Dillon Corkery takes Irish stage win in Rás Tailteann

French-based Corkman powered home at the head of the peloton in Monaghan

Dillon Corkery landed the first win for the home riders on Saturday’s penultimate stage of the Rás Tailteann, powering home at the head of the peloton in Monaghan. The French-based Corkman had a strong leadout from his Team Ireland squad on the uphill sprint to the cathedral, blasting home ahead of Kerry Group Rás Mumhan winner Finn Crockett (Derry: Foyle CC) and double stage victor Matthew Fox (UK: Wheelbase Cabtech Castelli).

The stage was the best showing yet for home riders, with Corkery winning and each place between fifth and seventh and ninth and 11th taken by Irish riders. Those others were Leo Doyle (Austria: ARBO Headstart ON-Fahrrad), Cormac Daly (USA: Good Guys Racing NYC), Jack Bernard Murphy (Ireland: Cycling Leinster), Patrick O’Loughlin (Team Ireland), Mark Dowling (Cork: All human-VeloRevolution) and Jamie Meehan (Cycling Ulster).

However it also saw the withdrawal of defending champion Daire Feeley (Cork: All Human/VeloRevolution) who was a non-starter due to concussion.

“We had a plan. We executed it perfectly,” Corkery said of his stage win. “It was just like it was a script. We knew what we needed to do. We looked at the road book the night before. We went on Google Maps, saw what the roads were like, what lines we needed to take, and the guys delivered me at the last two or three hundred metres. It was just a case of put the gas on for another 10 seconds and we had the win.”


Corkery’s win comes after three days of overseas victors and gives the Ireland team an important psychological boost heading into the final day. However stage one winner Conor McGoldrick (UK: Richardsons Trek DAS) remains in the driving seat, holding a four second lead over Dan Gardner (UK: Embark Spirit BSS) and a six second gap on Joe Laverick (Derry: Foyle CC).

The day was not without its dramas for him; inside the first hour of racing, 11 riders clipped away. Present were fifth-placed Dom Jackson (UK: Foran CCC), who had started the stage just 17 seconds back. Damien Clayton (UK: Embark Spirit BSS) was also a danger as he was 12th overall, 38 seconds behind.

Several Irish riders were also there, namely Odhran Doogan (Team Ireland), Marcus Christie (UK: Isle of Man), Darnell Moore (Cork: All human-VeloRevolution), Conor Halvey (Cycling Ulster) and Gareth O’Neill (UK: PB Performance).

This move opened up a lead of almost three minutes, making Jackson race leader on the road, but McGoldrick’s team gradually raised the pace and started hauling the break back.

The gap eventually fell to under 30 seconds, prompting Christie to attack. He put in a huge effort and extended his lead over the bunch to more than a minute, but was eventually reeled in with approximately 20 kilometres remaining.

There was further danger for the race leader as the rider in second overall, Dan Gardener (UK: Embark Spirit BSS), attacked. He had started the day just four seconds back and looked like he was heading for yellow when his lead increased to 17 seconds. The danger increased further when his team-mate Joe Wilson and Dom Jackson bridged across, giving him reinforcements, and while Wilson was subsequently dropped, Jacob Smith (UK: Wheelbase Cabtech Castelli) took his place.

However the trio were reeled in inside the final kilometre, with Corkery taking the uphill sprint to Monaghan cathedral.

McGoldrick is now just one stage away from winning the race. “Things were pretty nervous,” he admitted. “Fairly early on, about 40k in, a pretty decent size of a break went, 11 guys. There were only two guys who were really a worry for GC [general classification] so we kind of were happy to let the gap go out. It got to about three minutes and then we started riding. We rode it back, it was quite a chaotic final 40k. Things came together and we got the same time as the winner.”

The strength shown by McGoldrick and his team put him on solid ground heading into Sunday’s concluder. Asked if he was confident, he said that he wasn’t sure. “But the victory is within touching distance. We want it bad. It would be very, very special to win.”

Three Irish riders are inside the top 10 and will try to put him under pressure. Cormac McGeough (USA: Good Guys Racing NYC) is 14 second back in fourth, while Aaron Wade and Corkery (both Team Ireland) are sixth and seventh overall, 18 and 19 seconds behind.

Corkery said they will race aggressively. “The goal is to win again,” he said. “If we can take the yellow jersey it will be a bonus. We still have two guys within 20 seconds, myself and Aaron Wade. So that’s going to be the focus.

“The GC [general classification] is always the big thing, but if it comes down to it and everything is still together in the end, we can definitely win a gallop again tomorrow.”

Shane Stokes

Shane Stokes

Shane Stokes is a contributor to The Irish Times writing about cycling