We last spoke to our two men inside the Rás after stage three on Tuesday evening (see the article here); with the toughest stage of the race to come the next day.

It was Friday when we spoke again; we hadn’t had a chance to check the results for the day, so that was our first question.

Paul Helion wins the big bunch sprint for Stage 6.  (Photo c Lorraine O'Sullivan)
Paul Healion wins the big bunch sprint for Stage 6. (Photo © Lorraine O’Sullivan)

Who won today, Rab?

“It was an Irish National Squad rider, Dave McCann I think.

[In fact it was Irish National Team rider Paul Healion who won the gallop, from Jaan Kirsipuu and Nicholas Walker – Editor]

“It was a big bunch sprint, maybe 60/80 riders. There was a side wind all day, it wasn’t too savage, but it was certainly uncomfortable.

“Rapha controlled it most of the day but Kuota took it up to haul the break back and it was obvious that it would be a bunch finish.

“I finished in the group, I’m not really cut out for those big sprints.”

How was Wednesday?

“I was up the road early, in the break.

The racing has been super fast in Ireland, rarely below 25mph.
The racing has been super fast in Ireland, rarely below 25mph.

“I thought we were being caught by the bunch, but it was actually the move of the day and I missed it.

“I spent 10-15 miles in the chase group but my chain went off the top of the cassette on the Connor Pass and I had to stop to sort it out. It all came back together on the decent, though.

“I don’t see the jersey changing hands, now – Rapha are too strong and well organised.

“It’s at this stage of the race that the difference between the amateurs and pros becomes apparent; guys like Kristian House and Darren Lapthorne just know what to do and they can ride on the front all day.

“That’s six days now and you can see that there’s depth with the pros; guys that work can get away with riding single day races against them, but it’s different after a week at a hundred miles each day.

“The race is starting to take a bit of shape too, the first hour is always 50 kph; it’s very hard to get away but the pros are tending to favour letting breaks with other pros get up the road.”

Is it still non-stop attacks, all day? 

“Like I said, the first hour is always ballistic, ’til a break goes, then it calms down, a little.

“But there are very few lulls and it rarely drops below 40 kph.”

The weather?

“Today was OK, but it always seems to start wet.

“It’s not as bad as the first three days; they were horrific.”

How’s your system coping?

“I’m feeling OK, not massively tired; I’ve been sleeping well.

“It’s the most hours I’ve ever done on the bike in one week; it’s going to end up over 30.

“I’m not used to so much time in the saddle, so I’m a wee bit sore there; but I’m ready to race, each morning.”

And how’s that Kinesis velo doing? 

“Good, they’re great bikes, very quick; we have our mechanic over with us.

“We’re riding Reynolds wheels – very strong and fast – with Vittoria tubs, it’s a good combination.”

Game plan for the finalé? 

“More of the same, get in the breaks, race aggressively.

That sounds good to us, Rab.

Bert "gives it laldy" on his TT rigg.
Bert “gives it laldy” on his TT rigg.

Meanwhile, over at Cinelli, things have been going swimmingly for the men in the black and white checks.

Two good days for you, Bert?

“Yes, we won two stages with Nicholas Walker.

“He was third today, he lost my wheel at a roundabout with two kilometres to go, but he can take care of himself in the finale.

“Today wasn’t perfect for him, he sprints best from a smaller group and the two finishes where he won were slightly uphill. He’s the brother of William Walker, the Rabobank pro.”

Wilkinson cracked?

“Yes, he lost it on the Connor Pass; I think perhaps it was the fatigue of having to defend the yellow jersey for three days.

“Without that stress, I think he would have been OK.”

It looks like Richardson will win.

“I think so, the last two stages are not so hard and he has a good team around him.

“I know Kristian House from his racing in Belgium and in the Tour of Britain.”

Nico Mattan (manager) will be happy with the stage wins.

“Yes, he’s not on this race but keeps in touch; these stage wins are very good for the team.”

And is Frank Vandenbroucke still racing for you?

“Yes; he’s good – he was racing in Belgium on Thursday.”

Frank Vandenbrouck has ridden for a few teams in his career, and is with Cinelli this year.
Frank Vandenbrouck has ridden for a few teams in his career, and is with Cinelli this year.

How are you enjoying your new Cinelli bike?

“I really like it; it’s custom made for me.

“Not a lot of the carbon builders can do that, but Cinelli get their own carbon tubes from Columbus and can build you a custom frame in 10 days.”

You’re still fourth on GC?

“Yes, but I am travelling home tonight – family reasons.

“It has been a good race for us, we’ve won two stages and I think that Nicholas Walker can win another.

“My condition has certainly benefited from six days of hard racing at high average speeds.”

It’s down to Rab then, to give us the low down on those last stages. A big “thank you” to both riders for their time.