There was little joy for BIKE Channel Canyon as James Gullen rode into yellow on a scorching fifth stage of the An Post Ras.
Alex Richardson, Mitchell Webber, George Atkins and Dexter Gardias all finished in the peloton, 9min 22sec down on stage winner Regan Gough, of An Post Chain Reaction.
Earlier, Max Stedman had not taken the start line after suffering with fever overnight, while Gardias was second over the day’s categorised climbs of Anny Far and Ballymastocker.
As temperatures soared, Gough then escaped in a decisive move of six, which also included former Orica GreenEdge rider Cameron Meyer, along with the JLT Condor duo of Gullen and Ed Laverack.
And despite a chase group of eight forming, they remained clear until the finish in Dungloe where Gough outsprinted Meyer, with Daan Meijers, of Delta Cycling Rotterdam, a second adrift in third.
Gullen was a further six seconds adrift but, having distanced his only general classification threat Ike Groen, also of Delta Cycling, the former Pedal Heaven man clinched the yellow jersey.
He now leads the race by 1.05 from Groen, with Meyer third at 2.35. Troels Vinther, of Riwal Platform, is fourth but he trails Gullen by 4.35 after finishing in the chase group.
BIKE Channel Canyon’s Webber, who had started the day in 16th spot at 2.19, slipped six places to 22nd. He is now 11.35 behind the Lancaster-based leader.
Gardias, who had failed in a bid to join the chase group, moved up to third position in the mountains classification after scooping eight points on the day’s two climbs.
However, stage four winner Michael Storer took maximum points on each to extend his lead to nine points on Jake Sitler and 13 on Gardias.
Dennis Bakker, of Delta Cycling, held on to his points jersey. However, his team-mate Meijers closed the gap on him to just four points. Click here for the full results.
Stage six will put Gullen’s general classification hopes to the test with seven categorised climbs in a 132.1km battle from Dungloe to Donegal.