South African Keep takes over magenta jersey

Rás na mBan moved into County Laois today for the 104-kilometre Stage 3, with Emma Jeffers crossing the line in first place, ahead of teammate Monica Greenwood for a stunning one-two for Team DAS-handsling.

Yesterday’s stage winner Tiffany Keep of Hutchinson-Brother UK rounded out the podium in third, which was enough to move her into the lead of the Rás na mBan Overall Classification and the magenta jersey.

The longest stage of this year’s race started with a ceremonial presentation outside Laois County Council offices in Portlaoise, before riders headed for the Slieve Bloom Mountains and the challenging ascent of The Cut, followed by a fast run back to the finishing circuit around Mountrath.

An aggressive start to the day broke the pattern of the previous two stages, with multiple attacks seeing several riders going clear, only to be brought back by a bunch interested in keeping the race together.

The peloton remained together by the foot of the day’s only categorised climb, the fearsome 7.4 kilometre Category 1 ascent of The Cut, which riders took on in scorching temperatures with barely a breath of wind to cool them.

Team Dan Morrissey Primor by Pissei put three of their riders to work at the front of the bunch, setting a fierce pace for Best Irish Rider leader Linda Kelly. Team Boompods continued to be one of the most active teams in the race, subsequently taking over control to force splits in the peloton.

The high pace continued all the way to the summit, with a group of around 15 riders remaining at the head of the race, including Magenta Jersey Rixt Hoogland and all the other classification leaders.

First rider over the top of The Cut was Queen of the Mountains leader Manon de Boer of NWVG-uplus, extending her hold on the IVCA Wicklow 200 QoM classification. De Boer now holds a 17 point lead over Linda Kelly, with up to 19 points up for grabs in tomorrow’s three Stage 4 climbs.

A fast and furious descent towards the first passage through the line at Mountrath ensued, with the gently rolling 40 kilometres that followed providing an opportunity for distanced riders to regain contact.

With the lead group of 15 effectively sitting up, two chasing groups of around 20 and then 10 riders worked coherently to close the gap, leaving around 45 riders in contention for the stage with 25 kilometres to go.

Another flurry of late attacks were shut down inside the final 10 kilometres, setting up a hotly contested sprint finale, with British rider Emma Jeffers just pipping her teammate Monica Greenwood to the line for the victory. Jeffers will get to wear the Just Print Stage Winners jersey for tomorrow’s Stage 4.

In the overall classification, Tiffany Keep’s consistency has been rewarded, moving her up one place in the standings and into the Magenta Jersey by virtue of countback on finishing positions over the first three stages. The South African swaps places with overnight leader Rixt Hoogland, who remains one of seven rider’s level on time at the top of the standings.

Keep’s second successive podium finish has also vaulted her to the top of the Cycling Ireland Points Classification, while Renée van Hout of Team Noord Holland retains the lead of the Sport Ireland Best Young Rider competition.

In the Kilkenny County Council Best Irish Rider Classification, Linda Kelly maintained control at the top of the standings and will start Stage 4 in the green jersey.

Tomorrow sees Rás na mBan head to Waterford for a highly anticipated first trip to the county, with riders taking on a 102 kilometre starting and finishing in Tramore, featuring three categorised climbs and plenty of scenic views.