Huge gaps open an epic stage 1 at Kerry Group Rás Mumhan

Posted on: April 19th, 2019
Ben Healy, a first-year U23 riding for Ireland at Rás Mumhan, was the only Irish rider in the three-man escape that fought it out for victory at the end of stage 1 into Killorglin.

British rider Alex Luhrs has won the opening stage of Kerry Group Rás Mumhan, which saw a breakaway pull the legs off most of the field and huge gaps open as a result.

The escape group would start with eight riders but numbered just three on the approach to the finish in Killorglin after 96km.

Ben Healy of the Irish team was there along with Ribble Pro team mates Alex Luhrs and Daniel Bigham.

And while they attacked each other in the final kilometres, it came down to a three-man sprint won by Luhrs from Bigham and teenager Healy.

A chase group of 20 were in pursuit but lost considerable time; some 1:41 in the end.

And the bunch was six minutes back; very likely ending the general classification hopes of a lot of fancied riders.

Mark Dowling (Leinster) was best of the chase group, taking 4th place on the stage from Chris McNamara of Surrey League.

And rounding out the top six, and with his hopes still alive, was the defending champion Conor Hennebry of Dan Morrissey-MIG-Pactimo.

Bigham holds the climbers’ classification lead on 30 points, with Healy next on 18 points after today’s very fast opening stage.

Luhrs leads overall and has the points classification while Healy holds the young rider classification jersey.

Patrick Clifford (Team Pink) is leading second category rider after the opening stage.

More to come

How Rás Mumhan stage 1 unfolded

After a rapid start during which speeds shot up to over 60km per hour, a number of moves went clear only to be caught.

And it was on the approach to Killarney that a very strong breakaway would get clear in the 96km stage starting and finishing in Killorglin.

The Ribble men come home for a 1-2, with Healy just behind them having been worked over coming in the road (Photo: Brendan Slattery)

In that breakaway were: Ben Healy of the Irish team, the in-form Sean Hahessy (Dan Morrissey-MIG-Pactimo), the Team Ribble duo of Daniel Bigham and Alex Luhrs, Sven Broekhaart of West Frisia and Paidi O’Brien of Killarney CC.

When the move first got clear it numbered eight riders; Charlie Prendergast of Castlebar CC and Wouter Been of West Frisia were also present. However, both lost their place up front.

Behind the leaders Dillon Corkery of BR-DHL-FRS got clear with Carrick’s Jamie Blanchfield. But even the combined engines of those two couldn’t bridge across what very quickly became a 45-second gap to the leaders, which still numbered eight at that point.

When the racing hit the cat 3 climb at Kilcummin the gap between escape and bunch and had been pegged back a little; to just 36 seconds.

But the leaders really pushed on and Prendergast and Been were the victims of that aggression up front; losing contact on the climb, where maximum points were taken by Ribble’s Bigham from Ireland’s Healy.

A 17-man group then got clear of the bunch and set off in pursuit of the leaders. However, the gap between the breakaway and the chasers increased, as the bunch also fell further back.

In that chase group were, among others: Mark Dowling (Leinster), Conor Hennebry and Keith Fox of Dan Morrissey-MIG-Pactimo along with Richie Maes and Liam Curley of Strata 3-VeloRevolution.

With 50km remaining the gap between the breakaway and chase group was one minute and it was 3:30 back to the peloton.

Bigham led again over the top of the cat 2 Tooreencahill climb from Ribble team mate Luhrs and then Hahessy.

The gap between the six men leading and the 17 riders chasing then crept out to about 1:40, with the bunch still another two minutes back with about 30km remaining.

But by Castleisland the gap between the break and chasers had dipped just under one minute.

Once again, however, the combination of riders up front responded; digging in and their gap going back out to two minutes with about 20km to go.

While the picture looked bleak at that point for the chasers, spare a thought for the peloton; now over 5:30 adrift as the head of the race hurtled to the 15km remaining marker.

And as they did, the lead group split; the Ribble Continental team duo of Bigham and Luhrs pushing clear with Healy and leaving behind Hahessy, Broekhaart and O’Brien.

Those who were dropped from the breakaway were caught by the chasers, swelling that group to 20 men.

And with just under 10km remaining the gap between the three leaders and the large group of chasers was two minutes.

And that’s more or less how to stayed to the finish; the three survivors from the breakaway putting in a great ride to make it all the way.

Find full results from the opening stage right here.