Much involved Daly finds himself in lead

 

AFTER the first two hard-fought stages of the FBD Milk Ras, Peter Daly of the Ireland team leads by 16-seconds from South African Jacques Fullard, with Ciaran Power, riding with Galway, and John Cosgrove, of the British North East squad next at 28 seconds.

Paul Giles, winner of Saturday's opening stage from Dublin to Kilkenny, fought gallantly yesterday as he had persistent gear trouble on the trip of 103 miles on to Millstreet. He did very well to finish in the second group, 35 seconds behind Daly, and he is fifth at 32 seconds with his Derry team-mate Barry Monaghan next at 36 seconds and then Finn O'Sullivan (Dublin-Fingal) at 43 seconds.

As on Saturday, most of those to the fore were reluctant yesterday to take over the leader's yellow jersey so early and on the platform after the finish in Millstreet, Daly said: "It's still too early, I didn't want to take over yet but I just went along with all the moves and now I'll have to see how it goes from here."

National team director Alasdair MacLennan, bidding for a record fourth win in a row for a member of his Ireland selection did not want to have his side under pressure so soon but he added: "It's always nice to have the yellow jersey and we'll just take it stage by stage now."

Daly has been involved in the action at the front since the race got under way on the Naas Road on Saturday. He was in a breakaway group of 10 who contested the bonus sprints at Athy, Newtown Hill and Castlecomer. With two second placings he earned eight seconds but then when Giles, Finn O'Sullivan, Ben Luckwell and South African Gary Beneke came up approaching Kilkenny, Daly went on again with Monaghan, Giles, Beneke and O'Sullivan.

The way they raced around two laps of a three-mile circuit in Kilkenny it did not appear that any of the five were that reluctant to take over the first leader's jersey. After O'Sullivan had launched what looked the decisive attack, he was brought back by Beneke and then Giles sprinted ahead and won by 11 seconds from Beneke, who was followed over the line by O'Sullivan, Monaghan and Daly.

That put Giles in the lead by three seconds from Daly, with Monaghan just another second behind.

Then yesterday, after David Peelo led a group of six over the first of three hill primes, Daly got into a chasing group and when they linked up with the leaders, there were 11 out in front by over a minute after 25 miles.

As some more joined up at the front and others dropped back Daly was constantly at the head of affairs and eventually he went on approaching Millstreet with Fullard, Power, Cosgrove and Michael O'Reilly.

Three miles out, O'Reilly could not hold his place with the leaders and then, with a mile to go Fullards's constant attacking paid off as he opened a gap and he kept going strongly on the drag up to the finish to win by 12 seconds from Power, who was obviously pleased with his placing in his first Ras.

Cosgrave, competing in the event for the seventh time, was third. He was disappointed his first stage win had eluded him again: "I have been second, third and fourth, so I'll just have to keep on trying," he said.

Fullard (21) is from Pretoria. He said that be won seven races in South Africa early in the season and then be went to France and joined a team at Angers, where he has also recorded a win.

Kilkenny man Daly is 23 and has been racing in France, based at Tours for the last two seasons. It will be interesting to see what tactics he applies now that he is leader heading for Nenagh this morning and the other Ireland team members are so far behind.

Mark Hutton is 34th at 3:04, with Leslie McKay 40th at 4:06. The national champion, Micheal Fitzgerald, was ill yesterday and struggled in with a big group over 10 minutes in arrears. He is 70th at 10:48, so he can only fill the role of helper now.

Giles was calling for assistance from early in the stage yesterday and he changed bikes three times before he eventually finished with the group that contested fifth place.

Daly also heads the points classification with 23, to 22 for Fullard. Peelo accumulated 14 points to lead the king of the mountains with last year's winner, Jeff Wright, just a point behind. There is only one third category climb on today's-94 miles, at Port roe, nine miles from the finish at Pearse Street Nenagh.