Paidi O’Brien outfoxes Sam Bennett for stage in Suir Valley 3 Day but An Post man takes yellow

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Get up the yard: Paidi O’Brien was a clear winner of the opening stage of the Suir Valley Three Day in Clonmel today; beating Sam Bennett into second with the very promising Marcus Christie in third place (Photo courtesy of Suir Valley Three Day)

By Brian Canty –

Paidi O’Brien has taken a brilliant win on the opening stage of the Suir Valley Three Day in Clonmel, Co Tipperary,  this afternoon, outsprinting Sam Bennett and Marcus Christie at the end of a gruelling 115-kilometre day.

O’Brien (Planet Tri) timed his effort perfectly on the fast run-in to the finish to give himself the perfect confident booster ahead of the remaining two days, and a nice little fillip just a month before his wedding next month.

The Banteer man, who has been struggling with a knee injury of late, played it so intelligently coming into the line, allowing Christie lead it out, before leaving it late on Bennett, who to his credit, had an enormous ride and spent most of the day in the break – so that possibly came against him in the dash for the line.

Bennett does have the yellow jersey (and Mountains) however, as he swept up most of the time bonuses available throughout the day while the An Post Chain Reaction team also have the pink jersey (Hot Spot Leader) through Ronan McLaughlin.

Felix English (Rapha Condor JLT) had been in a long breakaway with Bennett all day and wears the Most Aggressive Rider jersey in memory of the late Paul Healion. Daire O’Sullivan (Usher IRC) holds the Blue A2 jersey while Jake Kelly ( Isle of Man ) has the Red jersey as best placed A3 rider.

Today’s opener in conditions that ranged from glorious to horrendous, was an aggressive one and from the gun there were attacks out of Clonmel as the race headed back for Kilsheelan and Carrick on Suir with the aid of a tailwind.

That helped keep the pace high and the first hour saw an average speed of over 47 kilometres per hour and unsurprisingly, very little managed to get away, despite several attempts.

Each dig off the front was conspicuous by the presence of the Planet Tri team, as well as the Rapha Condor and An Post Chain Reaction teams, with several combinations forming before a five-man escape edged clear, with Paidi O’Brien in there with Ronan McLaughlin, Jack Wilson, Bennett and English.

Not long after, Eddie Barry (Planet Tri) bridged with several others, among them were Sean Lacey, and two more Rapha Condor JLT riders and at one point, there were nine up front, with Barry Meade and Mick Storan (Planet Tri) also in the thick of it.

The next, and most sustained break came when Bennett and English took off alone and were out front for over 50 kilometres, with the gap fluctuating but only getting above a minute briefly, before the cars were subsequently pulled out.

English dropped back, while Bennett was joined by Christie and O’Brien and they worked well together. Behind, a chase group of seven formed with around 20 kilometres to go and in it were many of the of the big favourites, Mark Dowling, Ryan Sherlock (both Polygon Sweet Nice) and Ronan McLaughlin (An Post Chain Reaction), to name but a few.

Behind them, another little group broke off the front with Jack Wilson and Sean Downey in there, as well as Eddie Barry, and the Eurocycles pair of Bryan McCrystal and Conor Murphy.

The first chase group worked well and limited their losses to 36 seconds while the second chase came in 1.20 down with the bunch just 50 seconds further back.

Tomorrow sees the riders tackle a relatively flat 92-kilometre morning stage which is likely to end in a bunch sprint while tomorrow night’s criterium should have a similar outcome.

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