A mass pile up in the final hour of racing in the Tour of Ireland?s stage three saw Columbia?s Mark Cavendish injured – before going on to win his third consecutive stage.
The 23-year-old hit the deck on the rain-soaked descent of the final climb of the day, the Keeagh, hurting his right hip and scraping his side.
?We were all lined out after going over the top of the climb and then suddenly ahead of us on the descent, there were guys all over the road, somebody must have crashed,? Cavendish told Cycling Weekly.
?[Team-mate] Adam Hansen went into them, I went into him and the next thing I knew I was on the ground.?
?I slid and landed finally five metres further down than my bike.?
His right hip took the brunt of the crash which came just as Garmin-Chipotle were powering things up on the front, but hard work by his team-mates brought him back into contention for the finish in Galway.
?We brought back the main group with ten kilometres to go and then it was a question of winning. After everything that happened and the work they?d done, I had to really.?
Cavendish has not ruled out a visit to hospital to get a check-up.
?I think I?m ok, although my hip hurts a lot. I?m more worried about the guys that went straight to hospital from the crash, like my team-mate Adam Hansen. I just hope they?re ok.?
Bernardo Riccio (Tinkoff) was the best of the rest in second, with Julian Dean (Garmin-Chipotle) in third.
Unsurprisingly, Cavendish leads the race overall. Dean is second, 20 seconds adrift of Cavendish, with Alexander Kristoff (Joker-Bianchi) a further five seconds back.
The Galway town of Ballinrobe played host to the start of the Tour of Ireland’s longest stage this morning. At 201 kilometres, the testing stage three took in some of the most dramatic and rugged landscape seen so far in the race. From Ballinrobe the race looped round the west side of Lough Mask having taken in the category two Finney climb before heading north to the coast at Westport and then start to head south taking in three more categorised climbs before the seafront finish in Galway.
It was after around 25kms of the stage that Kurt Hovelijnck (Topsport Vlaanderen) and Kieran Page (Pezula) managed to break away from the pack to gain a maximum advantage of nearly four minutes. By the 100km mark, Hovelijnck had tired and had drifted back to the pack leaving Page to soldier on alone into the Galway mist. Although having almost five minutes advantage at one point, his efforts were snuffed out before the Maumturk climb as Team Columbia headed the pace of the chasing pack as in the previous days.
After Maumturk it was Dan Lloyd (An Post Sean Kelly Team) and Simon Clarke (SouthAustarlia.com) that slipped off the front to take a maximum advantage of around three minutes before being caught on the descent to the coast after the Cat 2 Keeagh climb.
It was on the descent of this climb, with just 30kms to the finish, that saw a nasty crash involving race leader Cavendish and several other riders coming down. Cavendish’s team mate Adam Hansen was one of them and had to retire from the race with shoulder and arm injuries.
Ben Greenwood (Rapha-Condor-Recycling) also found himself on the deck but continued to the finish with a badly swollen ankle and foot. He was taken to a local hospital to be checked out after the stage.
Cavendish and his team mates were able to regroup and control the peloton for the fast closing kilometres in to Galway. Their efforts were rewarded with a beaming Cavendish comfortably taking his third consecutive stage victory from Riccio and Dean.
TOUR OF IRELAND 2008: STAGE THREE RESULTS
1. Mark Cavendish (GB) Columbia 201km in 4h 57min 1sec
2. Bernardo Riccio (Ita) Tinkoff
3. Julian Dean (NZ) Garmin-Chipotle
4. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Joker-Bianchi
5. Kenny De Haes (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen
6. Kenny Lisabett (Bel) An Post-Sean Kelly
7. Ciaran Power (Irl) Pezula
8. Ruben Bongiorno (Arg) CSF Group Navigare
9. Boy Van Poppel (Ned) Rabobank
10. Michael Van Staeyen (Bel) Rabobank all same time.
OVERALL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE THREE
1. Mark Cavendish (GB) Columbia in 13h 54min 42secs
2. Julian Dean (NZ) Garmin-Chipotle at 20secs
3. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Joker-Bianchi at 25secs
4. Kurt Hovelijnck (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen at 29secs
5. Max Richeze (Arg) CSF Group Navigare at 30secs
6. Daniel Lloyd (GB) An Post-Sean Kelly at 31secs
7. Matt Wilson (Aus) Team Type 1 at same time
8. Russell Downing (GB) Pinarello-Canditv at 32secs
9. Simon Clarke (Aus) SouthAustralia.com-AIS at same time
10. Juan van Heerden (RSA) MTN Energade at 33secs
Dean Downing finds time for a cake
Kurt Hovelijink and Kieran Page on a break
Mark Cavendish and Dean Downing (r)
Adam Hansen crashes out of the race
Mark Cavendish celebrates taking his hat-trick of stage wins
Cav meets the press
Photos by Andy Jones