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Junior Tour of Ireland - NE
Waterford, Ireland, August 6-11, 2002
Stage 3 - August 8: New Ross Road, Waterford, 58 miles
Roche takes third stage solo & extends overall lead
By Shane Stokes, Irishcycling.com
Race leader Nicolas Roche (Team Stephen Roche) today took his second stage win in the M. Donnelly Junior Tour and extended his advantage over his main challengers in the contest. Roche went clear 30 miles into the waterlogged 58 mile stage and time-trialled impressively to the finish, taking a chunk of points in the King of the Mountains competition and dealing a big psychological blow to his rivals.
Prompted by his frustration with the close marking by the Stena Ireland team, Roche's aggressive, audacious move caused panic amongst the contenders behind. Second-placed Joost Van Leijen gave his all to close the gap after Roche's attack but was unable to get back on terms, dropping back to a chasing group which included two of his Tempo BMV Veldhoven team-mates. Also present in this pack were third-placed Theo Hardwick, yesterday's stage winner Páidí O'Brien and Andrew McQuaid, all of the Stena Ireland team, yet their pooled effort was not enough to stop Roche opening up a two minute advantage.
The talented Irishman rode strongly toward the finish before the buffeting wind and tough drags finally started taking their toll. In the final ten miles the group behind started to reduce his lead, and with three miles to go three riders slipped clear and closed to within thirty seconds by the line.
Second on the stage was Dutchman Dirk Bellemakers (Tempo BMV Veldhoven A), with Roche's team-mate Anthony Esposito and Irishman Miceal Concannon (Killorglin CC) next home. The remainder of the chasing group crossed the line ten seconds later, ensuring that Van Leijen slipped to third, 41 seconds behind the yellow jersey. His team-mate Bellemakers is now Roche's closest challenger.
'I didn't realise how far it was to the finish and went from too far out', said the drenched Irish rider afterwards. 'The last few miles were quite hard, with those drags and the strong wind. I am glad to win the stage but a little disappointed - it is frustrating to work so hard and yet only get thirty seconds. At least I have extended my lead in the race.'
'I was really frustrated during the stage as the Irish riders were marking me really closely. Okay, they are trying to take the jersey as well, but why not leave it to the Dutch riders to do some of the work? Every time I moved there was an Irish guy right on my wheel - it made me even more determined to get away from them.' Roche had previously said that he would like to (temporarily) give away the yellow jersey in order to take pressure off his team. However he showed a change in attitude today, riding aggressively and stating after the race that he now wanted to remain at the head of affairs.
'I found out yesterday that only three riders have ever led the race from start to finish (Aidan Duff, Mark Scanlon and Kieran Page). I want to make sure that I am the fourth, so I will keep attacking and trying to take more time.'
Roche now leads overall by forty one seconds and has taken the blue points jersey and the lead in the the King of the Mountains competiton. The M. Donnelly Junior Tour continues tomorrow with a 56 mile race based around Carrick on Suir, taking in Sean Kelly's old training climb, Seskin Hill.
By Shane Stokes
1 Nicolas Roche (Team Stephen Roche) 2.23.32 2 D. Bellemakers (Tempo BMV Veldhoven A) 0.30 3 A. Esposito (Team Stephen Roche) 4 M. Concannon (Killorglin CC) 5 G. Thomas (Wales) 0.40 6 J. Van Leijen (Tempo BMV Veldhoven A) 7 L. Heimans (District Noord Holland) 8 J. Elfares (VC La Pomme) Mountains KOH prime 1 1 Roche 2 S. Lampier (Wales) 3 A. Murphy (Scotland) 4 P. O'Brien (Stena Ireland) 5 R. Van Houts (Tempo BMV Veldhoven A) KOH 2 1 J. Elfares (VC La Pomme) 2 A. Esposito (Stephen Roche Team) 3 F. Duncan (UCF) 4 Van Houts KOH 3 1 Roche 2 Elfares 3 O'Brien 4 Lampier Best Team 1 Team Stephen Roche 2 Tempo BMV Veldhoven 3 District Noord Holland Overall Classification 1 Roche 4.45.53 2 Bellemakers 0.37 3 Van Leijen 0.41 4 Esposito 0.42 5 T. Hardwick (Stena Ireland) 0.46 6 L. Heimans (District Noord Holland) Points 1 Roche 43 pts 2 Van Houts 38 3 Bellemakers 36 King of the Mountains 1 Roche 30 pts 2 O'Brien 23 3 Lampier 18 Team 1 Team Stephen Roche 2 Tempo BMV Veldhoven 3 Stena Ireland