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Road race rookie Wetterhall claims Rás title

Alexander Wetterhall landed the biggest victory of his short road career when he wrapped up the FBD Insurance Rás in Skerries yesterday.

The 24-year-old Swede only took up road racing last year after crossing over from mountain biking.

"This is my biggest win," he said. "I won the Swedish national time-trial championships last year, but this is even better. I've only done four or five stage races before, so this is a fantastic result. It's incredible."

Having taken the yellow jersey after stage four of the race in Tipperary, Wetterhall almost lost the lead the next day on the difficult climb of Seskin Hill outside Carrick-On-Suir.

He came out of that stage with an eight-second lead over Austrian Josef Kugler and spent the rest of the week defending the jersey.

On Saturday, Kugler was dropped in the Wicklow mountains and Wetterhall's nearest rival was Briton Peter Williams, 59 seconds behind. That cushion was enough to see him safely through yesterday's final stage.

"The last three days have been so hard; to defend just eight seconds is really difficult in a race like this, where there is constant attacking and people jumping up the road," he said.

"I'd like to thank my team. They did incredible work for me every day.

Meath man Mark Cassidy, winner of Saturday's stage, went on the attack again yesterday in an effort to win the King of the Mountains competition.

He was tied with team-mate David O'Loughlin for the jersey at the beginning of the stage.

Cassidy took maximum points on the first of the day's four climbs at Pluckhimin, outside Garristown and did enough to keep his pink jersey as he crossed the line in fourth place.

Connor McConvey was the best-placed Irish rider, in fourth overall, finishing one minute and 45 seconds behind Wetterhall.

The An Post team won the best international team award.

Meanwhile, Italian Ivan Basso carefully negotiated the cobbled streets of Verona to seal his second Giro d'Italia title yesterday, arriving to a hero's welcome just three years after being banned in disgrace.

Ireland's Daniel Martin was 57th.