By Shane Stokes
Race leader Stijn Vandenbergh (Unibet.com) finished up the final stage of the inaugural Tour of Ireland in ninth place and secured his overall victory ahead of closest rivals Marcus Ljungqvist (CSC) and Aaron Olson (T-Mobile), who ended up second and third respectively.
A break of three riders Marco Marcato, Thomas Berkhout (Rabobank) and Irish national road race champion David O'Loughlin (Navigators) took the top three spots Sunday. In an unusual stage race occurrence, the trio actually lapped the main field during the short, 2.4km finishing circuits.
The main bunch seemed to miscalculate their effort to reel back in the break, and it hit the finishing circuit over two and a half minutes back. Although 24 kilometres remained at this point and it was mathematically possible for the peloton to overcome that time deficit, the break lapped the bunch and guaranteed that victory would go to one of the three.
The main field was instructed to remain behind the break and the trio fought it out for victory among themselves at the finish. Berkhout attacked on the final lap and the Italian Marcato gambled that O'Loughlin would ride to bring back the Dutchman. That's just what happened, and Marcato capitalised on this by waiting, then coming off his wheel to close the final metres to Berkhout before attacking and hurtling up the finishing straight to take the win, his first of 2007.
Team CSC's Kim Andersen had nothing but praise for the first-year event. "Tour of Ireland has been a very positive experience and the organizers have managed to put together a brilliant race," said Andersen on the team's website, team-csc.com.