The 31-year-old Belfast man who has represented Ireland twice at the Olympics finished second into Oranmore and fifth into Charleville but yesterday it was third time lucky with a solo victory into Caherciveen and the green points jersey to highlight his consistency since the race began in Dublin on Sunday.
And he did it all his way, joining a breakaway group on the first category climb, then leaving them for dead on the descent and time trialling the 12 miles through Portmagee to finish 26 seconds clear of Dermot Nally, the stage winner into Charleville, who won the sprint for second place from Valentin Iglinskiy of Kazakhstan, with David O’Loughlin fourth.
Malcolm Elliott, who had no problems with the earlier climbing, was back to claim fifth spot while race leader Valter Bonca, who defended the yellow jersey superbly all day, finished sixth with Denis Lynch, also from the Ireland team, eighth.
The day, however belonged to McCann who got into the first big move of the day a five man breakaway joined by three more including a former winner, Welshman Julian Winn, and Kimmo Kananen of Finland, and then McCann and Graham Briggs of Britain.
They opened up the biggest lead of the week 3 mins 58 secs.
“And we should have taken six or seven minutes but [Kananen] just would not ride,” McCann said. “He was up there overall on the same time as me but maybe they thought he would not get over the climb.
“If he had played his part that group would certainly have taken six minutes and the picture would be clearer now at the top of the general classification.”
McCann worked like a trojan, organising the group and keeping it intact, but further back the road, Bonca in the yellow jersey was towing the bunch along to such an extent that they were strung out for most of the Caherciveen side of Glenbeigh.
“I had been worried that everyone else had an easy ride. I knew everyone in the bunch was sitting on and I was afraid I would be tired for the climbs,” McCann said.
“But we got caught just far enough from the climbs to give me an opportunity to rest up, eat, drink and recover otherwise I might have been in trouble.
“There was a crosswind now and big gaps began to appear in the bunch which was in a long line. David [O’Loughlin] went with the jersey and [Kananen] and I stayed behind with Dermot Nally and Malcolm Elliott.
“Then, 500m from the top of the big climb I felt I could make an effort and I got across and, just over the top, I attacked. They came back up to me and I started to attack and I think that softened them up a bit. One time I went and I think they had just had enough and they let me go.
He confessed to still feeling less than 100%.
“I feel I have to come around and I know that if I get a day when I feel really good I will be able to some serious damage,” he said. “The Slovenian is isolated, the Swedes have shown their hand, we still have myself, David and Denis Lynch up there so we have the team card to play.” There was heartbreak for the other member of the Irish team, Eugene Moriarty, who broke clear of the field with Corkman Timmy Barry, riding for the Tipperary Dan Morrissey team, and led through Caherciveen but then David O’Loughlin got across.
“We were already feeling the affects of the effort and needed a breather but now more pace was injected into the proceedings and I had to drop back.” Rory Wyley crashed out before Farranfore and ended up in the ambulance. The Dungarvan man, riding for Tipperary Dan Morrissey, sustained minor injuries and is OK.
Today the riders face First Category climbs at Coomakista and Inchee Mountain on the 94.7 mile stage scheduled to arrive in Millstreet around 2.45pm via Waterville, Kenmare, Kilgarvan, Glenflesk, Barraduff and Rathmore.