Invercargill cyclist Pieter Bulling moved into contention for the Under-23 podium after a strong performance in stage six of the An Post Ras Tour of Ireland.
Bulling and fellow BikeNZ-Pure Black Racing Under-23 teammate Taylor Gunman finished in a select lead group after the gruelling 134km stage from Bunrana to the west coast fishing port of Killybegs, which featured with several category one and two climbs.
Yellow jersey holder Nicolas Baldo (FRA, Atlas Jakroo) rode clear with a late attack to win the stage from a 30-strong bunch just 10 seconds back where the kiwis were prominent, finishing 11th and 12th respectively in the sprint finish.
Bulling has now moved to third on overall classification in the Under-23 class, 5:08 off the leader Richard Handley and is 27th overall at 5:26 down on the leader. He gained six places in the under-23 today, while Gunman is seventh in the under-23 race and 36th overall.
The summer turned out in force today with temperatures topping at 30C deg which added to the challenge of the telling climbs, with the field splintered after a fast first hour covering 48kms followed by a tough category two ascent.
Southland’s Cameron Karwowski lost time with a mechanical issue, requiring a bike change, and was supported by Scott Creighton while Bulling and Gunman rode powerfully to go with the select group that went clear off the front
Bulling dropped off the group with 15kms to go but after 10kms of hard solo riding, he managed to ride back on to the peloton and received a lead-out from Gunman in the sprint. The kiwis were later relegated to outside the top 10 but enjoyed a strong performance.
Meanwhile Auckland’s Dion Smith, who broke his wrist and radius in a stage 3 crash, joined coach Daniel Healey in the team car today following recovery from surgery.
Tomorrow’s penultimate stage is 161kms from Donegal moving south and inland towards Dublin to finish at Cootehill featuring two categorised climbs.
Results An Post Ras Tour of Ireland Stage 6, Buncrana to Killybegs, 134km: Nicolas Baldo (FRA, Atlas Jakroo) 3:06.44, 1; Krister Hagen (NOR) at 10sec, 2; Adam Armstrong (IRL) same time 3. Also New Zealanders: Piet Bulling st 11; Taylor Gunman st 12; Scott Creighton at 13:18, 74; Cameron Karwowski, st 75.
Overall classification after 6 stages: Baldo 19:26.28, 1; Thomas Rostollan (FRA, Aix En Provence) at 13sec, 2; Martin Hunal (CZE, AC Sparta) at 17s, 3. Also New Zealanders: Bulling at 5:26, 27; Gunman at 9:56, 36; Creighton at 21.37, 53; Karwowski at 21.45, 54.
Under-23: Richard Handley (GBR) 19:26.46, 1; Lasse Hansen (DEN) at 4:30, 2; Bulling at 5:08, 3. Also: Gunman at 9:38, 7.