Tour of Ireland stage two photo gallery>>

Mark Cavendish (Columbia) has won his second consecutive stage of the Tour of Ireland today.

The Isle of Man sprinter again proved too strong for his rivals on stage two, crossing the line ahead of Michael Van Staeyen (Rabobank) in second.

Britain’s Russell Downing (Pinarello Canditv) came in fifth after yesterday’s seventh place.

Cavendish is now 13 seconds ahead of second placed Julian Dean (Garmin-Chipotle) in the overall classification.

Swedish time trial champion Frederick Ericsson (Pezula) launched a lone attack near the start of the day’s racing and quickly built up a lead of around six minutes. However, with the sprinters’ squads wanting to claw him back and force a bunch finish, Ericsson’s time out front was limited.

Cavendish’s Columbia team-mates then started driving the pace of the peloton hard, winding up the speed as the riders headed into Loughrea for the finale. Kristian House (Rapha-Condor-Recycling) had a dig along the way with a breakaway attempt, but he was promptly reeled in.

Cavendish had enough time to spare as he crossed the line to raise his arms in the air to celebrate his win – his 13th professional victory of the season.

With his number of professional career wins now totalling 24, Cavendish has moved up Cycling Weekly’s list of all-time British pro winners and lies equal third with Tom Simpson and David Millar. Only Malcolm Elliott (second) and Chris Boardman (first) are in front of him in our list.

Of course, Elliott could still add to his list of wins that – incredibly – started back in 1987. He came 13th on today’s stage.

1. Mark Cavendish (GB) Columbia 158km in 3 hours 57 mins 55 secs

2. Michael van Staeyen (Ned) Rabobank
3. Max Richeze (Arg) CSF Group Navigare
4. Kenny de Haes (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen
5. Russell Downing (GB) Pinarello Canditv
6. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Joker Bianchi
7. Zakkari Dempster (Aus)
8. Ciaran Power (Ire) Pezula
9. Boy Van Poppel (Ned) Rabobank
10. Nikolas Maes (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen all same time.

1. Mark Cavendish (GB) Columbia

2. Julian Dean (NZ) Garmin-Chipotle at 13secs
3. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Joker Bianchi at 14secs
4. Max Richeze (Arg) CSF Group Navigare at 19secs
5. Matthew Wilson (Aus) Type 1 Racing Team at 20secs
6. Juan Van Heerden (RSA) MTN Energade at 22secs
7. Russell Downing (GB) Pinarello Canditv at 23secs
8. Boy Van Poppel (Ned) Rabobank
9. Zakkari Dempster (Aus)
10. Nikolas Maes (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen

Tour of Ireland 2008On the start line in Thurles

Tour of Ireland 2008Bernhard Eisel descends at the head of the peloton

Tour of Ireland 2008Mark Cavendish wears the yellow leader’s jersey

Tour of Ireland 2008Mark Cavendish scores his second consecutive stage win

Tour of Ireland 2008Mark Cavendish after his second stage win

Photos by Andy Jones

Stage one report: Cavendish wins
Tour of Ireland stage one photo gallery
Tour of Ireland preview
Tour of Ireland start list