Commentary from Stage 1 2011

Stage 1

12.30: Good morning and welcome to the Live coverage of this year’s An Post Ras. We’ll be bringing you the usual updates this year, so stay tuned for details of the race as it unfolds. 

12.34: We are in Dunboyne for the start of the race...the riders have rolled off but racing has not started as yet. One of the competitors punctured in the neutralised section so they are waiting until he has had a wheel change before dropping the flag. 

12.42: Racing has started and the 2011 An Post Rás is now underway! 

A total of 172 riders took to the start and a full start list will be on this site shortly. 

12.43: As you'll notice from the new name, this year's race is sponsored by a new backer. After over two decades of FBD Insurance sponsorship, An Post has now stepped in and added the race to its large porfolio of cycling-related events. There's already some interesting changes, and we are looking forward to seeing how things are under the new setup. 

There's also a change in the way the race is being run, with previous Rás organiser Dermot Dignam moving to a new role of race director. Essentially it means that the workload is being shared amongst more people than before, lessening the workload for Dermot. He ran the race for several decades and really had a lot on his plate; the new system will spread things around. 

Dermot's son in law Stephen O'sullivan designed this year's route; he's also taking part in the race, competing with the Meath Dectek team. 

12.44: Remi Sarreboubee (France AVC Aix en Provence) has the distinction of being the first attacker in this year's race. 

12.47: He has been joined by Ronan McLaughlin of the An Post M. Donnelly Grant Thornton Sean Kelly team. They hold a 50 metre gap. 

12.48: They have been reeled in? 

12.51: It's all together at present?.and it's raining. It's coming down quite heavily. This race is known as one which can be quite wet, but which has also had several editions run off in blazing sunshine. We hope the 2011 version will lean more towards the latter.

12.59: Being Ireland, the rain has now stopped and the sun has come out. You really never know what's going to happen here. At least snow is unlikely this week (touch wood!) 

13.00: No lasting breaks as yet, we'll keep you posted when that changes. The An Post Rás is legendary as being one of the most uncontrollable races on the international calendar, so plenty of attacks are expected today. 

Today's stage features three intermediate sprints with bonus seconds on offer. There will also be bonuses at the finish in Portumna. 

13.02: Six riders are now clear after 18 kilometres of racing. 

They are Sean Downey (Ireland Team Skoda), Martyn Irvine (Asia Giant Kenda), Rhys Pollock (Australia Drapac Cycling), Ronan McLaughlin (Belgium An Post M. Donnelly Grant Thornton Sean Kelly), Johannes Kahra (Germany Thuringer Energie) and Oleksander Martynenko (ISD-Lampre Continental). 

13.04: They have been joined by Nikolay Mihaylov (France AVC Aix en Provence). 

13.07: The septet are 20 seconds clear after 21 kilometres of racing. They are facing a headwind today, so it will be interesting to see how far they get and what lead they can open. 

13.11: The main field has fragmented under the pressure of the chase. The break has been caught by about 20 others, but things are tight. 

Heading into Clane (km 23), it's all back together once more. 

The aforementioned intermediate sprints are in Allenwood (km 36.5), Mountmellick (km 80.2) and Clonaslee (km 94.6). The finish comes after 147.8 kilometres of racing, and was estimated to take place around 15.40 Irish time. Depending on the wind direction, this could be a little later than that. 

13.15: A note about the live coverage; it's being done from the back of one of the race vehicles, so the frequency of the updates will depend on network coverage. We'll tend to write continuously, but upload the updates every ten minutes or so. 

13.16: David McCann (Giant Kenda) and Wouter Sybrandy (Sigma Specialized) have gone clear. 

They have been joined by Mark McNally (An Post Grant Thornton M. Donnelly Sean Kelly) and Dean Windsor (Rapha Condor Sharp). 

13.18: McCann is a past winner of this race, lifting the trophy back in 2004. 

13.19: They have a lead of 14 seconds over the peloton. They'll keep plugging away and hope the elastic snaps. 

13.29: The gap is now 25 seconds ahead of a chase group of 20 riders. 

13.31: The peloton has come back together behind; the four leaders are still clear, holding a gap of 14 seconds. 

13.33: The gap is now just seven seconds, but the quartet remain clear for the first An Post sprint; they will fight it out for the bonus seconds between them. 

13.34: They have been caught, but McCann took the first sprint ahead of Windsor and Sybrandy before that happened. So he's three seconds up as a result. 

13.39: McCann's Giant Kenda team-mate Martyn Irvine is now clear, holding a 20 second lead. 

13.44: Riding into a headwind, Irvine opens a lead of over a minute. He's plugging away well, but it's difficult to do this alone.

13.48: The gap is now 50 seconds. He has covered 46 kilometres, over 100 left to go today? 

13.50: Irvine's likely prayers have been answered, with three riders clipping away and setting off in pursuit. They are Peter Hawkins (Ireland Team Skoda), Mark Cassidy (An Post Grant Thornton M. Donnelly Sean Kelly) and Christian Varley (Isle of Man Microgaming). 

