His face grimy and blackened from Saturday's heavy rain showers as he stood a few hundred metres beyond the Giro d'Italia's stage two finish line, Sky's Irish rider Philip Deignan predicted another bunch sprint when the Giro hits his home country for the first time in its history on Sunday.
"The stage will be like today [Saturday]: I'd think a small group will go up the road, the sprinters teams will control it and then it'll be a bunch sprint again," Deignan told a small group of reporters when he was asked how he thinks Sunday's 187 kilometre stage from Armagh to Dublin will play out.
"This time [on stage two] with 20 or 30 kilometres to go, the speed [in the bunch] suddenly went really high, and we knew it would be a bunch sprint, it was pretty standard really."
The tough weather conditions and high speed throughout made for fraught nerves on the peloton's five-hour ride through Northern Ireland. And Deignan - following Dan Martin's abandon - with Nicolas Roche (TInkoff-Saxo) one of just two Irish riders left in the race - said that the fast pace and heavy rain showers meant there was no opportunity for the bunch to notice the countryside they were passing through, let alone admire it.
"I don't think anybody had a chance to enjoy themselves out there, unfortunately the weather conditions were really bad," he said. "It was wet all day and with 220 kilometres in the rain, it was not much fun at all."
Sky's best placed rider in the bunch sprint was Ben Swift, who took seventh. Deignan himself finished in the main pack, in 123rd place.
Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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