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Downing sprints into yellow in Ireland

Russell Downing of the British squad Pinarello CandiTV captured the race lead with a winning sprint on stage 4 of the Tour of Ireland. Downing took the kick from a 22-man group at the finish in Dingle, after Garmin-Chipotle’s David Millar shattered the field over the Cat. 1 Conor Pass. Downing started the day 32 seconds down on race leader Mark Cavendish. He took the lead through snatching time bonuses at the finish (10 seconds) and at the day’s first and last intermediate sprints (3 seconds a piece).

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By Ben Delaney

Downing is the first rider who <i>isn't</I> Mark Cavendish to take a stage this year.

Downing is the first rider who isn’t Mark Cavendish to take a stage this year.

Photo: Pete Goding

Russell Downing of the British squad Pinarello CandiTV captured the race lead with a winning sprint on stage 4 of the Tour of Ireland. Downing took the kick from a 22-man group at the finish in Dingle, after Garmin-Chipotle’s David Millar shattered the field over the Cat. 1 Conor Pass.

Downing started the day 32 seconds down on race leader Mark Cavendish. He took the lead through snatching time bonuses at the finish (10 seconds) and at the day’s first and last intermediate sprints (3 seconds a piece).

The break heads to Conor Pass.

The break heads to Conor Pass.

Photo: Ben Delaney

“On the run-in [to the finish] it was really fast, just attacks everywhere,” Downing said. “On the last corner, I hit a bit of gravel and had to [swing wide], which put me into eighth spot. I did a bit of a surge to get to the front, and they all swung right, so I took my opportunity and hit them quite early. It was a good 400-meter sprint. You get the feeling when there is no one around you. The win was there.”

Headed into the decisive final stage Sunday, 18 men sit within 18 seconds of the jersey.

Backstedt gets things rolling
Garmin-Chipotle’s Magnus Backstedt was very active, getting in multiple short-lived moves — a couple of them with Columbia’s Michael Barry — before forging the attack that stuck.

The constant attacking and counterattacking kept the pace high, with the race averaging 46kph in the first hour.

At 50km, Backstedt went clear with Graham Briggs (Rapha-Condor), who soon dropped off the pace and returned into the peloton. Wesley Sulzberger (AIS) and Peter Williams (Pinarello) bridged up. Behind, the yellow and red jerseys instigated a group nature break for the peloton, and the three-man move’s gap was ensured.

The trio built a maximum lead of five minutes over the sticky, porous roads. But that lead disintegrated on the windy run-up to Conor Pass, where the road climbed steeply up the exposed side of Caha Mountain.

On the way up Conor Pass.

On the way up Conor Pass.

Photo: Ben Delaney

Partway up Conor Pass, the summit of which came 46km from the finish, Millar took the front of went into time trial mode.

“Cav is going well,” Millar said. “The only way we were going to be able to get rid of him was to make it really hard. So we made it really hard.”

Cresting the summit, Millar’s group of 31 riders had a 15-second gap over the 17-man group containing race leader Cavendish. With his teammate Julian Dean in tow, Millar stayed on the gas down the hill. Although Millar himself was 34 second down on GC, Dean sat second, 20 seconds back.

Others realized the situation, made a quick pact, and went to work.

“As soon as we realized that Cavendish wasn’t there, I spoke with Julian Dean and Matt Wilson and agreed to stick it to Columbia,” said Simon Clark (SouthAustralia.com-AIS), who finished fourth on the day in the white jersey. “A guy from our team, Adam Semple, and a guy from Type 1 really drove it.”

The gap widening to 45 seconds. Then a minute. Cavendish talked to his team car, and the chase was called off. Up ahead, attacks started popping off left and right.

The final hurdle of the day was the Cat. 2 Mount Eagle, 15km from the finish. After selling out for Dean, Millar fell off the pace over Mount Eagle, as did a few other riders. His work was not in vain, though, as Dean finished safely in the front group, and now sits just two seconds out of the yellow jersey.

