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Downing wins stage 1 as Astana, Saxo split peloton

Russell Downing (CandiTV) outkicked two Saxo Bank riders out of a small group to win the first stage of the 2009 Tour of Ireland. Astana and Saxo Bank drove the peloton hard up and over the day’s categorized climbs, shattering the field and setting a group of 23 riders free with just under 40km to go. Alexander Kolobnev and Matti Breschel (both Saxo Bank) finished second and third ahead of Philip Deignan (Cervélo) on the 196km stage from Powerscourt to Waterford.

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By Ben Delaney

Russell Downing (CandiTV) nails the sprint to win the opening stage of the 2009 Tour of Ireland.

Russell Downing (CandiTV) nails the sprint to win the opening stage of the 2009 Tour of Ireland.

Photo: Graham Watson

Russell Downing (CandiTV) outkicked two Saxo Bank riders out of a small group to win the first stage of the 2009 Tour of Ireland. Astana and Saxo Bank drove the peloton hard up and over the day’s categorized climbs, shattering the field and setting a group of 23 riders free with just under 40km to go.

Alexander Kolobnev and Matti Breschel (both Saxo Bank) finished second and third ahead of Philip Deignan (Cervélo) on the 196km stage from Powerscourt to Waterford.

In the final 7km, the attacks began to fly from the front group, which contained 2008 race winner Marco Pinotti and Craig Lewis (Columbia-HTC); Lance Armstrong, Jani Brajkovic and Haimar Zubeldia (Astana); Stuart O’Grady, Breschel, Kolobnev and Jakob Fuglsang (Saxo Bank) and more than a dozen others.

Tour of Ireland 2009 - Stage 1: Armstrong made the break.

Tour of Ireland 2009 – Stage 1: Armstrong made the break.

Photo: Graham Watson

Zubeldia and Deignan made it into a group of seven that went clear, but that move was caught and the front group split in half. “I think I was a little bit too aggressive coming in towards the finish,” Deignan said. “I left a little my legs out there on the road, and didn’t have anything left for the sprint.”

Crossing Rice Bridge over River Suir with one kilometer to go, Frederik Wilman (Joker-Bianchi) led the front group until Saxo’s Fuglsang took a hard pull, looking to set up a teammate. Downing grabbed his wheel and wound up the big gear on the flat, tailwind finish. He kept the speed on to come around Fuglsang and win by at least a bike length.

“The moment was there that I was really on top of the gear,” Downing said. “I thought it was a little early, but I went with the opportunity and took the gear with me. It was a long sprint, but nice to win it.”

Downing took stage 4 of the Irish tour last year, vaulting the British rider into the yellow jersey. On the race’s final day into Cork, which, like this year, featured three climbs of St. Patrick’s Hill, Downing weathered an onslaught of attacks and ultimately finished second overall to Columbia’s Pinotti.

Columbia’s Mark Cavendish, who won a similar stage that finished in Waterford last year, finished Friday in the main group, 2:12 behind Downing.

Racing the roads

Tour of Ireland 2009 - Stage 1: The peloton works its way up the narrow roads of the Cat. 1 Mount Leinster.

Tour of Ireland 2009 – Stage 1: The peloton works its way up the narrow roads of the Cat. 1 Mount Leinster.

Photo: Graham Watson

Besides Cat. 1, 2 and 3 climbs, stage 1 featured a number of tight, wind-exposed roads, some only wide enough for a single car to squeeze through. Combined with a strong wind that was in the riders face most of the day, conditions were ripe for a breakaway. Astana and Saxo Bank took advantage.

“Astana and Saxo Bank really picked up the tempo on the climb,” said BMC’s Mathias Frank, who finished 12th. “But then the roads on the descent were really narrow, it was windy, and they were going really hard.”

Astana team boss Johan Bruynel said he was content with how the race played out.

“We were pulling at the front on the (Cat. 2 Inistioge) climb and then we just kept going over the top,” Bruyneel said. “It was very narrow. We decided that it was good to start riding and avoid any problems. Once a team starts to pull and you’re caught in the second part of the peloton, it’s very difficult to move up on this kind of roads. At the end of the climb we accelerated. We saw a good split so we kept going.”

Bruyneel said Brajkovic could be Astana’s guy for the general classification.

“We don’t have any sprinters here, so today was a good opportunity to avoid a bunch sprint,” he said. “Once you have a group of 20 riders, you never know what will happen. We had Zubeldia in a little group, so it was good.”

Zubeldia finished fifth. Armstrong finished 23rd, the last rider across in the second group that came in 16 seconds behind Downing.

“It takes it out of you,” Armstrong said of the stage. “The combination of the up-and-down terrain, the rough surface, the twisty, turny roads, the wind and a lot of accelerations. You know you’ve raced at the end of it.”

Tour of Ireland 2009 - Stage 1: Adrien Niyonshuti, the only Rwandan in the peloton.

Tour of Ireland 2009 – Stage 1: Adrien Niyonshuti, the only Rwandan in the peloton.

