Jaan is the man in Rás third-stage thriller

JAAN KIRSIPUU powered his way up the finishing straight to thrill the fans who thronged Cahirciveen at the end of the longest stage in this year’s FBD Insurance Rás yesterday.

The 38-year-old Estonian won four stages in the Tour de France and held the yellow for six days.

But Kirsipuu, who is riding for the Norway Giant-Veolia team in this race, cut short his professional career so that he could enjoy his cycling more.

“I got tired of this pressing obligation to win the races and to bring the result all the time,’’ he said.

“Now I just want to enjoy cycling. I still love cycling but without pressure. I wanted to travel to many countries. I was in Ireland for the 1998 Tour de France but I did not see much of the country so I wanted to come back.’’

He certainly enjoyed himself yesterday after some of the most exciting racing ever seen on Irish roads.

In the end it was down to four riders, and two of them were Irish.

Brian Kenneally (Meath Engraveit.ie/BDBC) and David McCann (Ireland National Team), a former winner of the race, went toe to toe with Kirsipuu and two-time winner of the race, Chris Newton, a former world track champion and holder of one silver and two bronze Olympic medals, after they had blown the leading group apart after Waterville.

Kenneally, who clearly did not want to get involved in a sprint with this particular group, launched a series of attacks on the approach to Caherciveen and he almost escaped in two of them.

“We just started attacking outside Waterville,’’ he said. “I attacked with a kilometre to go and then again with 600 or 700 metres to go but Kirsipuu nailed me each time.’’

Kenneally’s red jersey was at the front again when they came into view of the spectators but Kirsipuu, to his right, wound up the big gears and was not going to be caught, with Newton and McCann in his slipstream.

“If he was going to be beaten, it would have had to be on the climbs,’’ Kenneally admitted. “On the hill where we got away originally Newton and myself blew him (Kirsipuu) out. I faded a bit at the end while he was strong. He just nailed me and then led it out and still won. He has that class.’’

McCann, who won the stage the last time the Rás visited Caherciveen, was happy with his third place and the fact that he had fulfilled his objective

“I am happy to get the mountains jersey – that was my aim for today and I managed to pull it off,’’ he said. “A few more hills and I could have had a crack at them but not in a sprint finish.’’

While Kirsipuu celebrated his win, Ian Wilkinson (Britain Halfords Bike Hut), who holds a 19-second lead over Simon Richardson (Britain Rapha Condor), slipped on the race leader’s yellow jersey for a second time after a very successful defence although there were anxious moments.

He missed the original eight-man attack that included Ireland’s Martyn Irvine, and Kristian House (Britain Rapha Condor), a former winner of the race and, with the arrival of Newton and company Rapha had four riders in what eventually grew into an 18-man group.

“Simon (Richardson) was pretty much following me all day – he was well stuck to my wheel,’’ he said “But it was dangerous. Rapha ended up with four of the best riders in the break which was brilliant for them but dangerous because they are all capable of winning overall.’’

Brian Kenneally, too, is looking forward to today’s Conor Pass stage. It was on this stage that he sealed victory in the Kerry Group Rás Mumhan over the Easter Weekend when he rode through the breakaway group on the climb.

“At this point the overall is gone and, to a certain extent, that takes the pressure off me,’’ he said. “I can go out there and go for stage wins and if it does not happen on a hard day I can sit back with nothing to lose. I’ll just play it day by day.’’

Today’s stage from Caherciveen to Killorglin – it will pass through Killorglin first at 11.55am as well – takes in the Conor Pass at 73 miles (1.56pm) which should provide quite a spectacle as well as a challenge.

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