On the final climb of the day through a ford

On the final climb of the day through a ford

Photo: Pete Goding

Hell on St. Patrick’s Hill
With the battle for the overall lead still tight amongst 18 riders, the Tour of Ireland’s final stage into Cork should prove exciting. It will all come down to the fireworks on St. Patrick’s Hill, a 25-percent kicker in downtown Cork that riders must scale on each of four 17km finishing circuits. The finish comes 15km after the final ascension of the hill, however, so riders dropped the last time up potentially could regain the leaders.

The effects of the hill, said Paul Griffin of the Irish national team, will be “horrendous.”

“Any sort of tactics is going to go out the window,” Griffin said. “Only the guys with the strong legs will be there.”

Backstedt is dropped on Conor Pass and suffers on his own.

Backstedt is dropped on Conor Pass and suffers on his own.

Photo: Ben Delaney

On Saturday evening, many teams’ mechanics were swapping out 11-23 cassettes for those with a lower 25-tooth cog. Rabobank’s mechanic, however, said he was keeping the 11-23 cassettes on the bikes of the riders who are hoping to be racing for the win.

Time bonuses of 10, 6 and 4 seconds available at the finish. But the day also holds three intermediate sprints, which award 3, 2 and 1 second to the first three men through. The first comes at 71km, but the location of the second and third is critical — they come on the second and fourth passage across the line on the finishing circuit. Although those seconds could well prove vital — especially if a small group containing riders high in the GC is clear — the sprint line is dangerously placed. The danger isn’t to rider’s safety, however, but their legs: St. Patrick’s begins literally around the block. An all-out sprint just before the climb could shape things.

Cavendish digs deep near the top

Cavendish digs deep near the top

Photo: Ben Delaney

Dean is two seconds back. His sprint could seal the deal if he can make it over the hill four times.

Team Type 1’s kind of the mountains leader Matt Wilson is third overall, 11 seconds back, and can clearly climb. Valeriy Kobzarenko is 18 seconds back.

Karpin Galicia’s Gonzalo Rabunal sits in fourth, 12 seconds back.

Columbia has two cards to play with Marco Pinotti — a slim rider with a ton of power — and the on-form Michael Barry. Both riders sit 18 seconds behind Downing.

There are a number of dark horses in with a chance. Other teams with one of more riders within 18 seconds of the lead include Tinkoff, Topsport Vlaanderen, An Post, SouthAustralia.com-AIS, MTN Energade and Joker-Bianchi.

Tune in to VeloNews.com Sunday for complete coverage.

Photo Gallery

Results

Stage results | (GC Standings)

