Nielsen takes back-to-back stage wins at An Post Rás - one year apart
Having taken victory on the final stage of the An Post Rás in Skerries last year, Nicolai Nielsen of the Danish Riwal Platform team, continued his winning streak at this year's edition of the race when he emerged from a four-man breakaway group to claim victory on Stage One in Longford yesterday.
After several skirmishes off the front of the peloton in the opening kilometres, it was Przemyslaw Kasperkiewicz, of Sean Kelly's An Post Chain Reaction team, who was first to break, soloing clear of the main field outside Trim, around 40km into the 146km stage.
The Polish rider was joined by Frenchman Thomas Rostollon (Armée de Terre) and Dutchman Dennis Bakker (Delta Cycling Rotterdam) soon after, while British rider Alexandre Blain (Madison Genesis) and Chris McGlinchey of Cycling Ulster also made the jump as the riders covered 48km in the first hour of racing.
Nielsen showed a first glimpse of the speed that earned him glory when he took the first Hot Spot sprint in Athboy 3km later, while Bakker jumped clear of the group to claim maximum points atop the third category climb of Lough Crew after 73km.
With no more mountains until Wednesday, the flying Dutchman will keep the climber's jersey until then at least.
As the race headed towards Claremorris after 80km, a four-man chase group containing Irish riders Seán Lacey (Cork Aqua Blue Sport), Simon Ryan (Strata3 Velo-Revolution) Richard Maes (Kerry) and Ulsterman Marc Potts, riding for the British Neon Velo team, got to within a minute of the lead sextet, who in turn opened a three-minute lead on the rest of the field. That was as close as the chasers got and by the time Blain and McGlinchey lost contact with the leaders with 20km left, all four had been swallowed up by the peloton.
Up front, Rostollon, Bakker, Kasperkiewicz, and Nielsen's lead shrank to just a minute-and-a-half with 4km to go. However, the reaction came too late from the peloton and the four would contest the spoils in Longford.
Rostollon, riding for the French army team, was first to fire, but was reeled in on the home straight, where Nielsen led from the front to outsprint Bakker for stage glory and the first yellow jersey of the race.
Chris Latham of Team Wiggins led home the peloton for fifth place just 16 seconds later.
Nielsen leads the Rás by nine seconds from King of the Mountains Bakker, with Kasperkiewicz on the same time in third. McGlinchey is best of the Irish in sixth place overall, 28 seconds back.