Posted by Editor on 01/29/00
Walters in Yellow, Fraser in Green!
This was definitely Canada's day at the Tour de Langkawi - Mark Walters, riding for Team Canada vaults into the Yellow Leader's jersey with a fine second place in the stage, and Gord Fraser (Mercury) holds onto his Green Points Leader's jersey despite to bike changes.
Today (stage 4) was one that had everybody worried - 162 kilometres, with 49 kilometres of climbing to the finish at Cameron Highlands. "Nobody knows what to expect", said Fraser before the start. "The heat and the climb could change this race completely." Well, the lead did change, but neither the heat nor the climb played as big a role as everyone expected.
The race started in Lumut, a resort town on the west coast of Malaysia, under very hot conditions - plus 30 Celcius. The only thing to enliven the first 105 flat kilometres would be the 3 Hot Spot sprints. This was expected to be a battle between yesterday's stage winner Damien Nazon (Team Bonjour) and Fraser. They did not disappoint, with Fraser taking a second and a first in the first two sprints, solidifying his lead in the competition. Things went downhill for Mercury's supersprinter after this - a jammed chain on the climb as the action was heating up, and to botched bike changes put Fraser some 15 minutes down on the stage. "I was going good", he said after the stage. "But, there's nothing you can do. I guess I'll be going for stage wins now."
The pace of the race was sedate until the third Sprint, when John Talen (Telekom Malaysia All Stars) took a flyer. A chase group of 10 formed, catching Talen (and spitting him out) as the climb began in earnest. In the front group 10 different teams were represented, so they motored away pretty quickly. Within 20 kilometres the lead was approaching 2 minutes, and the pack was still not chasing hard. The climb was not the problem everyone expected it to be; a steady uphill with few steep sections. As the peleton regained confidence (and as the King of the Mountain approached), they began to reel in the breakaways. The front group responded with extra speed, but lost riders in the process, shrinking to 7, then 5. The temperature was also dropping, and there was a threat of rain (which only materialized for a short time as drizzle), which made the heat threat non-existent.
Slowly, the peleton pulled them back, getting to within 25 seconds with 25 kilometres to go. This is when Walters launched an attack with two other riders - Julio Alberto Perez (Panaria Gaerne) and Asian Games champion Wong Kam Po (Telekom Malaysia All Stars). The three quickly caught, then dropped the remaining front runners. Meanwhile, back in the pack the Yellow Jersey - Daniele Contrini (Liquigas Pata) was getting shelled along with most of the field, and Fraser was starting to develop his mechanical problems.
Mercury reacted to this attack, since Walters was a threat to their leader Floyd Landis (winner of the stage 1 time trial) in the overall. Mercury sent two riders to the front, and if Fraser had been available as well to help, they might have pulled back the leaders. They did pull to within 17 seconds, before the front trio started to gain time. In the last 15 kilometres the leaders grew the gap to 50 seconds, putting Walters in the Yellow Jersey on the road. The final margin over the small chase field would drop to 26 seconds by the end, still enough for Walters.
In the last kilometre Kam Po, a rider well known and respected by Walters and Fraser, launched an attack, dropping Walters, who in turn dropped Perez. Kam Po's victory, the first by an Asian rider, was extremely well received by the noisy finish line crowd, while Walters was a little bemused to have Phil Ligget descend on him for a post-race interview. "This is definitely my biggest win; it's a really great feeling. I knew that we couldn't let that front group go. I have been feeling really good, so I went."
Walters' victory puts him 18 seconds in front of Landis, with another 9 riders less than a minute down. Mercury will be pushing hard to get the jersey, but "the (Canadian) team is riding well. I know we will be trying to defend (the jersey)", said Mark.
- your editor got off to a rocky start. On the back of a motorcycle, with a radio to listen into the race updates, neither the driver or I realized that we had a defective radio that was permanently broadcasting to the race caravan. I was talking to my driver, telling him all about my trip to the Yukon last summer, unaware that we had a big audience (plus the radio was being tied up). Eventually we were flagged down by the Race Director who filled us in (and got us a new radio). Luckily, I avoided saying anything embarrassing or incriminating...
- tomorrow, the riders face another 169 kilometres, with a Category 1 climb of nearly 30 kilometres. This should no have as great an effect on the standings, because the 50 kilometres is almost all downhill.
Stage 4 - Lumut to Tanah Rata 162 km
1. Wong Kam Po (Telekom Malaysia) 4:19:55
2. Mark Walters (Canada) at 0:08
3. Julio Alberto Perez (Panaria Gaerne) 0:23
4. Bjornar Vestol (Linda McCartney) 0:26
5. Serguei Ivanov (Farm Frites)
6. David McKenzie (Linda McCartney)
7. Lennie Kristensen (Denmark)
8. Floyd Landis (Mercury)
9. Walter Beneteau (Team Bonjour)
10. Rene Haselbacher (Gerolsteiner) all s.t.
24. Dominique Perras (Phonak) 0:40
32. Eric Wohlberg (Canada) 0:59
34. Paul Kelly (Canada) s.t.
44. Michael Barry (Saturn) 4:47
45. Sylvain Beauchamp (Canada) s.t.
70. Peter Wedge (Canada) 9:21
97. Matt Anand (Canada) 15:42
111. Gord Fraser (Mercury) s.t.
1. Walters 10:58:03
2. Landis at 0:18
3. Tom Leaper (Panaria Gaerne) 0:32
4. Chris Wherry (Saturn) 0:33
5. Trent Klasna (Saturn) 0:36
6. Kristensen 0:40
7. Haselbacher 0:42
8. Chris Horner (Mercury) 0:50
9. Vestol 0:51
10. Graziano Recinella (Mobilvetta Design) 0:57
24. Wohlberg 1:54
27. Kelly 1:58
36. Barry 5:48
61. Beauchamp 12:30
62. Perras 12:35
69. Fraser 15:43
74. Anand 16:55
84. Wedge 19:21
1. Saturn 32:55:30
2. Mercury at 0:24
3. Gerolsteiner 2:00
5. Canada 2:35
1. Fraser 38 points
2. Walters 34
3. Haselbacher 34
1. Kristensen 35 points
2. Perez 35
3. Walters 34
26. Wohlberg 1
Gord Fraser before the start with legendary cycling journalist Sam Abt. Photo
Gord Fraser winning a Hot Spot Sprint. Photo
Lead group on the climb. Photo
Mark Walters finishing second and claiming the Yellow Jersey. Photo
Mark Walters in the Yellow Jersey. Photo
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