The big climbs caught out the young New Zealand cycling team on stage five of the An Post Ras Tour of Ireland today.
Today’s route from Bundoran to Buncrana in the north west of Ireland was earmarked as the most challenging and punishing stage in recent Rás history with five categorised climbs, including the category one backbreaking ascent of Mamore Gap, the steepest road climb in the country.
Ironically the best of the BikeNZ-Pure Black Racing Under-23 team was the sprint specialist Piet Bulling (Invercargill) who managed his way over the climbs to finish in the second bunch 1min 56sec down on stage winner Thomas Rostollan (FRA, Aix En Provence) on a day when the major professional team asserted their authority.
It allowed compatriot Nicolas Baldo (Switzerland Jakroo) to take over the tour leader’s yellow jersey just three seconds clear of Rostollan.
Main kiwi hope Cameron Karwowski struggled today after some strong support work from Taylor Gunman and Scott Creighton, who went on to finish mid-pack, 6m 26s down with Karwowski two minutes further back.
Bulling has moved to the best placed of the team in 38th place on general classification, 5m16s down on the leader and ninth in the under-23 category.
There is no respite in tomorrow’s 134km sixth stage which comprises four tough climbs of category one and two class through to the fishing town of Killybegs on the north west coast.
Results, stage 5 Bundoran to Buncrana, 149km: Thomas Rostollan (FRA, Aix En Provence) 3:31.28, 1’ Martin Hunal (CZE) at 9sec, 2; Jonathan Fumeaux (SUI) same time, 3. Also New Zealanders: Piet Bulling at 1:56, 27; Taylor Gunman at 6:26, 64; Scott Creighton same time, 66; Cameron Karwowski at 8:30, 74.
General Classification after 5 stages: Nicolas Baldo (FRa, Switzerland Jakroo) 16:19.44, 1; Rostollan at 3 sec, 2; Hunal at 7s, 3. Also: Bulling at 5:16, 38; Creighton at 8:19, 48; Karwowski at 8:27, 49; Gunman at 9:46, 51.