When van Hooydonck attacked 40 miles from the end of the 87-mile journey from Galway yesterday, he was joined by Thomas Wegmuller, the Swiss rider who had ruined the Belgian's chance of a third triumph in his home classic, the Tour of Flanders.
Van Hooydonck attributed his success to Wegmuller. 'He was phenomenally strong. I was happy to have him there because he does not hold himself back. His style of riding lost me the the Tour of Flanders, but thanks to him this time I won,' van Hooydonck said. 'I was not feeling so strong, but Thomas does not sprint so well so I was able to pass him at the finish.'
Wilfried Nelissen, of Belgium, finished 15 seconds behind van Hooydonck to surrender the lead he had held for the first three days of the race.
His challenge was handicapped when his Panasonic team-mates, Eric van Lancker and Louis de Koning, fell. Nelissen, who is not a good climber, had been relying on their help to ascend Gallow's Hill.
The leaders completed the climb with a 2min 15sec advantage, but had less than two minutes in hand by the time they reached the finishing circuit.
As the last-lap bell sounded the lead had been cut to less than one and a half minutes and the chasing pack reduced it to 15 seconds by the final 4 1/2 -mile circuit.
Gallow's Hill ended Nelissen's lead, and van Hooydonck fears his challenge could founder on St Patrick's Hill, a 1 in 4 incline in Cork which has to be tackled three times today. 'I may have twice won the Tour of Flanders on the Bosberg hill, but St Patrick's Hill is not my kind of hill. Last year I had to walk it,' he said.
NISSAN CLASSIC TOUR OF IRELAND (Third stage, Galway to Limerick, 87 miles): 1 E van Hooydonck (Buckler, Bel) 3hr 41min 23sec; 2 T Wegmuller (Festina, Swit) same time; 3 W Nelissen (Panasonic, Bel) +15sec; 4 A van der Poel (Tulip, Neth); 5 C Bomans (GB-MG, Bel) s/t; 6 E de Wilde (Telekom, Bel) +16. Selected: 10 C Lillywhite (Banana, GB); 15 D Rayner (Buckler, GB); 19 S Kelly (Festina, Irl); 22 S Roche (Carrera, Irl); 26 H Redant (Lotto, Bel); 36 S Yates (Motorola, GB); 41 E Breukink (PDM, Netherlands); 46 M Earley (PDM, Irl) all +16sec. Overall: 1 Van Hooydonck 13:52:27; 2 Wegmuller +5sec; 3 Nelissen +6; 4 Redant +20; 5 Van der Poel +23; 6 P Anderson (Motorola, Australia) s/t. Selected: 9 Earley +26; 18 Kelly +29; 21 Rayner; 23 Yates; 30 Roche; 33 Breukink +29.Reuse content