Ireland’s Dowling, Watson shine; Varley wins Rás Wicklow battle

Posted on: May 26th, 2018

Mark Dowling and Lindsay Watson put in great rides on the Rás in Wicklow today. Julian Varley would win stage 7. Damien Shaw is still in a great position overall with just one stage remaining into Skerries tomorrow (Photo: Bryan Keane – Inpho)

By Graham Gillespie

A brilliant solo effort from KTM’s Julian Varley was enough to win the penultimate stage of the Rás today in Naas.

Varley attacked on the final climb of the day at Slieve Corragh. He then exhibited his time trial skills, riding the last 11 kilometres on his own.

Next on the road, U23 jersey holder Robbe Ghys (Belgium) was second. Varley crossed the line 18 seconds ahead of the yellow jersey group.

This gap was small enough to keep Swiss Cyrille Thiery in the yellow jersey heading into the final stage tomorrow.

Damien Shaw (Holdsworth) was also in that group and stays third in the general classification.

Furthermore, there are only 35 seconds between the top 15 riders overall. Therefore a grandstand finish on stage eight might be a possibility.

A monumental effort from Antrim Velo Cafe Magasin’s Lindsay Watson meant he was the best domestic rider today, finishing sixth.

Watson wasn’t the only Irishman in the top ten as Holdsworth’s Conn McDunphy finished eighth.

Leinster’s Mark Dowling also had a great day, and now has the county jersey for his troubles; he and Watson the only county riders in the 17-man front group at the finish.

There was one other jersey change as Lukas Ruegg (Switzerland) reclaimed the KOM jersey after losing it to Ulises Alfedo Castillo Soto (Jelly Belly) yesterday.

Luuc Bugter (Delta Cycling) keeps the points jersey after finishing fifth today. This was also enough to move him up to second overall.


How stage 7 of the Rás unfolded

Today’s stage saw 128 riders take to the starting line after 12 riders abandoned yesterday.

Those still in the peloton had 141.2 kilometres and eight climbs to navigate before reaching the finish line.

These eight climbs would leave several riders dead on their feet and devastate the peloton.

The race got off to a brisk start with speeds of 60 km/hr being recorded as the peloton passed through Shillelagh.

A few riders did attempt to break clear and forge a gap early, but none of these moves stuck.

However, the three early climbs led to the peloton fracturing along the road.



Crucial points in the climbers’ jersey battle were also dished out early. Switzerland’s Lukas Ruegg took the two cat 3 ascents.

That closed the gap between him and leader Ulises Alfedo Castillo Soto (Jelly Belly), who finished second on both climbs.

Jelly Belly’s Taylor Sheldon took the other early KOM at Ballythomas.

Each of the aforementioned racers was part of a leading group of nine riders at this point. This group included two Irish riders; Conn McDunphy (Holdsworth) and Robbie McCarthy (Ireland).

Peter Kibble of Wales would join this group which meant there was now ten at the front.

Ruegg continued to dominate the climbs taking the KOM at Cronebeg and indeed Garrymore. Castillo, meanwhile, had to settle for second on both occasions.

On the cat 1 climb at Drumgoff, the peloton scattered into eight groups, and several riders at the front including Castillo and McCarthy lost touch.

As the race reached Wicklow Gap, the groups at the front continued to fragment.

County jersey holder Ronan McLaughlin (Viner-Caremack-Pactimo) was one of many who could not keep up with the pace. McLaughlin would also later suffer a costly puncture.

It was on Wicklow Gap that eventual stage winner Julian Varley (KTM) launched his attack.

At the summit of Slieve Corragh, the Englishman would have a 36 second lead over Max Stedman (Canyon Eisberg) and Mark Dowling (Leinster).

The yellow jersey group was a further 19 seconds back, and also included McDunphy, Ruegg, Damien Shaw (Holdsworth), Luuc Bugter and Jason van Dalen (both Delta Cycling).

Varley then had 11 kilometres that he had to ride solo, and he did just that in magnificent fashion.

He took the victory reaching Naas 18 seconds ahead of the yellow jersey group. This, however, was not enough to take the leader’s jersey off Switzerland’s Cyrille Thiery.