Stage 2 of the Tour of Ireland 2009 made me happy. The 196k from Clonmel to Killarney had a few difficult climbs in it. On paper it looked sporting enough. But when two riders were ‘allowed’ to clear off early on, and get 9 minutes- the world somehow knew it would come down to a gallop. The use of GPS and onboard computers in team cars have left small breakaways chances – screwed. Sprinters got ready with 100km to go. To quell everyone’s simmering anticipation and to destroy the conventional race report – Cav did it. Sure why wouldn’t he?
At the first kilometre mark, Mark Cassidy (An Post /Sean Kelly) marking his home territory, attacked hard after the flurry of early gear changes and disappeared off the front. He was viewed by simple bunch apathy. Only Dennis Van Winden Rabobank went after the young Irish pro. The two riders did bit and bit over hill and dale while the peloton had a season ending chat. For 90 Km the Irish and Dutch escape, did a televised interval. Giving everything, everything they had and the bunch did well, tempo. 32kph while chatting about ‘Americas got talent’ or the new Dura Ace electronic shifting. Something to pass the time. Until a point.
And this ‘point’ really annoys me. It is a point when the team managers do the math and decide the break needs to be reeled in. Depending on the relief of the course to the finish they allow 10 –30 seconds per kilometre. They work out on their Garmins when the break has to brought back and strip the racing from the riders. The machines and the race radios reduce the team domestique efforts to that of a machine. A brainless bike rider that has to ride hard, as hard as the computer says he must. Not the dream of a professional rider. It has gotten to a ‘point’, where experienced riders don’t attack any more. If they are happy in their contract and not needing any exposure, 'Sure, I may as well spend the day in the bunch until the real race begins – in the final hour when the radios shout ”charge.”'
On Musheramore, the second climb of the day Cassidy was dropped by Van Winden, but their lead was already down to 5:45. On and down and dwindling went the gap. For 174 Km the break was out front, mighty effort. Really deserving congratulations; it just felt, looked, and, sadly eventually was pointless. Today, it felt that they may as well be 9 seconds ahead, the inevitable occurred with Saxo Bank charging at the front with 15Km left. Then, it was Astana lining it out. The press car was in different degrees of consternation as to why this effort was expended for Lance’s pawns.
Finally, this week's Columbia team kit took the lead with 5Km to go. Last year's winner Marco Pinotti did an amazing turn and with one thousand metres and Cav in third place, I started writing the results. Who could ever challenge the Manx missile? Six stages in the Tour, anyone- anyone? What about Russell Downing? O yes. Glorified the yellow jersey by leading out at 400m. He drew level to Cav and my heart thought: What if? A second of “go Russell!” before young Cavendish hit the thrusters and win number 21 for the year. With ease and beauty he crossed the line and it made me happy. Normally I love to see a neo pro get a victory and assure another few years in the peloton. Another win won't change Cav’s reputation- but my God he is a pleasure to witness.
Tomorrow stage is 185 km. Every pedal turn, one closer to the famous and as steep as a wall: St Patrick’s hill in Cork. This one in four climb will decide the winner. I walked up it tonight carrying a bottle of wine and much expectation. The race is still open, 25 riders could win and the race whispers are Lance wants it!
1) Mark Cavendish (GBr) Team Columbia – HTC 5:07:33 2) Michael Van Staeyen (Bel) Rabobank Continental 3) Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Team Saxo Bank 4) Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Joker Bianchi 5) Steven Van Vooren (Bel) An Post Sean Kelly Team 6) Martin Reimer (Ger) Cervélo Test Team 7) Ian Wilkinson (GBr) Team Halfords 8) Christoff Van Heerden (RSA) MTN Cycling 9) Pierpaolo De Negri (Ita) ISD - Neri 10) Juan Van Heerden (RSA) MTN Cycling 11) Ramon Sinkeldam (Ned) Rabobank Continental 12) Martin Kohler (Swi) BMC Racing Team 13) Antonio Cruz (USA) BMC Racing Team 14) Kenny Lisabeth (Bel) An Post Sean Kelly Team 15) Sam Bennett (Irl) Irish National Team 16) Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Astana 17) Russell Downing (GBr) Candi TV - Marshalls Pasta 18) Michael Matthews (Aus) Australian National Team 19) Andrey Grivko (Ukr) ISD - Neri 20) Dean Downing (GBr) Rapha Condor Cycling Team
1) Russell Downing (GBr) Candi TV - Marshalls Pasta 10:18:00 2) Alexander Kolobnev (Rus) Team Saxo Bank 0:00:05 3) Matti Breschel (Den) Team Saxo Bank 0:00:07 4) Philip Deignan (Irl) Cervélo Test Team0:00:10 5) Marco Pinotti (Ita) Team Columbia – HTC 0:00:11 6) Haimar Zubeldia (Spa) Astana 7) Frederik Wilman (Nor) Joker Bianchi 8) Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Team Saxo Bank 0:00:17 9) Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Team Saxo Bank 0:00:22 10) Andrey Grivko (Ukr) ISD – Neri 0:00:23 11) Daniel Lloyd (GBr) Cervélo Test Team 0:00:25 12) Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Rabobank Continental 0:00:26 13) Denys Kostyuk (Ukr) ISD - Neri 14) Lars Petter Nordhaug (Nor) Joker Bianchi 15) Craig Lewis (USA) Team Columbia - HTC 16) Mathias Frank (Swi) BMC Racing Team 17) Igor Abakoumov (Bel) ISD - Neri 18) Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Astana 19) Florian Stalder (Swi) BMC Racing Team 20) Lance Armstrong (USA) Astana 21) Karsten Kroon (Ned) Team Saxo Bank 22) Gabriel Rasch (Nor) Cervélo Test Team 23) Mark Cavendish (GBr) Team Columbia – HTC 0:02:12 24) Dennis Van Winden (Ned) Rabobank Continental 0:02:14 25) Michael Van Staeyen (Bel) Rabobank Continental 0:02:16
myles mc corry