Ricardo Van der Velde (Netherlands: race leader, 10th on stage, best young rider, 2nd overall KOM classification):
“The stage was really crazy because everybody was attacking one after another. The team of the yellow jersey was not cooperating that well. I had the opportunity to get the yellow jersey but I was not specifically trying to do so, because I was thinking of the mountains jersey…I like that. I attacked for that two climbs before the end. I gained some points but [Jesse] Anthony got them back on the last climb.
“There was a small group gaining on us after that. We started working together when they came up but it was really, really hard because the peloton was riding so hard. We were doing 50, 55 kilometres an hour. It was unexpected that I got yellow.
“This is only the second stage race I have done. I do cyclo-cross in the winter and this year I started a bit earlier than normal so I have only done a few races. It is nice to be in yellow, it is cool.
“I am only a couple of seconds clear so it is not really a case that I will go all out to defend the lead. I will only know if it is possible after stage five – that will tell if I keep it or lose it.”
Q: Are you any relation to Johan Van der Velde [3rd overall in 1982 Tour de France]?
“Yes, he is my father. My brother is also riding here. I started cycling at thirteen years of age.
“Having a famous father has two sides. One thing is that gives you a bit of pressure because you are the son of a famous pro rider. But I don’t think about it…I race my own race. If I turn pro, I turn pro, and if I don’t, I don’t. I just do my best…that is the only thing I can do.”
Brian Kenneally (Meath MyHome.ie/BDBC: stage winner, 3rd overall):
“Today was unbelievably fast. There was a strong tailwind. The first climb was steady enough, and then on the other two there was some attacking. On the first of those there was a bit of jumping and the groups were starting to split. I went over the top and got into a group. There were three Dutch in it and two Canadians, and they rode pretty hard. When we hit the next climb, the KOH leader was in it so he was riding for the points.
“We were thirty or forty seconds clear but everyone rode and the gap went up to a minute or so. When I saw that there were three Dutch guys in it, I thought that there was no way they would let me get away. But one of the Dutch guys attacked inside the final couple of kilometres. I jumped up to him and when he saw me on his wheel he just pulled over. I went full on then, going full gas for about a kilometre and half. I had maybe ten seconds with a kilometre to go and I don’t think I went under 55 kilometres an hour in that last kilometre.
“It is unbelievable to win. I was in great form all season but got a knock a couple of weeks ago. It is great to get up to this level again.”
Q: There are a few Irish riders up overall…
“There are a lot of very strong foreigners here this year, but there are still some Irish guys up there at the moment. It is very close. However I think there will be one day where the whole Rás will settle down. A big group will go and that will be it.
“The climbs didn’t make too much difference today, they weren’t hard. Today was all non-stop attacking, there was nothing getting away…everyone was fresh. But on the last climb you could see everyone starting to tire a bit. I think tomorrow it could be similar. Then I reckon the weather will change in Donegal and so the race will be different up there.
Q: How was today’s stage?
“I started at the back. I punctured just on the start line so I had to go back and get a wheel. I started last man as a result and going out the road, it was 50 or 60 kilometres per hour. Chris Newton was at the back as well. I saw guys starting to let gaps go ahead so it took a big effort to get back to the front.
“I stayed in the first fifty riders in the bunch for the rest of the day. The first attack I did was into the group, and the second attack was to win the stage.”
Q: Did you know you were on a good day?
“Yes, when I went to catch the group it had about twenty seconds on the bunch. I jumped across. There was a Recycling.co.uk guy sitting on me and I dropped him. When I got there, everyone rode through. Everyone seemed very strong and I wasn’t really thinking of winning the stage. But then in the last ten kilometres guys were definitely starting to tire in the group.
“A Dutch guy attacked and I was actually on the front when I jumped onto him. I got onto him quickly. He saw me on his wheel and pulled over; as soon as I saw that, I just went. It wasn’t really an attack, I just went full on. He tried to get back to me but he couldn’t. There was three or four bike lengths of a gap, so I said that is it now, I was fully committed.
“Today I suffered with the speed. We averaged 42 kilometres an hour, maximum of 73 kilometres an hour, but it was very, very fast at times. My legs just felt blocked in the first hour but they loosened out. At the end they were very good.”
Q: Were you still expecting to be up for a stage win after your crash?
“Yes. I took a week off work, sitting on the couch. I had to go on antibiotics then to clear up my elbow, and anti-inflamatories as the swelling never came down. My hip and elbow were affected. I did three or four days for Ulster, going hard to wake my body up. I felt okay there, nothing special, but the evening after I felt good.
“I think from the start of Ulster until Sunday evening I did 1100 kilometres in those eight days. I did all of them at a high intensity. When I was training I could feel that I was going well. So I just rested up after that.
“I also did a test for the Sports Council to get on the track squad. I was putting out huge wattage so I knew I was in good form. It is just a matter of fine tuning it now.”
Q: Was there any point that you thought you mightn’t ride the race at all?
“No, no, I would do it anyway. If I didn’t have the condition I would ride around, even just to enjoy it.”
Q: You won a stage here before…
“Yes, I won a stage in 2000, and was second overall the year before that.
“I took some time away from the sport in the years since then. In 2000 I won the stage. In 2001 I was off the bike for bits and piece in between. Last year I was up in the top ten overall, then I blew up on the Friday.”
Q: What is your goal now? You are obviously back in top form…
“I don’t know…getting a stage win was my goal! The plan was just to race every day, to try to keep up there. I would love to stay up there overall, but in the Rás you can miss a group and that is it.
“Longer term, my target it is the track, the team pursuit. I work full-time but they [Cycling Ireland] have great plans with a load of top riders wanting to do it. You have Ciarán [Power], David O’Loughlin, McCann, Scanlon, Dermot Nally. There is a huge potential if everyone commits to it. We don’t have a lot of experience but if everyone really commits themselves, we could hopefully do well.”
Jesse Anthony (US Kodak Gallery Sierra Nevada - KOM leader, 11th on stage, 2nd overall):
“On the second KOM I got stranded behind that group of three. I took off near the bottom of the climb and bridged to them, but I couldn’t quite catch them by the top. I picked up the last point.
“We were working really well and then another group bridged up to us with a bunch of guys, including my team-mate Dom [Dominique] Rollin. So once we all got together, it was pretty much game on. I got the last KOM which was good. My team did a really good job, they helped me out a lot in defending the KOM jersey.”
Q: Is that jersey the focus of the week or are you looking at the overall now?
“Now that I went for it [the mountains jersey] today I would like to keep it. I like wearing pink. I would like to do well overall and now that I have the KOM jersey, I would like to hold on to that. Sometimes you have got to sacrifice one thing for another. We will see how things play out.
“I have never won a KOM overall before. I held the lead in the KOM jersey in a couple of races as a junior.
“It was a hard day for sure. There was a lot of aggressive riding and we had to cover a lot of moves, to keep our heads up and be attentive. In the end it all worked out that we had two guys in the lead group and we were riding well up there, even if it turned out that we were not able to take the stage win. When the move went [Kenneally’s attack] a lot of other guys in the group hesitated. I didn’t really have the gas myself to pull it back. My team-mate Dom was waiting for someone else to do it so he could sprint at the end, but it never really happened.”