Written by: Myles Mc Corry NUJ
There is an odd feeling about the Tour of Ireland (TOI) today. It is a feeling of inevitability. This morning when I looked at the race profile, I just couldn’t see the outcome being any different to yesterday. And the day before. Talking to Benny, the very colorful and competent mechanic with Columbia, we find out young mark Cavendish is feeling strong and relaxed. A major change from the post Tour whispers that he was getting “pi**ed off” with the expectations of him winning every flat stage he enters. Clearly, his speed and results from day one and two in the TOI, is only fueling the fire.
The 200km course started Ballinrobe in Sunshine and on time. In the first hour of hard racing there was numerous attacks until two riders go clear on the category two KOM at km 26 Kieran Page (Pezula Racing) and Kurt Hovelijnck (Topsport Vlaanderen). The two riders road hard sharing all the work and built up a maximum lead of three minutes 55 seconds.
Columbia’s 6 ‘other’ riders lead the peloton, riding tempo, focused on the job in hand with the bunch seemingly helpless to do anything else but follow. Mark Cavendish sat towards the back and talked to no one.
The team of the race so far has to be Pezula. They have had a rider up the road each day, on a mission to brake through the enemy lines and score a win. Unfortunately, the enemy is Team Columbia, and their army is strong. Pezula, formed by Irish Olympian David o’ Loughlin is out of cash after a fruitless visit to the Tour of China and this may be their final race. it goes to show what a team under pressure to perform can do!
The gap hovered until Hovelijnck stopped, off his bike and over the hedge and came back looking worse for wear. Obviously stomach problems. Page continued on his own, but it didn’t look good for the talented English climber. After another climb and a brake in coverage on race radio, we got word that the bunch had sat up and Page was over 5 minutes ahead of the leaders and in yellow on the road and the Columbia domination looked to be at an end. But by the Category 3 KOM at Leenáun, Page looked in trouble, shifting the gears and in and out of the saddle. 5 km later his legs fell off completely by 50 km to go he was caught. Such attacks are brave and must be commended, regardless of the outcome.
With the group together on the Category two climb of Keeagh, at 171km Simon Clarke (SouthAustralia.com/AIS) and Daniel Lloyd (An Post M. Donnelly Grant Thornton Sean Kelly) went clear and fast within 10 km they had nearly 3 mins and alarm bell started ringing and once again team Columbia did there thing. With Lloyd crashing hard with 20km to go the yellow jersey’s team charged on the twisty roads to the finish which nearly was to be their downfall as strong man Adam Hansen (Columbia) fell and with 10 others and took his leader and yellow jersey down. “I had to really ride to get back on” Cavendish spoke after his inevitable victory, even though things went very wrong. Cavendish got up off the grass and he did close the 12 second gap to the front 50 riders and with his lead out man Hansen, down with a broken collarbone, on the fast run in on the Galway coast Julian dean went first and Cav jumped onto the back of an illegally placed motorbike and make it three wins out of three and he did make the press officer of the event curse in doing so. Rushed into the drug testing to get the cut on his back seen to and away from the crowd of admiring fans. It’s all about CAV. But hills tomorrow!
The race finishes in Cork on Sunday after 950 km.