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Ireland’s Darren Rafferty on the way to the stage 3 TT win in Ronde sud Bourgogne on Saturday afternoon. He went on and won the final road stage yesterday, sealing the overall win and the climbers’ classification (Photo with thanks to Olivier Pellerin)

Irish junior rider Darren Rafferty put in a dominant performance in France at the weekend, winning two stages and the overall at Ronde sud Bourgogne.

He made sure of winning the four-stage race overall by going on a 42km solo breakaway on yesterday’s final stage; winning the stage and taking the final yellow jersey. He had also won Saturday’s stage 3 TT.

The 18-year-old’s latest wins come
just a week after he claimed overall victory in the Tour du
Carmausin-Ségala stage race; his first outing since moving to France in recent
weeks to take up his place with Team 31 Jolly Cycles U19.

The four-stage Ronde sud Bourgogne began last Friday and was held in the Saône-et-Loire department in the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region of central-eastern France.

How the race was won

Guaranteed Irish: Darren Rafferty has been money in the bank for his Team 31 Jolly Cycles U19 squad. Above, winning the final stage solo yesterday and clinching the overall victory in the process (Photo with thanks to Phillipe Monperus)

On the opening stage of the race last Friday – some 114.8km – a breakaway got clear and the four riders who pressed on from that escape gained 1:20 on a nine-man chasing group.

Nicolas Aulas (VC Villefranche Beaujolais) took the stage in a four-up sprint from
Louis Sparfel (U19 Cycling Project) and
Moritz Kärsten (Team Wipotec RLP). Rafferty
was in the chasing group at 1:20 and claimed 10th on that opening stage.

On Saturday morning the riders tackled stage 2, a road
race over 79km, which finished in a bunch sprint won by Victor Dréano (OC

That afternoon,
stage 3 was a 15.9km TT; perfectly suited to Rafferty as he has just broken the
Irish junior record for the 16km TT.

The Irishman blitzed the test; winning in a time of 19:55, some 17 seconds up on runner-up Moritz Kärsten (Team Wipotec RLP), with Thomas Muller (Pays de Savoie) placing 3rd at 45 seconds.

Top Form: Darren Rafferty has really hit the ground running, with five wins now under his belt including two GC victories in the only two races he has ridden in France so far Team 31 Jolly Cycles U19

That result meant
Rafferty was up in 3rd overall, some 1:03 down on yellow jersey Kärsten and 45
seconds down on the rider in 2nd place overall, Yanis-Eric Markwalder
(Cantonale Suisse).

Kärsten is a
German junior international road rider who was 3rd on the opening stage after
making the breakaway and was also 2nd to Rafferty in the TT. Given Kärsten’s
strength over the first three stages, Rafferty had a mountain to climb to pull back
1:03 on him on yesterday’s final stage.

Meanwhile, Markwalder in 2nd place going into the final
stage is a Swiss international road rider and even overhauling him to the tune
of 45 seconds looked like a tough challenge in itself for Rafferty.

But the Irish teenager showed no fear – and very
considerable class – on that 122km final stage yesterday.

Rafferty only arrived in France at the end of last month after being forced off the bike for six weeks due to a racing crash in Ireland in mid May. Since he arrived in France he has taken six wins – the TTT stage and overall at Tour du Carmausin-Ségala, the junior TTT round of the French Cup (above) and now the overall and two stages at Ronde sud Bourgogne

Rafferty went on the attack and got clear in a seven-man breakaway that went on to put three minutes into the remains of the main field. However, the Irish rider only hung around in that breakaway for about 20km as he attacked solo with just over 40km to go.

He pulled out a gap and spent the rest of the stage on his own; winning the day by 27 seconds from the rest of the breakaway men.

Yellow jersey Kärsten put up a good fight from behind;
attacking the main field and setting off in pursuit of the breakaway. Kärsten
eventually finished 8th on the stage some 2:12 down on Rafferty.

In the final
general classification, Rafferty won the overall by one minute from Louis
Sparfel (U19 Cycling Project), who was
in the breakaway on the opening stage and was also in the escape with Rafferty
yesterday. Kärsten ended the race in 3rd overall, some 1:09 down.

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