbers in the bunch an opportunity to shine. Gusting winds and heavy rain greeted the peloton on the earlier climbs of Ladies View and Molls Gap. In this conditions various breaks and chases formed and reformed throughout most of the stage, until after 112 km the race was brought together on the run up to Healy Pass. Two km from the summit a lead group of 30-40 riders was together. This lead group splintered during the touchy descent. Several solo and duo attempts were made during the final kilometers, but the finale ultimately came down to a sprint out of the lead group, won by the Yellow Jersey Bagdonas, ahead of Shane Archbold, and Stuart Shaw of Australia Drapac Cycling. Menso de Jong was again, the highest finishing Wonderful Pistachio rider, crossing the line in 21st spot, same time as the victor.  This moved him up to 27th on g.c., 12:06 behind Bagdonas. Link to full report here.

stage 4 video from the An Post Ras site

On to stage 5, an 156 km race from Castletownberre to Blarney, and taking on four third category climbs and two second category climbs. Sixty-three kilometers into the race, and following on the heels of the capture of an earlier break, the winning move rode clear of the peloton. Myron Simpson of the New Zealand National Team, Johannes Kahra of Thuringer Energie, Dean Windsor of Rapha, and Tobyn Horton of Motorpoint joined break instigators Lachlann Norris from the Drapac Team and David O'Laughlin of Waterford Comeragh. The break built a maximum lead of 4:00, until the An Post Sean Kelly Team of race leader Gediminas Bagdonas slammed the hammer down, cutting the lead to a minute and a half at the top of the final climb. With 24 km to go and the peloton charging fast, Norris made a solo jump. His five breakaway companions caught Norris with about 6 km to go. With three to go Simpson made his own charge and was able to hold off Horton and the peloton, which had absorbed the remainder of the break, with a four second advantage. For the Pistachio's, Menso de Jong finished 26th in the field sprint, which has moved him up to 23rd spot on g.c., at 12:06. Unfortunately, according to the official race results Wonderful Pistachio riders Tom Faiers and Tim Farnham were unable to finish the days stage. As usual full report can be read here.

Only a single Wonderful Pistachio rider took the line at the start of stage 6, Menso de Jong. The sixth stage was a 167 km race between Blarney and Tramore contained less serious climbing, but still required the racers to top six third category summits. After all was said and done de Jong came in solo in 24th position at 2:06 back. This moved him up to 20th position overall at 12:18. About 110 km into the stage a group of four riders broke clear of the peloton, Lachlann Norris of Drapac, Anatoliy Pakhtusov of ISD-Lampre, Wouter Sybrandy of Sigma Specialized, and Marcin Bialoblocki of the Motorpoint Team. Three of the riders stayed clear to the end, with Bialoblocki taking first, five seconds up on Pakhtusov and ten seconds ahead of Sybrandy. Yellow Jersey wearer Gediminas Bagdonas came in at 1:54, enough to retain his overall lead by 32 seconds over Pakhtusov. Link to full report here.

Well, I certainly fell behind with stage 7 but, in brief, the 161 km stage between Tramore and Kildare was taken by Giant Kenda rider, Martyn Irvine, who attacked out of a break with under ten kilometers to go. Irvine was part of an eight man break that got away from the bunch early in the race and stayed clear to the end, three hours and forty minutes later. Menso de Jong, for the Wonderful Pistachio's had a solid ride to finish in 50th spot, 17 seconds back, and retain his position in 20th on gc. He also sits in 5th position in the Irish Sports Council Under 23 Overall competition. Full report for the stage is here.

With only 32 seconds separating the top two riders, Sunday final stage could decide the overall standings. And, with 18 seconds separating third through eighth positions, the final podium spot was up for grabs as well. Such a situation tends to make for some good racing. The final stage, 133 km, with five third category climbs between Kildare and Skerries, included a final 13.8 km circuit which the racers would have to round twice before the last sprint of the Ras. After about 40 km of racing David McCann of Giant Kenda, and Tobyn Horton of Motorpoint broke free of the bunch, gradually increasing their lead to more than three minutes. Horton would eventually crack and fall off the torrid pace being set by McCann, but McCann would hold on to win the stage ahead of the hard charging field led home by Shane Archbold. Gedeminas Bagdonas finished well enough in the bunch to claim overall victory in this 2011 An Post Ras. Menso de Jong finished the day's race at 61st spot, good enough to end the weeklong event in 20th place. He also retained his 5th position in the Under 23 competition. Full report of the final stage, and final official standings. I just want to express my thanks to Shane Stokes, of, who provided the live coverage feed of each stage, and then the detailed wrap-up afterward. If I couldn't be there for the race, reading these reports were the next best thing. The photography by Inpho Photography were fantastic, as were the video clips of each stage, shown on the An Post Ras website.

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