1. Downing,Russell Pinarello Canditv in 4:19:56
2. Rabunal,Gonzalo Karpin Galicia Cycling Team
3. Wilson,Matt Team Type 1 Cycling Team
4. Clarke,Simon Southaustralia.com/ais
5. Mazzanti,Luca Tinkoff – Credit Systems
6. Lloyd,Daniel An Post Sean Kelly Team
7. Coenen,Johan Topsport Vlaanderen
8. Maes,Nikolas Topsport Vlaanderen
9. Dean, Julian Garmin Chipotle H30
10. Petter Nordhaug,lars Joker Bianchi Team
11. Hovelijnck,Kurt Topsport Vlaanderen
12. Gottfried,alexander Tinkoff – Credit Systems
13. Kobzarenko,valeriy Team Type 1 Cycling Team
14. Klimov,serguei Tinkoff – Credit Systems
15. Barry,michael Team Columbia
16. Pinotti,marco Team Columbia
17. Sommerseth,stian Joker Bianchi Team
18. Ericsson,fredrik Pezula
19. Fleeman,daniel An Post Sean Kelly Team
20. Evans,kevin Mtn Energade
21. Possoni,morris Team Columbia
22. Rabou,thomas Rabobank
23. George,david Mtn Energade in 4:20:01
24. Millar,david Garmin Chipotle H30 in 4:20:55
25. Sulzberger,wesley Southaustralia.com/ais in 4:20:55
26. Adams,joeri Rabobank in 4:20:55
27. Richeze,max Csf Group Navigare in 4:20:55
28. Cassidy,mark An Post Sean Kelly Team in 4:22:00
29. Savini,filippo Csf Group Navigare in 4:22:00
30. Troncoso,ramon Karpin Galicia Cycling Team in 4:22:00
31. Gallagher,stephen An Post Sean Kelly Team in 4:24:06
32. Aiken,roger Irish National Team in 4:24:06
33. Surutkovych,alex. Team Type 1 Cycling Team in 4:24:06
34. House,kristian Rapha Condor Recycling.co.uk in 4:24:06
35. Semple,adam Southaustralia.com/ais in 4:24:06
36. Graziato,massimo Tinkoff – Credit Systems in 4:28:31
37. Priamo,matteo Csf Group Navigare in 4:28:31
38. Sinkeldam,ramon Rabobank in 4:28:31
39. Murray,tom Pinarello Canditv in 4:28:31
40. Chernetskiy,ilya Tinkoff – Credit Systems in 4:28:31
41. Poppel,boy Van Rabobank in 4:28:31
42. Griffin,paul Irish National Team in 4:28:31
43. Francisco Mouron,juan Karpin Galicia Cycling Team in 4:28:31
44. Kristoff,alexander Joker Bianchi Team in 4:28:31
45. Elliott,malcom Pinarello Canditv in 4:28:31
46. Neyens,maarten Topsport Vlaanderen in 4:28:31
47. Cavendish,mark Team Columbia in 4:28:31
48. Renders,sven Topsport Vlaanderen in 4:28:31
49. Rabon,frantisek Team Columbia in 4:28:31
50. Lowe,trent Garmin Chipotle H30 in 4:28:31
51. Calabria,fabio Team Type 1 Cycling Team in 4:28:31
52. Partridge,rob Rapha Condor Recycling.co.uk in 4:28:31
53. Jennings,cameron Pezula in 4:28:31
54. Power,ciaran Pezula in 4:28:31
55. Appleby,dale Rapha Condor Recycling.co.uk in 4:28:31
56. Berkhout,thomas Rabobank in 4:28:31
57. Concannon,miceal Irish National Team in 4:31:04
58. Dempster,zakkari Southaustralia.com/ais in 4:31:04
59. Walker,johnnie Southaustralia.com/ais in 4:31:04
60. Macdonald,neil Mtn Energade in 4:31:04
61. Davis,lee Pinarello Canditv in 4:31:04
62. Paleo,alejandro Karpin Galicia Cycling Team in 4:31:04
63. Backstedt,magnus Garmin Chipotle H30 in 4:31:04
64. Maaskant,martijn Garmin Chipotle H30 in 4:31:04
65. Aernouts,bart Rabobank in 4:31:04
66. Richeze,mauro Csf Group Navigare in 4:31:04
67. Meyer,travis Southaustralia.com/ais in 4:31:04
68. Kipling,mathew Pinarello Canditv in 4:36:15
69. Wetterhall,alex Pezula in 4:36:15
70. Irvine,martyn Pezula in 4:36:15
71. Lacey,sean Irish National Team in 4:36:15
72. Thomson,jay Mtn Energade in 4:36:15
73. Roche,andy Pinarello Canditv in 4:36:15
74. Williams,peter Pinarello Canditv in 4:36:15
75. Bohler,joachim Joker Bianchi Team in 4:36:15
76. Heerden,juan Van Mtn Energade in 4:36:15
77. O’sullivan,stephen Irish National Team in 4:36:15
78. Healion,paul Irish National Team in 4:36:15
79. Tomei,francesco Csf Group Navigare in 4:37:19
80. Abraham,emile Team Type 1 Cycling Team in 4:37:19
81. Lisabett,kenny An Post Sean Kelly Team in 4:37:19
82. Downing,dean Rapha Condor Recycling.co.uk in 4:37:19
83. Holt,simon Rapha Condor Recycling.co.uk in 4:37:19
84. Haes,kenny De Topsport Vlaanderen in 4:37:19
85. Nolf,frederiek Topsport Vlaanderen in 4:37:19
86. Staeyen,michael Van Rabobank in 4:37:19
87. Eisel,bernard Team Columbia in 4:37:19
88. Schrooder,benny De An Post Sean Kelly Team in 4:37:19
89. King,matt Southaustralia.com/ais in 4:37:19
90. Riccio,bernardo Tinkoff – Credit Systems in 4:37:19
91. O’brien,paidi An Post Sean Kelly Team in 4:37:19
92. Erik Vold,svein Joker Bianchi Team in 4:37:19
93. Wilman,frederik Joker Bianchi Team in 4:37:19
94. Briggs,graham Rapha Condor Recycling.co.uk in 4:37:19

