Video: Nicolas Baldo hopes An Post Rás win will open doors, but says age could complicate things
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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Video: Nicolas Baldo hopes An Post Rás win will open doors, but says age could complicate things

by Shane Stokes at 7:07 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Interviews, Video
Bagdonas and Bennett talk about upcoming targets

Nicolas BaldoOverall winner of the An Post Rás on Sunday, Nicolas Baldo is hoping that victory in the 2.2 ranked race could lead on to a bigger contract for next season. However in savouring his victory, he said that he didn’t want to focus too much on that at this point in time.

The Atlas Jakroo rider won the Irish event by thirteen seconds, beating compatriot Thomas Rostollan (AVC Aix En Provence) to become the first-ever French winner in the race’s sixty year history.

It was his first UCI-ranked victory since he beat Peter Sagan to win a stage of the 2009 Giro del Friuli.

Asked if he believed that his stage win and overall success in the 2.2-ranked Irish event could lead on to a bigger contract, he was unsure because of his age. “I don’t know…I’m nearly 28, in France it’s already old,” he said after Sunday’s finish. “I don’t know what will happen, maybe it can open some doors, maybe not. I just want to appreciate this win today, I don’t want to think about the future [right] now.”

From the outside, Baldo’s victory looked self-assured, particularly after he soloed to a stage win in Killybegs one day after taking the yellow jersey on the gruelling Mamore Gap stage. However that evening he said that he wasn’t confident and that things were wide open.

“The closer we came to the finish [of the race], the more I was stressed, because you feel it’s possible, each day it’s more possible but you can also lose everything the last day,” he said. “So I was really nervous this morning, but my team mate has a lot of experience, they were big support for me and the team was so strong that I just had to follow them and it was okay.”

Defending champion Gedimias Bagdonas couldn’t repeat his success this time round, finishing 33 seconds off the yellow jersey, but did pick up two stage wins plus the green jersey of points winner. After the finish the An Post Grant Thornton Sean Kelly rider disclosed that he had an injury during the race which prevented him from functioning at his top level.

“After I think the third stage, I had a crash and I had a little problem with my back,” he told VeloNation. “Things were blocked, and it was difficult for me to win the general.

“Every day I tried, but all teams worked together. I tried to attack but I was always caught. It is not so easy. All the teams know I am strong. I am happy to win two stages and the points jersey, I think it’s very good for the team.”

Bagdonas had a very strong season last year, taking victories such as a stage win in the Tour of Britain plus the overall classification in the An Post Rás and the Ronde de l’Oise.

His next targets include the defence of the latter title, plus the Ronde van het Mergelland/Limburg Classic and the Lithuanian championships. He might also compete in the Olympic Games.

“Last year I tried this track [Olympic course – ed.]. I think this race is good for me. The climb is not so big and I think it’s possible to come in a sprint. I am not really fast but I have power.”

Getting a big contract remains a priority. Last year Bagdonas negotiated a contract with the Geox TMC team and looked set to step up to the WorldTour or Pro Continental level, but the team collapsed after the sponsor suddenly walked away. He’ll focus on clocking up more good results, knowing that this will raise his chances of a good deal for 2013.

Young Irish rider Sam Bennett finished second to team-mate Bagdonas on the final stage and was also third on stage seven. However he could have taken at least one stage win; the team didn’t realise that two riders were clear towards the end of stage seven and didn’t chase. Bennett crossed the line with his arms aloft, then realised he was third, not first.

General manager Kurt Bogaerts said the tactic for the final stage was that Bagdonas would lead out the sprint and that Bennett could try to come by; the Irishman was quicker in the final 100 metres, but didn’t kick in time.

“I felt pretty good. Coming in we were trying to get first and second, but I was hoping it would be the other way around,” he told VeloNation. “I was a bit too confident and left it a bit too late, waited till a hundred metres to go and just ran out of the road in the end. But we did what we needed to do, we got the green jersey. That’s what we wanted to get, that was our aim for today, then trying to get the stage win also, so job well done. I’m happy with today.”

Still just 21 years of age, he is continuing to learn a lot and to develop. His strength and finishing kick mark him out as one of the best young Irish riders. Bennett was sidelined with illness at the start of the year, but is now riding well and has upcoming targets.

“I have a top competition next week, an under 23 1.2, then I have a stage race after that,” he said. “I will try to recover for those.” Slightly further ahead, the national road race championships are a big ambition. He was best under 23 rider last year and, if this year’s race ends in a sprint, could be in line for a senior medal.

“They are near enough to my home town, and on my training roads, so I definitely want to do something there,” he said. “The Europeans and the worlds are on a good circuit for me, so I will definitely have a good cut at them.


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