Photo: Graham Watson

Another man who knew he had raced was Rwandan Adrien Niyonshuti . The MTN-Energade rider finished 82 of 108 riders, 11 seconds adrift of the peloton.

“It was tough today,” Niyonshuti said. “This was the first time I have done a 200km stage. It was very hard for me. I was happy just to finish.”

Team Type 1 rider Matt Wilson took the KOM jersey. Points for the climber’s jersey were up for grabs right off the bat, with a Cat. 3 climb topping out just 7.3km into the stage. Wilson, who won the KOM jersey at the race last year, said his effort today wasn’t planned.

“I was there at the front of the first climb, and I just jumped and went for it,” White said. He then took second over the following Cat. 1 Mount Leinster (MTN-Energade’s Jay Thomson was solo off the front at the time) and then second again over the Cat. 3 Coppanagh climb.

The Tour of Ireland continues Saturday with a 196km stage from Clonmel to Killarney. The day features two Cat. 2 climbs and one Cat. 1 effort. Most riders expect the race to come down to the circuits in Cork on Sunday.

Photo Gallery

Results

Results, Stage 1 – 2009 Tour of Ireland

  • 1. Russell Downing (GBR), Candi Tv-Marshalls Pasta, 196.4km in 5:10:37 (37.94kph)
  • 2. Alexander Kolobnev (RUS), Team Saxo Bank
  • 3. Matti Breschel (DEN), Team Saxo Bank, s.t.
  • 4. Philip Deignan (IRL), Cervélo Test Team, s.t.
  • 5. Haimar Zubeldia (ESP), Astana, s.t.
  • 6. Marco Pinotti (ITA), Team Columbia-HTC, s.t.
  • 7. Frederik Wilman (NOR), Joker Bianchi, s.t.
  • 8. Oleksandr Kvachuk (UKR), Isd-Neri, s.t.
  • 9. Jakob Fuglsang (DEN), Team Saxo Bank at 0:07
  • 10. Denys Kostyuk (UKR), Isd-Neri at 0:16
  • 11. Igor Abakoumov (BEL), Isd-Neri, s.t.
  • 12. Mathias Frank (SUI), Bmc Racing Team, s.t.
  • 13. Steven Kruijswijk (NED), Rabobank, s.t.
  • 14. Gabriel Rasch (NOR), Cervélo Test Team, s.t.
  • 15. Petter Nordhaug Lars (NOR), Joker Bianchi, s.t.
  • 16. Craig Lewis (USA), Team Columbia-HTC, s.t.
  • 17. Florian Stalder (SUI), Bmc Racing Team, s.t.
  • 18. Daniel Lloyd (GBR), Cervélo Test Team, s.t.
  • 19. Karsten Kroon (NED), Team Saxo Bank, s.t.
  • 20. Andrey Grivko (UKR), Isd-Neri, s.t.
  • 21. Janez Brajkovic (SLO), Astana, s.t.
  • 22. Stuart O’grady (AUS), Team Saxo Bank, s.t.
  • 23. Lance Armstrong (USA), Astana, s.t.
  • 24. Alexander Kristoff (NOR), Joker Bianchi at 02:12
  • 25. Michael Van Staeyen (BEL), Rabobank, s.t.
  • 26. Davide Appollonio (ITA), Cervélo Test Team, s.t.
  • 27. Mark Mcnally (GBR), Team Halfords, s.t.
  • 28. Graham Briggs (GBR), Candi Tv-Marshalls Pasta, s.t.
  • 29. Andrew Tennant (GBR), Team Halfords, s.t.
  • 30. Ramon Sinkeldam (NED), Rabobank, s.t.
  • 31. Robert Partridge (GBR), Team Halfords, s.t.
  • 32. Michael Matthews (AUS), Australian National Team, s.t.
  • 33. Ian Wilkinson (GBR), Team Halfords, s.t.
  • 34. Leigh Howard (AUS), Australian National Team, s.t.
  • 35. Erik Vold Svein (NOR), Joker Bianchi, s.t.
  • 36. Kristian House (GBR), Rapha Condor Cycling Team, s.t.
  • 37. Michael Schar (SUI), Astana, s.t.
  • 38. Jason Mccartney (USA), Team Saxo Bank, s.t.
  • 39. Ian Mcleod (RSA), Mtn Cycling, s.t.
  • 40. Malcolm Elliott (GBR), Candi Tv-Marshalls Pasta, s.t.
  • 41. Christoff Van Heerden (RSA), Mtn Cycling, s.t.
  • 42. Vicente Reynes Mimo (ESP), Team Columbia-HTC, s.t.
  • 43. Simon Richardson (GBR), Rapha Condor Cycling Team, s.t.
  • 44. Darren Lapthorne (AUS), Rapha Condor Cycling Team, s.t.
