Whether or not the young American who hails from Colorado Springs regarded by many as the home of cycling can defend the leadership remains to be seen but he is one of just four riders in contention after yesterday’s trail of devastation that left the 142 man field spreadeagled to such an extent that the last rider just managed to beat the one hour time limit.
Chris Newton, the defending champion, left Enniscorthy in the yellow jersey but he arrived in Cobh 3 mins 41 secs behind Pate leaving his team mate, Robin Sharman, among the challengers to the American’s leadership.
Sharman finished fourth, 41 secs behind Pate, with the Norwegian, Martin Prazdnovsky, second at 27 secs and Wayne Randle, a Ras veteran, third at 34 secs.
The quartet fought out the finish into Cobh after they had escaped from a leading group of 23 riders which was established when two groups merged after Ciaran Power had led a 17 man break — including Newton and all the major contenders — through his native city of Waterford.
With a gale force wind that was at times a headwind and other times a treacherous cross-wind there was always the danger that it would impact on the race.
And it did when a five man group a second Norwegian Are Andresen was also involved escaped and daylight appeared. The attack met with immediate success. Within 8 km they had a lead of over two minutes on their former colleagues with the main bunch 5:20 back at The Sweep. Then startling gaps began to appear everywhere and at one point there were six separate groups on the road.
Andresen yielded to the pressure and was caught by the chasing group with the yellow jersey now taking a role at the front. The margin was reduced slightly at The Sweep but once the climbing was over the leaders went into a lead of 5:49 with the main bunch at 11 minutes.
Now it was more of the old, familiar Ras as they departed from the more controlled racing of recent years.
Pate’s team mate, Mike Friedman, rode clear of the chasing group with remarkable ease and ate into the lead before Newton eventually took on the responsibility at the front of the chasing group and the deficit would be down to 3:41 when they arrived in Cobh.
But Pate had already stripped him of his golden fleece after escaping from the four man group at the 3k to storm up the hill on his own 27 secs clear of Prazdnovsky who produced the performance of the day to come from more than two minutes down to join the break earlier.
“There had been a lot of attacking and eventually I got my chance and I took it,” said Pate who grabbed the opportunity to use his time trial talent to advantage. “It had been a long, difficult day. I was away for 130k and there were just three of us doing the work in the break with the British rider at the back.
“I was not surprised when the big gaps appeared. There were headwinds and cross winds and it was very cold.” It was Pate’s first win of the year. He won the world under-23 time trial title in Portugal in 2001.
Ciaran Power (Dan Morrissey Tipperary) won the first KOH points of the day to consolidate the polka dot jersey.
“But my ambition today was to lead through Waterford and I did that,” he admitted. “I am not thinking about the overall classification right now but I would like to win a stage.” Tommy Evans, devastated when he was pipped on the line by Newton as he celebrated victory on Sunday, was back up to finish 10th on yesterday’s stage and claim the county rider’s prize once again.
“I was surprised when the gaps opened,” he said. “I would have expected the Irish team to do something at the front of the bunch but there appeared to be nothing happening.”
“It is difficult for such small teams to control this race,” Pate said. “But I have a good team with me and we will try to defend the yellow jersey now that we have taken it.” Today’s stage, leaving Cobh at 11am, takes the race to An Daingean (Dingle), via Jack Lynch Tunnel, South Link, Macroom, Killarney, Milltown, Castlemaine and finishing at about 3.20pm.