SWISS rider Pirmin Lang took over the yellow jersey in the An Post Ras yesterday as he led home a seven-man breakaway into Gort at the end of stage two.
On another ferociously fast stage, an eight-man group, which included Belfast youngster Connor McConvey of An Post, went clear just outside Thurles after 43km of the 158km stage had been covered in the first hour of racing.
The escapees soon pulled out a maximum lead of three minutes and 50 seconds before the Czech team took it upon themselves to chase.
Up front, Dan Craven was having a ding-dong battle with Ras debutant Richard Handley.
"We were competing for the King of the Mountains points but, at the same time, we needed to keep the group together," said the youngster from Wigan, who missed out on the 'Mountains' jersey by a mere three points but then found himself in the white jersey of best U-23 rider at the end of the stage.
As the peloton drifted backwards, a chasing group containing the Isle of Man's Graeme Hatcher and Irish riders Conor McAlister, Patrick Clarke, Simon Ryan, Dan Morrissey, Sean Lacey and Robin Kelly hovered in no-man's land at two minutes and 50 seconds for much of the stage before being caught outside Scariff after 123km.
With the French now joining the Czechs on the front of the bunch and the Norwegians sending a token rider up to help, the peloton soon ate into the breakaway's lead.
McConvey tried to rid himself of his colleagues on the final climbs of Aylebaun and Killenena as the gap dropped to under a minute, but the An Post rider had no answer to Lang's turn of speed and the Swiss rolled across the line ahead of Appelby and Moss.
"I can't sprint my way out of a paper bag," admitted McConvey afterwards.
"I tried to get away on the climbs and towards the end to give myself any chance of victory, but it was so fast.
"It's not that we were riding super intense but the tailwind made it really hard to make any difference.
"We had a 46kph average for the stage so you have to have massive power to be able to skip away there.
"The only option for me was to try to surprise them and I did that with 400m to go but they caught me 50m from the end so it didn't work out." McConvey, who finished seventh, is the only Irishman in the top 10 overall, in fifth place.
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