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Junior Tour of Ireland - NE
Waterford, Ireland, August 6-11, 2002
Stage 4 - August 9: Carrick-on-Suir, Co. Tipperary, 60 miles
Third stage win for Team Stephen Roche in M Donnelly Junior Tour
By Shane Stokes, Irishcycling.com
Following two victories by race leader Nicolas Roche, the French-based Stephen Roche team continued their winning ways today when they took their third stage win of the M. Donnelly Junior Tour into Carrick on Suir. First year junior Anthony Esposito outsprinted ten others in a twisting, technical dash to the line, showing great reserves of strength after being clear in a two-man breakaway for much of the stage with Stena Ireland rider Páidí O'Brien.
Esposito, fourth overall this morning and leader of the best first-year junior competition, answered an attack by O'Brien on a climb 8 miles into today's hilly 52 mile stage and went clear, with the two riders joining forces to open up a maximum lead of 50 seconds. The leading duo worked well together to maintain their lead on the chasing peloton, sharing the mountain primes between them rather than sprinting it out for the cash prizes, and staying out front alone for 30 miles.
Three riders finally succeed in catching them on the third of four laps Wim Botman (District Noord Holland), Paul Brady (Ulster Cycling Federation) and Rudi Van Houts (Tempo BMV Veldhoven) bridged the gap and quickly set about working to maintain their lead. Van Houts then went clear on the steep climb of Seskin hill and opened a 45 second gap, while Roche jumped strongly from the chasing bunch and raced across to the other leaders.
With Van Houts dangling out front, the yellow jersey tried several times to get away and join up with the Dutchman. Marked each time, he eventually got across with third placed Joost Van Leijen (Tempo BMV Veldhoven) and the Scot Andrew Murphy but this quartet were scooped up by seven others on the final run in to the finish.
Roche, O'Brien and Botman all tried to slip away inside the final two miles but the scene was set for a group sprint. Esposito timed his move to perfection, screaming around the two ninety-degree corners just before the line and taking a fine victory, leading home fellow Frenchman Julien Elfares (VC La Pomme) and Van Leijen.
'This is the first time I have won a race like this', said a delighted Esposito afterwards. 'Normally to do it I have to finish alone as I am not really a sprinter, but I knew that if I was first or second around the final corner I would have a great chance of winning.'
'Today was a hard stage, with a difficult course but that was good for making a selection. I tend to feel better as a race goes on and so had a bit left for the finish. My plan now is to help Nicolas to keep his yellow jersey and win this race overall.'
'The team has now won three out of four stages', said a happy Roche. 'Normally during the year we are rivals, racing on different teams in France, but we are working well together this week. Anthony is a very strong rider and did a great ride today, being clear with Paídí (O'Brien) for most of the stage and then taking the sprint. He has been on the French national team twice already this year so is really going well.'
Roche confessed to feeling a bit fatigued after yesterday's 28 mile solo stage-winning effort, but was happy with how things went. 'I was a bit stiff today but had no problems during the stage. I felt very good on Seskin Hill and although my gears were slipping a bit, was able to get away from the others in the bunch. There are just two days left now ..I have forty seconds but that is not very much if I crash or puncture. Hopefully things continue to go well and I can stay out of trouble.'
Roche continues as the holder of the yellow, blue (points) and king of the mountains jerseys, although O'Brien is doing his utmost to relieve him of the latter. 'I had a go early on today as I wanted to try to get some points back on Nicolas', he said. 'I wasn't very confident of beating him if we got to the bottom of Seskin Hill together, so I decided to have a go early on. I felt good, too, and thought I would see how he would react if the pressure was on earlier in the stage.'
'To tell you the truth, I am a bit frustrated by the Dutch riders .they are riding pretty negatively, sitting on wheels and leaving it up to us. If Nicolas goes clear they wait for us to chase, if I go clear they look to Nicolas' team. Maybe they are saving themselves for the last two days, but it is pretty frustrating.'
The M. Donnelly Junior Tour continues tomorrow with a 61 mile road race which starts, and finishes, in Waterford.
1 Anthony Esposito (Team Stephen Roche) 2.09.22 2 J. Elfares (VC La Pomme) 3 J. Van Leijen (Tempo BMV Veldhoven) 4 P. O'Brien (Stena Ireland) 5 R. Van Houts (Tempo BMV Veldhoven) 6 N. Roche (Team Stephen Roche) Primes 1 O'Brien 2 O'Brien 3 Esposito 4 O'Brien King of the Hills 1 Van Houts 2 O'Brien 3 Esposito 4 Roche 5 T. Hardwick (Stena Ireland) Overall Classification 1 Roche 6.55.15 2 Van Leijen 41 3 Esposito 42 4 T. Hardwick (Stena Ireland) 48 5 Van Houts 6 Elfares 50 Eurotrek Raleigh Points Classification: Roche Grant Thornton King of the Mountains: Roche Terry Dolan best first year Junior: Esposito