Van Kessel, racing with the Dutch WV Breda-Manieu.nl squad, was second through the final corner after 60km and powered her way past US stage race specialist Tayler Wiles to repeat her opening day success in Rás na mBan two years ago.
Van Kessel’s success was earned after a hard fight to get back into contention after finding herself in a chasing group following the single IVCA Wicklow 200 Queen of the Mountains climb of the day at the half way point of the stage.
With 10km remaining the lead group doubled from the 30 riders out front and there was enough time for Van Kessel to recover in time for the finishing sprint in Ennis town centre. A sharp left turn 200m from the line rewarded careful positioning on the approach to the final bend and Van Kessel was in the perfect position to launch off Wiles’ wheel on the run to the line to take the Joe Wogan Memorial Stage One.
“At the start of the stage, all was well,” said Van Kessel “My team mate Anne Ewing was in the breakaway until the start of the hill. Up the hill, the speed was very high, I got dropped up the hill but the team worked really well together and we got back on 10km from the finish. I thought I could do the same as two years ago. My team mates worked really well to keep me in the front. At the last two roundabouts I thought it’s now or never and it worked.
For the rest of the week, my first priority is to get over the hills. Hopefully my team mates will help me get over them. I will do everything gain to finish at the front of the race. The time trial will make the classification I guess after that.”
As well as taking the Leinster Cycling Stage winner’s jersey, Van Kessel also leads the early standings in the National Dairy Council Points competition and, of course, will wear the pink An Post jersey of overall race leader in tomorrow’s stage two Wild Atlantic Way 112km epic along Clare’s picturesque west coast.
Ireland’s most consistent finisher Fiona Meade of the Munster Blarney team showed her sprinting ability to take third on the stage and first local rider, thus earning the first Clare County Council Best Irish Rider jersey of the race.
Helene Gerard of the DN Bretagne crested the category two climb of Maghera after 29km to secure the early lead in the IVCA Wicklow 200 competition.
The Cycling Ireland Womenscycling.ie Young Rider classification is led by Henriette Woering of the Netherlands riding with the Danish Rytger team.
Stage two from Loop Head Lighthouse to Ballyvaughan gets under way at 12pm on Thursday.