Posted by Editor on 09/19/99
Tour de Hokkaido, Japan
(courtesy Kris Westwood)
Part 3 of Hokkaido reports from Kris Westwood
The Canadian team's luck definitely didn't turn for the better in today's third stage of the Tour de Hokkaido. All our boys were caught napping at crunch time and put themselves in a very unpleasant situation.
The racing started early in this longest stage of the Tour. Numerous attacks failed to produce a break, and then suddenly, after 20 km, 14 riders formed a group a few seconds off the front, started working together, and literally disappeared up the road. All the strong teams were represented except the Japanese Ezak squad and Canada. Our lads missed the move and failed to neutralize it, a big no-no when such a dangerous group is off the front.
The break's lead swiftly ballooned, aided by a seemingly endless series of short climbs. At 30 km they were two minutes ahead, at 50 km over five minutes up. Bruno Langlois had been in pursuit with two other riders, but they bogged down over two minutes behind the leaders and started losing time so I told him to drop back to the pack and organize a chase. Only two of the Canadians were willing to help Ezak chase, which wasn't enough so the lead continued to grow, peaking at 9'40" after 90 km.
At this point everybody seemed to realize that the race was up the road, and the chase was on. For a while the gap dropped at a rate of one minute every ten kilometres, but a series of stiff climbs temporarily derailed the chase so for a long while the gap fluctuated between six and seven minutes. Crosswinds and long, wide downhills after that brought the gap down again: 6'25" with 40 km to go, 5'00" with 35 to go, 3'00" with 12 km to go. The pressure in the pack was such that the group splintered, leaving a long trail of dropped riders to straggle in to the finish in Kushiro. Charles Dionne and Martin St-Laurent managed to stay near the front, but Bruno Langlois and Rob Baillie let themselves be caught too far back in the group and had to close too many gaps, so they were dropped almost within sight of the finish.
In the breakaway, Ken Hashikawa (JPN/Bridgestone Anchor) not only edged out Philippe Mauduit (FRA/Nippon Hodo) in the sprint for the stage victory, but he also put himself into the overall lead. Two riders had been dropped from the break towards the end of the stage, so in the end 12 riders finished two minutes ahead of the pack.
This was a very disappointing day for all of our riders. They made a mistake and they're kicking themselves for it. With a bit of luck and some heads-up riding tomorrow we may be able to ride someone back into contention, but the situation is far from ideal. . . Kris Westwood
Stage 3 - 187.9 km
1. Ken HASHIKAWA 4:41:23 (40.1 km/h)
2. Philippe MAUDUIT
3. In Chan PARK (KOR)
4. Kazuyuki MANABE (JPN/Miyata Subaru)
5. Eugene MORIARTY (IRL) all same time
21. Charles DIONNE
29. Martin ST-LAURENT
53. Robin BAILLIE
61. Bruno LANGLOIS
79 starters, 78 finishers
Overall after stage 3:
1. Ken HASHIKAWA
2. Philippe MAUDUIT at 7"
3. Yoshiyuki ABE (JPN/Shimano) at 26"
4. Tomokazu FUJINO (JPN/Bridgestone Anchor) at 27"
5. Kazuyuki MANABE (JPN/Miyata Subaru) at 30"
17. Charles DIONNE at 2'21"
43. Martin ST-LAURENT at 2'47"
50. Robin BAILLIE at 3'15"
56. Bruno LANGLOIS at 4'12"
1. Ken HASHIKAWA (47 pts)
9. Charles DIONNE (26 pts)
1. Shinri SUZUKI (JPN/Shimano)
Stage 4 (up-to date at September 19th stage)
There had been a slim chance that today's fourth stage of the Tour de Hokkaido would give the Canadians a chance to recover some hope on the overall standings, but unfortunately it didn't work out. If anything, our situation worsened as the boys missed the move that won the stage. Charles Dionne's stage placing was some consolation for an otherwise fruitless day.
Today's course profile included the last big climb of the Tour, but the stage was only 126 km long so it was unlikely to really shake up the overall standings. There were, as always, innumerable attacks in the early part of the race but nobody was able to stay away. It wasn't until about the midway point that an attack stuck: Kazuya Okazaki (JPN/Soleil Kinan) and Warren Clark (NZL) rode off separately and joined forces to quickly build up a minute lead.
The Canadians were determined to be with every move and to keep an eye on teams that were likely to help them out but, for whatever reason, when the good move did go none of them were with it. The chase behind the break was not the most inspired: Bridgestone, with everything to defend, was riding a sorry sort of tempo: the break's lead went up to over two and a half minutes, making Clark leader on the road. The lead did not dip below two minutes until the last 15 km.
As the pack finally gathered momentum for the run-in to the finish, two riders got hung up on each other and suddenly 20 guys were on the deck. Martin St-Laurent and Charles Dionne managed to avoid the carnage, but Bruno Langlois got caught behind it, and Robin Baillie got taken down. Fortunately, besides a few cuts he is uninjured. The crash caused a shift in the overall standings as well: behind the leader the positions have been shuffled somewhat.
Though the break's lead was reduced they were never in danger of being caught, and Okazaki beat Clark in the sprint to the finish line. 53 seconds later the pack sprint was won by Eugene Moriarty of the Irish team, followed by Charles Dionne, who therefore finished fourth.
A fourth place is not a bad result, but it would be nice to actually get a win under our belt. We have one more chance tomorrow in the final stage, a 100 km criterium in Sapporo. Charles Dionne also might just be in with a chance for the points jersey. . . Kris Westwood
Stage 4 - 126.7 km
1. Kazuya OKAZAKI 2:58:45 (42.5 km/h)
2. Warren CLARK, same time
3. Eugene MORIARTY (IRL) at 53"
4. Charles DIONNE
5. Ciaran POWER
37. Martin ST-LAURENT, all same time
47. Bruno LANGLOIS at 1'35"
52. Robin BAILLIE at 1'39"
78 starters, 74 finishers
Overall after stage 2:
1. Ken HASHIKAWA (JPN/Bridgestone Anchor)
2. Yoshiyuki ABE (JPN/Shimano) at 6"
3. Kazuyuki MANABE (JPN/Miyata Subaru) at 10"
4. Philippe MAUDUIT (FRA/Nippon Hodo) at 14"
5. Eugene MORIARTY (IRL) at 15"
19. Charles DIONNE at 2'01"
32. Martin ST-LAURENT at 2'27"
42. Robin BAILLIE at 3'41"
50. Bruno LANGLOIS at 4'34"
1. Ken HASHIKAWA (49 pts)
4. Charles DIONNE (40 pts)
1. Shinri SUZUKI (JPN/Shimano)
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