13.51: Five other riders are now chasing those, and get across. However they have all been reeled in, leaving Irvine out front. He'll have to wait longer for reinforcements. 

13.56: There's now one chaser 29 seconds back: it's Christian Varley (Isle of Man Microgaming). The peloton is a further ten seconds back, so this might be coming back together. They next few kilometres will be crucial in determining if Irvine's efforts have been for nothing. 

13.58: Varley has been joined by Felix English (Ireland Skoda) and Kohei Uchima (D'Angelo & D'Antenucci). The trio are trying to join up with Irvine, but the bunch is closing in. 

14.00: Varley, English and Uchima have been recaptured. Irvine is just ahead of the peloton, dangling out front. 

14.03: Various other riders are trying to get across, but the situation is very tight. We'll list the numbers if and when a move is established. 

14.04: Okay, the chasers are Felix English (Ireland Team Skoda), Lachlann Norris (Australia Drapac Cycling), Ronan McLaughlin (Belgium An Post M. Donnelly Grant Thornton Sean Kelly), Jakob Steigmiller (Germany Thuringer Energie), Casey Munro (Britain Rapha Condor Sharp), former race winners Stephen Gallagher (Donegal Sportactive Engraveit) and Simon Richardson (Britain Sigma Sport-Specialized). 

A couple of other riders are also there, and get across to Irvine. 

14.10: They had little reward for their efforts; it's all back together once again. 

14.20: Due to speed and to sidewinds, the peloton has split in two. 

14.30: Two riders are off the front of the first half of the bunch; Oleksandr Sheydyk (ISD Lampre Continental) and Steve Lampier (Britain Sigma Specialized) are clear and driving onwards into the winds. 

14.35: Going into Mountmellick, the riders have covered approximately 78 kilometres. The two leaders have been caught by a group, with 17 riders now being up front. Some 30 seconds behind that, the first part of the peloton is chasing. 

That lead group comprises Conor Dunne (Ireland Team Skoda), Marytn Irvine (Asia Giant Kenda Cycling Team), Floris Goesinnen (Australia Drapac Cycling), Lachlann Norris (Australia Drapac Cycling), Mark Cassidy (Belgium An Post M. Donnelly Grant Thornton Sean Kelly), Mark McNally (Belgium An Post M. Donnelly Grant Thornton Sean Kelly), Jakob Steigmiller (Germany Thuringer Energie), Ralf Matzka (Germany Thuringer Energie), Marcel Barth (Germany Thuringer Energie), Javier Benitez Pomares (Greece KTM Murcia), Henry Frusto (Italy D’Angelo & D’Antenucci), Oleksandr Sheydyk (Ukraine ISD-Lampre Continental) , James McCallum (Britain Rapha Condor Sharp), Steven Lampier (Britain Sigma Specialized Team), Peter Williams (Britain Motorpoint), Anthony Walsh (Dublin UCD) and Simon Kelly (Meath 53 Degrees North Optimun) 

14.40: The results of the second hot spot sprint were: 

An Post sprint at Mountmellick (km 80.2):

1, Mark McNally (An Post Grant Thornton M. Donnelly Sean Kelly) 5pts/3 secs
2, Martyn Irvine (Giant Kenda) 4 pts/2 secs
3, Peter Williams (Britain Motorpoint) 3 pts/1 sec

14.50: That lead group is almost a minute clear of the peloton. The riders continue to face a headwind, making it a tough opening day for them. 

14.57: That lead group is now a minute and a half clear. We are ahead of the race and waiting for the leaders to pass; an updated time check will follow. 

15.01: The 17 riders out front are one minute 25 clear. The are rolling along rather than going flat out; presumably they will respond when the bunch starts knuckling down to the chase. However the fact that a lot of teams are represented will mean that the pressure may be on just a few to overcome the gap. 

15.03: The riders passed through Clonaslee a couple of minutes ago. There, Mark Cassidy was first to the line in the hot spot gallop. 

An Post intermediate sprint at Clonaslee (km 94.6)

1, Mark Cassidy (Belgium An Post M. Donnelly Grant Thornton Sean Kelly) 5pts/3 secs
2, Peter Williams (Britain Motorpoint) 4pts/2
3, Mark McNally (Belgium An Post M. Donnelly Grant Thornton Sean Kelly) 3 pts/1

McNally has now picked up a total of four bonus seconds, one ahead of his team-mate Cassidy. 

15.09: The gap is now one minute, so it's coming down little by little. France AVC Aix en Provence is doing much of the chasing behind. 

Mobile broadband coverage has been a bit patchy, hence the gap in updates. 

15.11: The break needs to knuckle down if it is to have a chance to stay clear. Its advantage has been dropping, and so the next few minutes will determine if the riders there can turn things around. 

