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Mathias Frank once again found his way to the front of the race in Ireland (foto by Isabelle Duchnesne)
Mathias Frank once again found his way to the front of the race in Ireland (foto by Isabelle Duchnesne)

Mathias Frank, Florian Stalder make the split, finish with lead group of 23 in Ireland

21. August 2009

Waterford

True to their word, the BMC Racing Team spent much of stage one at the Tour of Ireland working the breaks and staying alert for opportunities to make a separation in the peloton. 

Though the main sprinter's teams were reluctant to let anything go early on, the stiff category 2 climb about 40 kilometers from the finish provided enough of a challenge to break up the peloton.  Eventually a group of 23 riders formed at the front and contained BMC's Mathias Frank and Florian Stalder.  This strong group would make it to the finish with about two minutes in hand over the trailing main peloton.  With about 10 kilometers to go a second split happened in the lead group which meant that by the finish, there was a ten second gap between the first half and the second half of the leaders.  British rider Russell Downing took the surprise win over the Saxo Bank tandem of Alexandr Kolobnev and Matti Breschel while Frank and Stalder finished ten seconds back in the second group.

Going by the book

"The plan for the morning was to get into the breaks and help one succeed to the finish," Directeur Sportif John Lelangue said.  "Early on the race was really controlled by Columbia and a couple other strong teams, so even though we always had a rider in the escape groups, nothing was getting away."  Finally the pack took their foot off the accelerator just long enough for a non-threatening lone rider to escape.  "They finally let a rider from a small Continental team get away and gain four-five-six minutes," Lelangue said.  "But he was no danger and was easily caught again."  With the finish line coming closer, and no serious move working, things were beginning to look more and more like it might come down to a Columbia controlled sprint.  Just one final blip on the map would provide the necessary ingredient to confound the pure sprinters.

Reading each other's minds

"It was our plan to accelerate on the final climb about 40 kilometers from the finish to force a selection," Lelangue said.  "We were not the only team to think and try this, so there were a lot of guys working to make the climb up that little hill very, very fast."  BMC had instructed their non-sprinters to be certain to be ready for just such a division in the peloton.  Consequently, Mathias Frank and Florian Stalder ended up pushing the pace with the heavy hitters from Columbia, Astana, Saxo Bank and Cervelo.  "The pace on that climb was really fast, but even so, our sprinter Danilo was nearly able to hang on," Lelangue said.  "Nevertheless, with both Mathias and Florian in the group of 23, we were very happy to see it go to the finish."  Since this selection gained the leaders 2 minutes on the rest of the peloton, the overall winner of the Tour of Ireland will very likely be one of the members of this lead group of 23.