A mile from the finish and a niche in the record book as the first South African professional to win a world-ranked race since the apartheid boycott, the 30- year-old from Johannesburg was overhauled after a frantic chase.
It became even more frantic as the race leader, Wilfried Nelissen, needed rescuing after a flat rear tyre, and then in the finishing sprint bumped into his German team-mate, Olaf Ludwig, in tactical confusion.
Nelissen, of Belgium, stayed upright to snatch second, and more than double his overnight lead to 11 seconds, as his compatriot Eric Vanderaerden took his seventh win in the Nissan Classic.
Yesterday, however, belonged to Beneke. As he pedalled alone through the rain, a gap of more than nine minutes opened before the pack reacted, and he started the final lap of the town circuit with three minutes in hand.
Nelissen's Panasonic team, a blend of Belgian, Russian, Dutch, and German talent, turned the final seven miles into a cliff-hanger but Beneke was happy in defeat after crossing the line more than a minute after Vanderaerden.
NISSAN CLASSIC TOUR OF IRELAND (Second stage, Cavan to Galway, 125 miles): 1 E Vanderaerden (Buckler, Bel) 5:18:37; 2 W Nelissen (Panasonic, Bel); 3 P Pieters (Tulip, Neth); 4 F Baldato (GB-MG, It); 5 E Schurer (Sanyo-TVM, Neth); 6 O Ludwig (Panasonic, Ger) all s/t. Selected: 9 J Clay (Banana, GB); 15 S Yates (Motorola, GB); 21 S Kelly (Festina, Irl); 28 S Roche (Carrera, Irl); 32 M Earley (PDM, Irl); 38 D Rayner (Buckler, GB); 51 E Breukink (PDM, Neth) all s/t. Overall: 1 Nelissen 10:10:49; 2 H Redant (Lotto, Bel) +11sec; 3 P Anderson (Motorola, Aus) +12; 4 A van der Poel (Tulip, Neth) +13; 5 W Engelbrecht (Southern Sun, SA) +15; 6 Earley s/t. Selected: 15 Kelly; 18 Yates; 23 Rayner; 30 Breukink; 31 Roche +18.
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