Just ahead of a thunderstorm erupting, Jan Sokol was first into Charleville and across the finishing line at the Post Office on the main street on Tuesday afternoon at the end of the 154km Stage 3 An Post Rás which had set out from Lisdoonvarna that morning.

Crowds lined the streets of Charleville to greet the riders at the end of a gruelling stage that had come through Hospital and Kilmallock en route to the finish and overnight stop in Charleville.

In a high powered international field, two Irishmen, Roger Aiken from County Down in fourth and Damien Shaw, a member of the Aquablue squad, in eighth, were among the early riders to cross the finishing line.

At the end of stage 3, New Zealander Patrick Benin retained the race leader’s yellow jersey.

Charleville Chamber of Commerce and the local community rolled out the red carpet for the riders andentourage who stayed overnight in Charleville, bringing a huge economic boost to the town.

Stage 4 of the Rás left Charleville on Wednesday morning and travelled through Newtownshandrum and Dromcollogher en route to the stage end in Caherciveen.