Wanting to make the race hard in order to go to the line with as few riders as possible, Astana spent plenty of time at the front, driving the pace and paring down the number of riders able to keep in contact with the leaders.
A split occurred with 40km to go and a breakaway group of 23 formed that included team riders Jani Brajkovic, Lance Armstrong and Haimar Zubeldia. When this group split again it was Zubeldia who was able to race to the finish in Waterford, taking 5th on the day behind winner and first race-leader Russell Downing (CandiTV-Marshalla Pasta). Second and third places went to Saxo Bank riders Alexandr Kolobnev and Matti Breschel. Lance and Jani came in with the remnants of their group at 16-seconds off the pace, with the rest of the peloton at more than two-minutes back.
Lance’s post-race Twitter comment summed up the difficult day of racing quite succinctly: “Up/down/left/right/windy!! I felt like I was breathing thru a straw. . A small straw.”
Thirty-year-old Downing is no stranger to the Tour of Ireland having taken a stage win in last year’s edition as well and wore the leader’s jersey until the final stage when Marco Pinotti (Team Columbia) unseated his lead and took over for the final general classification.
Saturday’s Stage 2 is from Clonmel to Killarney with three categorized climbs on the profile to test the legs of the 108 riders from sixteen teams as the Tour of Ireland continues through the week-end.