GC Standings | ( Stage Results)

1. Downing,russell Pinarello Canditv in 18:14:54
2. Dean,julian Garmin Chipotle H30 in 18:14:56
3. Wilson,matt Team Type 1 Cycling Team in 18:15:05 at @11
4. Rabunal,gonzalo Karpin Galicia Cycling Team in 18:15:06 at @12
5. Hovelijnck,kurt Topsport Vlaanderen in 18:15:07 at @13
6. Lloyd,daniel An Post Sean Kelly Team in 18:15:09 at @15
7. Clarke,simon Southaustralia.com/ais in 18:15:09 at =s/t
8. Maes,nikolas Topsport Vlaanderen in 18:15:12 at @18
9. Kobzarenko,valeriy Team Type 1 Cycling Team in 18:15:12 at =s/t
10. Barry,michael Team Columbia in 18:15:12 at =s/t
11. Mazzanti,luca Tinkoff – Credit Systems in 18:15:12 at =s/t
12. Gottfried,alexander Tinkoff – Credit Systems in 18:15:12 at =s/t
13. Petter Nordhaug,lars Joker Bianchi Team in 18:15:12 at =s/t
14. Klimov,serguei Tinkoff – Credit Systems in 18:15:12 at =s/t
15. Pinotti,marco Team Columbia in 18:15:12 at =s/t
16. Coenen,johan Topsport Vlaanderen in 18:15:12 at =s/t
17. Evans,kevin Mtn Energade in 18:15:12 at =s/t
18. Fleeman,daniel An Post Sean Kelly Team in 18:15:12 at =s/t
19. Rabou,thomas Rabobank in 18:15:34 at @40
20. Richeze,max Csf Group Navigare in 18:16:06 at @01:12
21. Sulzberger,wesley Southaustralia.com/ais in 18:16:10 at @01:16
22. Adams,joeri Rabobank in 18:16:11 at @01:17
23. Millar,david Garmin Chipotle H30 in 18:16:11 at =s/t
24. Cassidy,mark An Post Sean Kelly Team in 18:17:16 at @02:22
25. Sommerseth,stian Joker Bianchi Team in 18:18:29 at @03:35
26. House,kristian Rapha Condor Recycling.co.uk in 18:19:22 at @04:28
27. Gallagher,stephen An Post Sean Kelly Team in 18:19:22 at =s/t
28. Aiken,roger Irish National Team in 18:19:22 at =s/t
29. Semple,adam Southaustralia.com/ais in 18:19:22 at =s/t
30. Possoni,morris Team Columbia in 18:19:27 at @04:33
31. Savini,filippo Csf Group Navigare in 18:21:13 at @06:19
32. Cavendish,mark Team Columbia in 18:23:11 at @08:17
33. Kristoff,alexander Joker Bianchi Team in 18:23:38 at @08:44
34. Poppel,boy Van Rabobank in 18:23:47 at @08:53
35. Elliott,malcom Pinarello Canditv in 18:23:47 at =s/t
36. Power,ciaran Pezula in 18:23:47 at =s/t
37. Francisco Mouron,juan Karpin Galicia Cycling Team in 18:23:47 at =s/t
38. Graziato,massimo Tinkoff – Credit Systems in 18:23:47 at =s/t
39. Murray,tom Pinarello Canditv in 18:23:47 at =s/t
40. Sinkeldam,ramon Rabobank in 18:23:47 at =s/t
41. Appleby,dale Rapha Condor Recycling.co.uk in 18:23:47 at =s/t
42. Jennings,cameron Pezula in 18:23:47 at =s/t
43. Chernetskiy,ilya Tinkoff – Credit Systems in 18:23:47 at =s/t
44. Lowe,trent Garmin Chipotle H30 in 18:23:47 at =s/t
45. Priamo,matteo Csf Group Navigare in 18:23:47 at =s/t
46. Partridge,rob Rapha Condor Recycling.co.uk in 18:23:47 at =s/t
47. Berkhout,thomas Rabobank in 18:24:09 at @09:15
