Tour of Ireland 2008 – Stage 2

CYCLING-Another gruelling day through the Irish countryside and another tour de force from sprint king Mark Cavendish.

The Isle of Man competitor and four times Tour de France stage winner has carved a niche for himself  in the Irish equivalent with stage  victory number two after yesterday’s cycle from Thurles to Loughrea over 158kms. Not since Sean Kelly in his prime has a sprinter dominated the Irish roads like Cavendish who stole the thunder to strengthen his grip on the leader’s jersey.

Pictures by John Pierce, PhotoSport International:

If it was about Cavendish at the line, spare a thought for gutsy Frederik Ericsson of the Irish-run Pezula team. The Swede soloed in front for all but 25kms of racing and claimed all the An Post sprints at ilvermines, Portumna and Loughrea before being snared.

Earlier, the Pezula colours were in evidence after leaving Thurles with Kieran Page, a former Martin Donnely Junior Tour winner stirred up the action before Ericsson made his escape from the main bunch after 12k.

As Chris Sutton (Garmin Chipotle) and Waylon Woolcock (MTN Energade) quit through illness, Erikisson stretched his advantage to over five minutes. At Silvermines, one of the pre-race favourites, Irish champion Daniel Martin (Garmin Chipotle) abandoned – by coincidence his cousin Nicolas Roche abandoned last year.
With the bunch showing a lack of interest in the Swede’s efforts, the margin grew to six minutes, despite a puncture between Dolla and Silvermines.

Eriksson duly took full advantage of the lucrative An Post Sprint primes to pocket a few useful euro for the Pezula team who have been taking over by David McQuaid but the hard grind started to its toll after Portumna when the wind became a factor.

Suddenly, the current Swedish time trial champion ran out of gas and the Pezula lone star raider was reeled in on the final 16km circuit of Loughrea He had led the stage on his own for over 130kms. A crash highlighted the intensity of the chase after which a counter attack was mounted by Kristian House a former winner of the FBD Ras, who broke away with 5kms left.

That was the cue for the Team Colombia blue train to hit the gears and provide the platform for Cavendish, the wonder boy of sprinting, to surge clear and claim his 15th success of the year. Whilst Cíaran Power was pleased with his team mate Eriksson’s performance, he can feel justifiably proud of his achievement being the first Irish man home in eight place. In the overall standings he is in 12th place at 23 seconds, behind
Cavendish who also leads in the under-25 category and the points.

Could he make it number three tomorrow as the race moves on from Ballinrobe to Galway with an anticipated arrival time of 14.30 in Seapoint.


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