15.13: It's down to 42 seconds; the team cars behind the break have been told to pull over and stop, waiting for the peloton. 

The AVC Aix en Provence team are continuing to do all the work behind, having missed out on the move. 

15.18: This break looks like toast; the gap continues to drop. It's just ten seconds, and the break will be caught any moment now. 

15.19: After 104 kilometres of racing, the peloton is back together. The stage is heading towards a likely bunch sprint in Portumna. There's 44 kilometres left today. 

15.26: The wind appears stronger than before, and this may dissuade others from trying to attack. The peloton has just passed Kinnity castle, and are going through the town of the same name. 

15.28: Ten riders are now ahead of the bunch, although the advantage is small at this point in time. Will they succeed in establishing a significant gap? Stay tuned? 

They have been joined by one more rider, so it's eleven up front. 

15.35: That group got ten seconds, but was then hauled back. We spoke to a moto-pilot for a photographer and he said that the wind is both strong and gusting. "I'd hate to be on deep section wheels with that," he said. 

15.41: Two attackers: Peter Hawkins (Ireland Team Skoda) and Maksym Vasyliev (Ukraine ISD Lampre Continental) slipped clear and have a 15 second lead. 

15.44: With 25 kilometres to go, the two leaders have 13 seconds advantage. They are racing through Birr, and need to build their lead quickly. 

They have been joined by ten others.. If the move persists, we'll bring you their names? 

15.51: That group was unable to gain ground and has been reeled in. Heading towards the 20km to go banner, its one big bunch. The sprinters are psyching themselves up for the chance to grab a stage win, as well as a likely stint in the yellow jersey. 

15.54: Marc Ryan (New Zealand) and Adam Semple (Drapac Cycling) are now on the attack. 

15.56: They now have 20 seconds lead. 

16.00: No joy for the two; they were caught. 

16.04: Now Robin Kelly (Kildare Newbridge) clips away and opens a decent lead. He's 20 seconds clear?. 

16.10: He's was caught. Three others clipped away, namely Sean Downey (Ireland Team Skoda), Yuriy Agarkov (ISD Lampre Continental) and Pete Williams (Motorpoint).

16.15: They are 32 seconds clear, that's a useful gap at this point in the stage? 

We've gone on to the finish, will keep you posted? 

16.17: The race has been stopped - the road is blocked. 

We are now hearing that the race has been neutralised..bear with us. 

16.18: Race radio didn't report any accidents, so we are unsure why that would have happened. There were road works on a bridge heading towards the finish; perhaps some vehicles blocked the route. As soon as we have some information, we'll let you know? 

16.24: Still radio silence, no explanation as to why the race was neutralised. We understand that the riders are riding in to the finsh. Fingers crossed that there's an innocent reason. 

16.27: We are at the finish, a lot of people are waiting for news. We understand the race has restarted and the original gap was given to the leaders. 

16.28: They are now 20 seconds clear; no word on how far they are from the finish. 

16.29: Update - one kilometre to go for the leaders?.

16.30: The gap is down to five seconds...

16.31: Bunch sprint...break was caught. Dean Downing (Rapha Condor Sharp) got it. Sam Bennett (An Post Grant Thornton M. Donnelly Sean Kelly team) was right up there, may have got second. Stand by for results... 

16.45: Top ten provisional results are in. Downing beat Sam Bennett (Belgium An Post M. Donnelly Grant Thornton Sean Kelly) and Erwan Brenterch (France AVC Aix en Provence) to the line, netting the first yellow jersey. 

Bennett said afterwards that he didn't understand why the race was neutralised. It was due to a crash in the bunch, but it happened towards the back of the group. He said that after it was restarted, "my legs felt like jelly." That must have been frustrating, as perhaps he would otherwise have been quicker in the sprint and landed his second Rás stage. 

We'll leave the live coverage there for now - come back later for a full report and results? 

An Post Rás (2.2), stage 1: Dunboyne to Portumna:

1, Dean Downing (Britain Rapha Condor Sharp) 147.8 kilometres in 3 hours 47 mins 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: 

1, Dean Downing (Britain Rapha Condor Sharp) 3 hours 47 mins 43 secs
2, Sam Bennett (Belgium An Post M. Donnelly Grant Thornton Sean Kelly) at 4 secs
3, Erwan Brenterch (France AVC Aix en Provence) at 6 secs
4, Mark McNally (Belgium An Post M. Donnelly Grant Thornton Sean Kelly) 
4, Peter Williams (Britain Motorpoint) both same time
6, David McCann (Asia Giant Kenda Cycling Team) at 7 secs
7, Mark Cassidy (Belgium An Post M. Donnelly Grant Thornton Sean Kelly) same time
8, Dean Windsor (Britain Rapha Condor Sharp) at 8 secs
9, Marytn Irvine (Asia Giant Kenda Cycling Team) at 9 secs
10, Wouter Sybrandy (Britain Sigma Specialized Team) same time

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