Dutch courage prevails but Irish rivals stay in hot pursuit

DUTCH rider, Dion Beukeboom (Midi Center Ruiter Wielerteam), claimed stage victory in an exciting three-man sprint up the hill in Killorglin but all attention was focused on Paul Griffin (Team Earl of Desmond) and Brian Kenneally (Engraveit.ie/Cycleways/BDBC), who filled the minor placings as the Kerry Group Rás Mumhan got underway yesterday.

After the bonuses were distributed yesterday a mere four seconds separates the first three riders on general classification, followed by five more at 1min 21secs but apparently out of sight of the main field going into today’s difficult Conor Pass Stage.

The top three are the surviving members of a 16-man leading group that cut the peloton open in yesterday’s stage which was short at 45 miles and relatively flat but shattered the hopes of some of the other leading contenders.

Kenneally was an early addition to what was originally a four-man group but Griffin had to ride across on his own as the early tempo increased to speeds of 50 to 60km/h around Killarney after the group grew to 16.

Included were former winner, John Dempsey (Dan Morrissey Carrick Wheelers), Sean Lacey from Tralee who is a team mate of Kenneally, three Dutch riders, two members of the Irish Espoir Development team, Aaron Buggle and Stephen Halpin, and Scott McDonald and young Philip Lavery from Winning Solutions as well as Mark Nugent and Keith Gater (Comeragh), Rory Wyley who is on loan to Killorglin Credit Union, and Stephen Barrett (Fermoy) who has come from a triathlon background.

After Farranfore they had a lead of 2:15 and increased this to 2:50 at the Earl of Desmond Hotel when there were two riders chasing. The Farmers Bridge climb was always going to have an impact on the first stage and it did untold damage.

Griffin attacked at the bottom but it was Beukeboom who led over the top from the Tralee man and Kenneally with the remainder of the group spread out along the climb. A chasing group of six reassembled, followed by five more riders but the three leaders pulled further away. At Castlemaine they were 20 seconds clear of the chasers and they had increased it to 54 seconds after Milltown.

All three were doing their bit and there was no cat-and-mouse game on the approach to Killorglin when Kenneally surged to the front.

“I would have liked to win the stage but position was not as important as putting time into the other riders back the road,” Kenneally admitted.

But he did not even look around when Beukeboom sprinted past with Griffin on his wheel to claim stage victory.

A law student from Amsterdam, Beukeboom was happy to win and the victory made up for what it cost him to get to Killorglin after he arrived at the airport without his passport.

“It cost me a lot of money to get my bike over here,” he said. “But this makes it all worthwhile.”

Paul Griffin, too, was happy. “My objective today was to get some points on the board for the King of the Mountains and I did that,” he said.

Griffin and Brian Kenneally missed an early break and worked together to get back across.

Kenneally has won this race twice and made it a priority since he went back training full-time last November.

“Outside of the (FBD Insurance) Rás this is my favourite race,” he said.

Griffin, who has never won this race, is looking forward to today’s visit to the Conor Pass but he admitted that it could be more difficult than usual.

“Nine times out of 10 the prevailing wind comes in from the Atlantic but there is a South-Westerly forecast for tomorrow and that had the potential to make it very difficult.” Tomorrow’s stage starts and finishes in Waterville and will be fought out around Valentia Island and along the Atlantic shore.

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