After jumping away over the top of the iconic St Patrick?s Hill in Cork, Stijn Vandenbergh won the opening stage of the re-launched Tour of Ireland yesterday.
The 23 year old Belgian who rides for the troubled Unibet.com team crossed the line with 14 seconds to spare over T-Mobile?s Aaron Olson. Wesley Sulzberger (South Australia.com) led in the rest of the day?s main break a further second back.
Warm and sunny conditions greeted the return of the Irish national tour which was last run in 1992.
After a steady roll-out from the start in Kilkenny, the route paid tribute to the heroes of yesteryear with a sprint in Sean Kelly?s hometown of Carrick on Suir.
Meanwhile, Stephen Roche?s son Nicholas became the first abandon of the race, citing a ?skin rash? (read troublesome saddle sore) as his reason.
The winning ten man move formed around the 65km mark and then stretched open its lead on the 7.5km climb of The Vee.
Coming onto two four kilometre circuits based on St Patrick?s Hill near the finish, the ten leaders were still together. Marcus Ljungqvist (CSC) then launched an attack on the steep one in five slopes but was brought back over the top.
On the following lap, the group remained intact on the climb until Vandenbergh launched his well timed move on the false flat with 4km to go. As the chasers hesitated, he prised open his advantage and, once he?d turned off the circuit, defended it to the line in Cork city centre. It was his first professional victory.
Courtesy of his time bonus for winning the stage Vandenbergh now leads the race overall by 21 seconds from Olsen. With the rest of the bunch finishing over 13 minutes back, only the top ten finishers of yesterday?s stage remain in realistic contention for the overall.
Today?s stage traces a lumpy 166km along the southwest coast of Ireland from Clonakilty to Killarney. Climbs include the first category Healy Pass and second cat Moll?s Gap.
Tour of Ireland Stage 1: Kilkenny ? Cork
1 Stijn Vandenbergh (Bel) Unibet.com 174km in 4-02-03
2 Aaron Olson (USA) T-Mobile at 14sec
3 Wesley Sulzberger (Aus) South Australia.com-AIS at 15sec
4 Gabriel Rasch (Nor) Team Maxbo-Bianchi at same time
5 Pieter Jacobs (Bel) Unibet.com at st
6 Roger Beuchat (Swi) Team LPR at st
7 Valeriy Kobzarenko (Ukr) Navigators Insurance at st
8 Craig Lewis (USA) Team Slipstream at st
9 Marcus Ljungqvist (Swe) Team CSC at st
10 Glenn Bak (Den) Murphy and Gunn at 32sec
Points competition: Aaron Olson
King of the Mountains: Roger Beuchat