Russell Downing (CandiTV) won stage one of the Tour of Ireland in Waterford on Friday with another clever move and another powerful sprint.
Downing was the only British based rider to make the final selection when Saxo Bank and Astana split the race on the final climb, 40km from the finish.
Lance Armstrong was there with three team mates, while Stuart O’Grady, Alexander Kolobnev, Matti Breschel and Jakob Fuglsang were there for Saxo Bank. Britain’s Dan Lloyd was there for Cervelo, with others from ISD, BMC and Joker Bianchi.
It was a high-quality attack and Downing showed his form and ability by being up there with them.
After that first selection, a group of seven then escaped with four kilometers to go. Downing initially missed it but jumped across alone. Saxo Bank tried to lead out the sprint but Downing went with four hundred metres to go and blew past them.
Candi TV manager Phil Griffiths was overjoyed with Downing’s big win, as was experienced team mate Malcolm Elliot. Downing had proved yet again that he has the ability to take on and beat the best in the sport.
Lance Armstrong finished 23rd at the back of the breakaway. Despite Johan Bruyneel’s claims that Armstrong would not be riding at the front of the race, the Texan made the selection but admitted he had suffered in the twisting Irish lanes.
Mark Cavendish won in Waterford last year but the attack ruined his chances and he was 68th in the main bunch at 2-12.
The stage started fast with a major attack on the first climb but then settled down as South Africa’s Jay Thomson (MTN) spent much of the day off the front of the peloton. He had six minute lead at the start of Mount Leinster, after 108km, but was caught when the race exploded on the last
Downing pulled on the leader’s yellow jersey thanks to winning the opening stage. He leads Kolobnev by five seconds, with Breschel third at seven seconds.
Downing won stage four at last year’s Tour of Ireland but lost the race on the final day when Marco Pinotti (Columbia) attacked alone.
This year’s race is only three days long and again ends in Cork on a circuit including the steep St Patrick Hill climb.
Saturday’s 196km stage is from Clonmel to Killarney.
Tour of Ireland stage one: Enniskerry-Waterford
1. Russell Downing (GBr) CandiTV Marshall’s Pasta 196km
2. Alexandr Kolobnev (Rus) Saxo Bank at two secs
3. Matti Breschel (Den) Saxo Bank
4. Philip Deignan (Irl) Cervélo TestTeam
5. Haimar Zubeldia (Spa) Astana
6. Marco Pinotti (Ita) Columbia-HTC
7. Frederik Wilman (Joker Bianchi)
8. Oleksandr Kvachuk (ISD) all same time
9. Jakob Fugslang (Saxo Bank) at seven secs
10. Denys Kostyuk (ISD) at 16 secs
23. Lance Armstrong (Astana) at same time.