  • 45. G Sortveit Sondre (NOR), Joker Bianchi, s.t.
  • 46. Ronan Mc Laughlin (IRL), An Post Sean Kelly Team, s.t.
  • 47. Jesús Hernández (ESP), Astana, s.t.
  • 48. Mark O’brien (AUS), Australian National Team, s.t.
  • 49. Benny De Schrooder (BEL), An Post Sean Kelly Team, s.t.
  • 50. Jef Peeters (BEL), An Post Sean Kelly Team, s.t.
  • 51. Luis Rubiera Jose (ESP), Astana, s.t.
  • 52. Valeriy Kobzarenko (UKR), Team Type 1, s.t.
  • 53. Niko Eeckhout (BEL), An Post Sean Kelly Team, s.t.
  • 54. Matt Wilson (AUS), Team Type 1, s.t.
  • 55. Travis Meyer (AUS), Australian National Team, s.t.
  • 56. Roger Hammond (GBR), Cervélo Test Team, s.t.
  • 57. Bartosz Huzarsky (POL), Isd-Neri, s.t.
  • 58. Steven Van Vooren (BEL), An Post Sean Kelly Team, s.t.
  • 59. David Mccann (IRL), Irish National Team, s.t.
  • 60. Danilo Wyss (SUI), Bmc Racing Team, s.t.
  • 61. Chris Newton (GBR), Rapha Condor Cycling Team, s.t.
  • 62. Asle Arvesen Kurt (NOR), Team Saxo Bank, s.t.
  • 63. Vegard Laengen Stake (NOR), Joker Bianchi, s.t.
  • 64. Yaroslav Popovych (UKR), Astana, s.t.
  • 65. Jetse Bol (NED), Rabobank, s.t.
  • 66. Martijn Keizer (NED), Rabobank, s.t.
  • 67. Martin Reimer (GER), Cervélo Test Team, s.t.
  • 68. Mark Cavendish (GBR), Team Columbia-HTC, s.t.
  • 69. Antonio Cruz (USA), Bmc Racing Team, s.t.
  • 70. Martin Kohler (SUI), Bmc Racing Team, s.t.
  • 71. Jack Bobridge (AUS), Australian National Team, s.t.
  • 72. Timothy Roe (AUS), Australian National Team, s.t.
  • 73. Sam Bennett (IRL), Irish National Team, s.t.
  • 74. Juan Van Heerden (RSA), Mtn Cycling, s.t.
  • 75. Stian Remme (NOR), Joker Bianchi, s.t.
  • 76. Thomas Frei (SUI), Bmc Racing Team, s.t.
  • 77. Dennis Van Winden (NED), Rabobank, s.t.
  • 78. David Fletcher (GBR), Team Halfords, s.t.
  • 79. Frantisek Rabon (CZE), Team Columbia-HTC, s.t.
  • 80. Nicholas Walker (AUS), Australian National Team, s.t.
  • 81. Bradley Potgieter (RSA), Mtn Cycling at 02:33
  • 82. Adrien Niyonshuti (RWA), Mtn Cycling, s.t.
  • 83. Tom Southam (GBR), Rapha Condor Cycling Team at 05:20
  • 84. Pierpaolo De Negri (ITA), Isd-Neri at 06:24
  • 85. Paul Griffin (IRL), Irish National Team at 14:17
  • 86. Kenny Lisabeth (BEL), An Post Sean Kelly Team, s.t.
  • 87. Philip Lavery (IRL), Irish National Team, s.t.
  • 88. Sean Downey (IRL), Irish National Team, s.t.
  • 89. Robert Hayles (GBR), Team Halfords, s.t.
  • 90. Peter Williams (GBR), Candi Tv-Marshalls Pasta, s.t.
  • 91. Fabio Calabria (AUS), Team Type 1, s.t.
  • 92. Dean Downing (GBR), Rapha Condor Cycling Team, s.t.
  • 93. James Sampson (GBR), Candi Tv-Marshalls Pasta, s.t.
  • 94. Morris Possoni (ITA), Team Columbia-HTC, s.t.
  • 95. Dale Appleby (GBR), Candi Tv-Marshalls Pasta, s.t.
  • 96. Jackson Stewart (USA), Bmc Racing Team, s.t.
  • 97. Jay Thomson (RSA), Mtn Cycling, s.t.
  • 98. Dan Craven (NAM), Rapha Condor Cycling Team, s.t.
  • 99. Shawn Milne (USA), Team Type 1, s.t.
  • 100. Mark Cassidy (IRL), An Post Sean Kelly Team, s.t.
  • 101. Maurice Vrijmoed (NED), Rabobank, s.t.
  • 102. Andrew Roche (IRL), Candi Tv-Marshalls Pasta, s.t.
  • 103. Martyn Irvine (IRL), Irish National Team, s.t.
  • 104. Jeremy Hunt (GBR), Cervélo Test Team, s.t.
  • 105. Ken Hanson (USA), Team Type 1, s.t.
  • 106. Michael Creed (USA), Team Type 1, s.t.
  • 107. Bernard Eisel (AUT), Team Columbia-HTC, s.t.
  • 108. Ino Ilesic Aldo (SLO), Team Type 1 at 21:10