An Englishman, an Irishman and a Scotsman fought out the finish of stage two of the FBD Insurance Ras in Claremorris this afternoon.
The Irishman, Stephen Gallagher of the squad with the longest name in cycling (An Post-M Donnelly-Grant Thornton-Sean Kelly) took the yellow jersey. The Englishman, Dean Downing (Stena-Rapha-Condor-Recycling) won the stage and took the green jersey as leader of the points competition. The Scotsman, Plowman Craven?s Evan Oliphant may have ended the day empty-handed but he?s given his chances of mounting an overall challenge the world of good and will be one to watch for the remainder of the week.
Downing, though, is not dreaming of the yellow jersey just yet, despite being only a couple of seconds behind Gallagher.
He was in the thick of the action all day and made the decisive 14-man break that went clear around 100 kilometres into the stage. Also in it was his team-mate Rob Partridge.
?I am really happy to have won it,? he said. ?It?s a pretty big win for me and the team. I came here wanting to win a stage and from looking at the route beforehand I knew the stages get harder as the week goes on. I wanted to get one as quickly as possible and then build from there.
?It couldn?t have gone better. The three of us [Downing, Oliphant and Gallagher] went clear with about six kilometres to go. Evan started it, I went across then Gallagher came. As soon as we got the gap we all worked really well together. Gallagher was the leader on the road and knew he would get the jersey so he wanted to work. Me and Evan put our team rivalries to one side and worked too.
?I attacked with two kilometres to go but they got me back. From then on I was waiting for the sprint. With about 500 metres to go Evan looked back and saw the remainder of the break catching us. That?s what made him lead out from so far out. To be honest, if I?d looked back and seen them coming I?d have done the same so I?m glad I didn?t have a look.?
Downing is close enough to Gallagher overall that victory in a time bonus sprint could give him the yellow jersey. That, though, is not on his mind at the moment.
?I am not renowned as a stage race rider so I?m in a bit of unknown territory here. We?ll have to see how we go as the days go by. It?s definitely not a bad position to be in but as the week goes on me may have better options. We?ll have to study the results and see how far Kristian [House] and Chris [Newton] are.?