Tour of Ireland 2008 – Stage 5

CYCLING-Marco Pinotti the 32-year-old Italian riding for Team Columbia, left it late to launch a bid for overall glory in the Tour of Ireland yesterday.

On the final ascent of Cork’s famed St Patrick’s Hill, Pinotti bolted away from overnight leader Russell Downing, whom he trailed by 15 seconds leaving Killarney on the final stage. Calling on his vast experience and proven form – he won the final stage of the Giro d’Italia this year – Pinotti pedalled like fury for the final 12km as he wore down Downing’s advantage and became race leader on the road.

At the finish, Pinotti had put over half a minute into Downing to finish third on the stage and snatch the yellow jersey as Tour winner by a slender 19 seconds – the blink of an eye after 900 kilometres of cut and thrust racing.

Pinotti had been a loyal lieutenant for Manx machine Mark Cavendish who sprinted to victory for the first three stages of the race. But the complexion of the race changed on the roads to Dingle on Saturday where the Manxman lost his way over the Conor Pass and Mount Eagle to slip out contention.

As Cavendish capitulated, unheralded Downing of Pinarelo CandiTV took the stage honours in Dingle and, with it, the golden fleece of race leader. For most of the final 144km stage to Cork, Downing covered the bases as his rivals, all bunched close behind up on general classification, tested his strength.

And then, just when it seemed as if Downing had done enough, Pinotti took a calculated gamble on St Patrick’s Hill that paid a rich dividend. Yet again, Team Columbia illustrated their strength on the final leg of a hugely successful Tour.

Measuring the opposition, they allowed the Czech Frantisek Rabon a free hand to move ahead after Baile Bhuine. Rabon was partnered by Ilya Chemietskily (Tinkoff Systems), Mauro Richeze (CSF Group Navigare) and Fredrik Ericsson (Pezula Racing), who kept clear of the bunch that was being patrolled by an increasingly wary Pinarelo CandiTV team.

The leading quartet held their advantage until they arrived into the streets of Cork where, after one lap, Rabon and Ericsson were left in front.

The duo continued their private duel before Rabon grabbed stage honours. Once again, it was a great day for Team Columbia who ended up with four stage wins and overall victory.

While he joined in the celebrations at the finish, Cavendish was caught out by St Patrick’s Hill and climbed off with one lap to go, just as his colleague Pinotti was making his decisive push for glory.

Roger Aiken of the Irish National proved best in 22nd position overall. Fair play to him as he has a regular job outside the professional regime.

Overall were very pleased and promised that they would build on this year’s event.

1 F. Rabon (Team Columbia), 3hrs.27mins.4secs;

2 F. Ericsson (Team Pezula), @15secs;

3 M. Pinnoti (Team Columbia), @1.04;

4 R. Downing (Pinarello CandiTV), @1.37;

5 L. Nordhaug (Joker Bianchi Team), @st;

6 J. Dean (Garmin Chipotle H30), st;

7 M. Barry (Team Columbia), st;

8 S. Clarke (South Australia.com/AIS), @1.40;

9 M. Graziato (Tinkoff-Credit Systems), st;

10 M. Wilson (Team Type 1), st.

20 R. Aiken (Ireland), @1.59.

Final Overall:

1 Pinnoti, 21.43.16;

2 Downing, @19;

3 Dean, @21;

4 Wilson,. @33;

5 Barry, @36;

6 Clarke, @37;

7 Nordhaug, st;

8 G. Rabunal (Karpin Galicia Cycling Team), @38;

9 N. Maes (Topsport Vlaanderen), @44;

10 K. Evans (MTN Energade), st.

22 Aiken, @6.09.

Team-Team Columbia. Under 25-Clarke. Mountains-Wilson.

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