48. Backstedt,magnus Garmin Chipotle H30 in 18:26:17 at @11:23
49. Dempster,zakkari Southaustralia.com/ais in 18:26:20 at @11:26
50. Walker,johnnie Southaustralia.com/ais in 18:26:20 at =s/t
51. Aernouts,bart Rabobank in 18:26:20 at =s/t
52. Renders,sven Topsport Vlaanderen in 18:26:51 at @11:57
53. Meyer,travis Southaustralia.com/ais in 18:27:10 at @12:16
54. Surutkovych,alex. Team Type 1 Cycling Team in 18:29:02 at @14:08
55. Macdonald,neil Mtn Energade in 18:29:24 at @14:30
56. Troncoso,ramon Karpin Galicia Cycling Team in 18:29:47 at @14:53
57. Heerden,juan Van Mtn Energade in 18:31:30 at @16:36
58. Downing,dean Rapha Condor Recycling.co.uk in 18:32:35 at @17:41
59. Tomei,francesco Csf Group Navigare in 18:32:35 at =s/t
60. Nolf,frederiek Topsport Vlaanderen in 18:32:35 at =s/t
61. Calabria,fabio Team Type 1 Cycling Team in 18:33:27 at @18:33
62. Ericsson,fredrik Pezula in 18:33:33 at @18:39
63. Wilman,frederik Joker Bianchi Team in 18:34:11 at @19:17
64. Neyens,maarten Topsport Vlaanderen in 18:34:14 at @19:20
65. Maaskant,martijn Garmin Chipotle H30 in 18:36:00 at @21:06
66. Richeze,mauro Csf Group Navigare in 18:36:00 at =s/t
67. Schrooder,benny De An Post Sean Kelly Team in 18:36:21 at @21:27
68. Rabon,frantisek Team Columbia in 18:36:29 at @21:35
69. Griffin,paul Irish National Team in 18:38:46 at @23:52
70. George,david Mtn Energade in 18:40:04 at @25:10
71. Bohler,joachim Joker Bianchi Team in 18:41:09 at @26:15
72. Williams,peter Pinarello Canditv in 18:41:09 at =s/t
73. Paleo,alejandro Karpin Galicia Cycling Team in 18:41:25 at @26:31
74. Staeyen,michael Van Rabobank in 18:42:09 at @27:15
75. Haes,kenny De Topsport Vlaanderen in 18:42:15 at @27:21
76. Abraham,emile Team Type 1 Cycling Team in 18:42:15 at =s/t
77. Erik Vold,svein Joker Bianchi Team in 18:42:15 at =s/t
78. O’brien,paidi An Post Sean Kelly Team in 18:42:15 at =s/t
79. Holt,simon Rapha Condor Recycling.co.uk in 18:42:15 at =s/t
80. Concannon,miceal Irish National Team in 18:42:35 at @27:41
81. Kipling,mathew Pinarello Canditv in 18:44:02 at @29:08
82. Thomson,jay Mtn Energade in 18:44:15 at @29:21
83. Roche,andy Pinarello Canditv in 18:44:15 at =s/t
84. Healion,paul Irish National Team in 18:44:42 at @29:48
85. Lacey,sean Irish National Team in 18:44:42 at =s/t
86. Lisabett,kenny An Post Sean Kelly Team in 18:45:06 at @30:12
87. Briggs,graham Rapha Condor Recycling.co.uk in 18:45:06 at =s/t
88. Eisel,bernard Team Columbia in 18:45:36 at @30:42
89. Wetterhall,alex Pezula in 18:46:10 at @31:16
90. Irvine,martyn Pezula in 18:47:43 at @32:49
91. Riccio,bernardo Tinkoff – Credit Systems in 18:50:59 at @36:05
92. O’sullivan,stephen Irish National Team in 18:56:21 at @41:27
93. King,matt Southaustralia.com/ais in 18:56:25 at @41:31
94. Davis,lee Pinarello Canditv in 18:56:39 at @41:45