Roscommon rocket Daire Feeley became the first Irish winner of Rás Tailteann since 2008 when he crossed the line safely in the middle of the peloton in Blackrock, Co Louth, yesterday, a handful of seconds behind stage-winner Kevin McCambridge from Cucshendall.
Feeley, riding for the Cork All Human-Velo Revolution county team, took over the race lead on Friday’s mountainous third stage to Lisdoonvarna and nobody was able to match him since.
“I knew I could win it today but there was always that ‘what if?’” he said afterwards.
“I’ve seen situations unfold before in the big races where things go wrong on the last day and I was anticipating that a bit this morning.”
The 25-year-old from Mote Park held a 54-second lead over British rider Louis Sutton going into yesterday’s final stage.
After his county squad controlled things for much of the stage, the race leader actually went on the attack on the finishing circuit in the sunny seaside town, going clear with McCambridge of the UK-based Trinity Racing team, Archie Ryan of the Irish national team and British rider William Perrett, who was guesting for the Dublin Spellman Port squad.
This lead quartet held a slender gap of around 25 seconds for the first four laps of the 10km circuit before McCambridge sensed the danger behind and jumped clear just as the peloton began to close in.
A superb last 10km saw the 20-year-old Glensman, hold off the peloton single-handedly to claim the biggest victory of his career so far, one that was made all the sweeter by the fact his early season was ruined by a crash in Belgium that left him with two broken wrists and concussion.
“It’s unbelievable really,” said McCambridge as he fought back tears.
“The last few years have been so hard, just injury after injury. I’ve been fighting so hard. But as the stages went on here I’ve felt stronger and stronger and today was my day. My fitness isn’t fully there yet but I’m in the best place mentally I’ve been in a long, long, time and the legs were there today.
“When I was with the other three guys I didn’t think the pace was strong enough so I just went solo. At first I didn’t think I could do it but I gave it everything I had. There were a lot of emotions going through the head coming to the line. It’s unbelievable to get the win.”
Having finished second overall, Louis Sutton took home the white jersey of best U-23 overall, while Dean Harvey of the Irish national team took home the polka dot jersey of best climber.