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Junior Tour of Ireland - NE
Waterford, Ireland, August 6-11, 2002
Stage 2 - August 7: Tramore Road, Waterford, 57 miles
O'Brien takes stage 2
By Shane Stokes, Irishcycling.com
Páidí O'Brien of the Stena Ireland national team won today's second stage of the M. Donnelly Junior Tour, unleashing a burst of speed in the final 200 metres which carried him to a fine stage win in the event. O'Brien outpaced Dutch rider Joost Van Leijen (Tempo BMV Veldhoven A - Netherlands), race leader Nicolas Roche (Team Stephen Roche - France) and the rest of the field at the end of the 57 mile leg into Waterford, comfortably winning the mass bunch sprint.
The result ensures that Stephen Roche's son Nicolas retains the yellow jersey he took in yesterday's prologue time trial in Dunmore East, although not without a scare today. Van Leijen, who placed a close second yesterday, went clear early in the undulating stage and opened up a lead of over a minute to become race leader on the road. However despite his and team-mate Rudi Van Houts' best efforts, their committed ride was not enough to hold off the late charge of the main bunch, who recaptured them with just three miles remaining.
Roche tried to go clear himself inside the final mile but was reeled in, paving the way for O'Brien's finishing burst and a brave second place by Van Leijen.
'It was a tough day today, very fast', said O'Brien afterwards. 'Nicolas was very strong. I was a bit worried when the two Dutch riders got that big gap so I asked my team-mates Cian Power and Andrew McQuaid to chase and they helped to bring it back. I got tangled up in some bikes after a crash and was delayed, but Andrew came back and helped me to get back up before the finish'.
Next home was Roche, who rode strongly during the stage and held onto a jersey he was prepared to give away. 'I would have preferred if another rider had managed to take it by a few seconds and had it for the next few days', he admitted afterwards. 'It was very hard to defend the lead today as everyone was expecting me to do all the riding. There were a few times when I got clear and Irish riders were on my wheel; we had a gap and they could have ridden for the stage, but they wouldn't do any work and we were brought back.'
Competing with just two others on the Stephen Roche team, he was lucky to profit from rivalry between the two squads from the Netherlands. 'The other Dutch team (District Noord Holland) came up to me during the race and said that they would ride to bring back the two up front - I wasn't sure why they were going to do that, but I wasn't complaining! My two team-mates were very tired and one of them crashed twice, so it was good that others would ride'.
'I felt very strong during the stage, good on the hills too, and had a go near the finish. I didn't actually know where the line was, so was caught out, but still had enough left for the sprint.'
The M. Donnelly Junior Tour continues tomorrow with a 57 mile stage from Waterford to Thomastown and Mullinvat, before finishing once again in Waterford. The race continues until Sunday.
By Shane Stokes
1 Páidí O'Brien (Stena Ireland) 2.18.41 2 J. Van Leijen (Tempo BMV Veldhoven A Netherlands) 3 N. Roche (Team Stephen Roche France) 4 P. Johnston (Team South West England) 5 D. Bellemakers (Tempo BMV Veldhoven A Netherlands) 6 S. Roach (Wales) 7 T. Hardwick (Stena Ireland) 8 S. Wilson (North West Division) Primes KOH at Tramore 1 O'Brien 2 A. Murphy (Scotland) 3 R. Partridge (Wales) KOH at Annstown 1 Roche 2 O'Brien 3 Hardwick. KOH at The Pike 1 Van Leijen 2 Van Houts 3 S. Lampier (Team South West) 4 L. Heimans (District Noord Holland) General classification after stage 2 1 Nicolas Roche (Team Stephen Roche) 2.22.02 2 J. Van Leijen (Tempo BMV Veldhoven Netherlands) 0.01 3 T. Hardwick (Stena Ireland) 0.06 4 L Heimans (District Noord Holland) 5 D. Bellemakers (Tempo BMV Veldhoven A Netherlands) 0.07 6 R. Van Houts (Tempo BMV Veldhoven Netherlands) 0.08 7 R. Connor (Ballymena) 0.09 8 J. Elfares (VC La Pomme France) 0.10 Mountains classification 1 O'Brien 12 pts 2 Van Houts 10 3 Roche 9 Van Leijen 9 Points classification 1 Roche 28 pts 2 Van Leijen 28 3 Hardwick 22 First-Year Junior competition 1 Theo Hardwick (Stena Ireland)