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Downing edges out Bennett to win Ras opener

Posted 22 May 2011


Photo credits: INPHO (Lorraine O'Sullivan)

Dean Downing of the Rapha Condor Sharp team won the first stage of this year’s An Post Rás after edging out Irish under 23 national champion Sam Bennett of the An Post Sean Kelly team following a tight bunch sprint finish in Portumna, Galway.
 
The stage finale finished in unusual circumstances as the race commissiare halted proceedings with just under 8 kilometres to go following a crash in the main bunch. Sean Downey (Ireland Team Skoda), Yuriy Agarkov (ISD Lampre Continental) and Pete Williams (Motorpoint) were leading by 32 seconds at the time.
 
The race restarted after a short delay with the same time differences given to the breakaway. The trio never regained their momentum and were caught inside the final kilometre.
 
Bennett  opened the sprint but Downing was too quick and held on for his first ever stage win on the race with the race lead an added bonus. He takes a four second lead into stage two after time bonuses. Erwan Brenterch (France AVC Aix en Provence) took third place in the sprint eight seconds behind Downing.
 
Downing was understandably delighted with his stage win following a tough days racing into a strong headwind for most of the stage. “It was so hard out there with the head wind, but we took a gamble with it being a bunch sprint and my team gave me a fantastic lead out. I’m happy to take the victory and overall it’s a great start for the team,” he said at the finish.
 
Bennett was disappointed that the race was stopped, which he felt hindered his chances of taking the stage win. “When the race was stopped my legs went to jelly and I didn't have anything left for the sprint,” he said.
 
The Waterford man had high praise for his teammates which included fellow Irishmen Ronan McLaughlin and Mark Cassidy. “The team did most of the work for me today and they all did a brilliant job in bringing me up. We’ll just take every day as it comes now and see what comes in our way” he added.
 
Stage two starts in Portumna at 11am before departing on the 164 kilometre route to the finish in Kilrush.
 
2011 An Post Rás
 
Stage 1: Dunboyne to Portumna, 147. 8 kilometres
 
1. Dean Downing (Britain Rapha Condor Sharp) 3:47:53 secs
2. Sam Bennett (Belgium An Post M. Donnelly Grant Thornton Sean Kelly) 
3. Erwan Brenterch (France AVC Aix en Provence) 
4. Shane Archbold (New Zealand National Team) 
5. Will Fox (Britain Forme Impsport) 
6. Ralf Matzka (Germany Thuringer Energie) 
7. Oleksander Martynenko (Ukraine ISD-Lampre Continental) 
8. Javier Benitez Pomares (Greece KTM Murica) 
9. Dean Windsor (Britain Rapha Condor Sharp) 
10. David McCann (Asia Giant Kenda Cycling Team) - all same time
 
General classification after stage 1:
 
1. Dean Downing (Britain Rapha Condor Sharp) 3:47:43
2. Sam Bennett (Belgium An Post M. Donnelly Grant Thornton Sean Kelly) at 4 seconds
3. Erwan Brenterch (France AVC Aix en Provence) at 6 seconds
4. Mark McNally (Belgium An Post M. Donnelly Grant Thornton Sean Kelly) 
4. Peter Williams (Britain Motorpoint)
6. David McCann (Asia Giant Kenda Cycling Team) at 7 seconds
7. Mark Cassidy (Belgium An Post M. Donnelly Grant Thornton Sean Kelly) 
8. Dean Windsor (Britain Rapha Condor Sharp) at 8 secs
9. Marytn Irvine (Asia Giant Kenda Cycling Team) at 9 seconds
10. Wouter Sybrandy (Britain Sigma Specialized Team) same time

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