January 31/00 6:02 am - Walters Drops To Third
Posted by Editor on 01/31/00
Mercury Takes Over the Lead
After yesterday's hard stage there was some speculation that the riders might take it easy on today's 192 kilometre run from Bentong to Kuantan (on the west coast of Malaysia). Well, that theory didn't last long, with attacks beginning fast and furious from the start. Team Canada, defending the Leader's Jersey for Mark Walters, had the impossible task of trying to contain 10 plus teams who were all well positioned. Chris Horner of Mercury took over the Yellow Jersey, but Canada may be the beneficiary, since the pressure of defending now shifts from their shoulders to Mercury, with Walters sitting comfortably in third, 17 seconds back.
The attacks came constantly, but it wasn't until the 71 kilometre mark that a break finally stuck. 13 riders broke clear, including Horner, Antonio Cruz (Saturn) and Fortunato Baliani (Selle Italia). These three were significant, since Horner was only 50 seconds down on Walters, Cruz 59 seconds back and Baliani 1:23 back. 11 teams were represented, so there was little incentive to chase. Canada was represented by Eric Wohlberg.
The break quickly went 2 minutes, then 3, 4 and, by the 90 kilometre mark, 5 minutes clear. Canada was riding tempo at the front, but not reacting too strongly, given the distance still to cover. However, the gap continued to grow, reaching 7 minutes at 123 kilometres. Canada had been by itself at the front for 30 kilometres at this point, and was looking for allies among the other teams not represented. The obvious choices were Linda McCartney (who had Bjornar Vestol 51 seconds back of Walters) and Farm Frites (Serguei Ivanov at 1:11).
However, it turned into a game of poker, with both teams professing that they weren't concerned, and refusing to help. Canada's manager Jacques Landry finally called their bluff by pulling the team off the front at the 140 kilometre mark, effectively abandoning the defence of Walters' jersey. This was actually a good move, tactically. Wohlberg, up the road, would move into fourth if the break stayed away, and would be in good position to move up. Walters would drop to 5th, and also be in good position. Mercury, meantime, would have the exhausting task of controlling the field.
McCartney, Farm Frites and, eventually, Denmark woke up to the fact that race was running away from them and began chasing in earnest in the last 40 kilometres (allowing the Canadians to catch a free ride, and regain some strength). With three teams at the front chasing the gap started to drop rapidly, and it was a tossup whether the leaders would get caught in the last few kilometres. Horner, Baliani and Cruz weren't prepared to let that happen to them, and Baliani attacked the break with 10 kilometres to, when the gap to the field had dropped to 2:20. Cruz and Horner both jumped on, while the rest of the leaders looked at each other, waiting for someone to lead the chase.
At least half a dozen attempts were made to bridge, including a fine effort by Wohlberg, but none suceeded. The pack continued to close in, coming to within 20 seconds of catching the chasers. Cruz, the USPro Criterium Champion, made short work of his two breakaway companions, with Baliani finishing second and Horner content to take third, hoping that he had enough time to take the overall lead.
It turned out that he did, and he donned the Yellow Jersey with a 3 second lead over Cruz, and 17 seconds over Walters (including a time bonus for third on the stage). Thus, Walters can now sit back and plan on best to make his move, and the team doesn't have to worry about covering every move.
Canadians at the Tour (Gord Fraser missing) Photo
Stage Winner Antonio Cruz Photo
Overall Leader Chris Horner Photo
Stage 6 - Bentong to Kuantan 193 km
1. Antonio Cruz (Saturn) 4:21:36
2. Fortunato Baliani (Selle Italia)
3. Chris Horner (Mercury) both s.t.
4. Guido Trenti (Cantina Tollo) at 0:40
5. Stig Dam (Denmark) s.t.
6. Uwe Peschel (Gerolsteiner) 0:42
7. Glenn Magnusson (Farm Frites)
8. Christophe Faudot (Team Bonjour)
9. Eric Wohlberg (Canada)
10. Vladimir Duma (Panaria Gaerne) all s.t.
15. Gord Fraser (Mercury) 1:03
34. Michael Barry (Saturn)
54. Mark Walters (Canada)
102. Dominique Perras (Phonak)
106. Paul Kelly (Canada) at 0:37
116. Peter Wedge (Canada)
118. Sylvain Beauchamp (Canada)
124. Matt Anand (Canada) all s.t.
1. Horner 19:17:52
2. Cruz at 0:03
3. Walters 0:17
4. Baliani 0:29
5. Floyd Landis (Mercury) 0:35
6. Trent Klasna (Saturn) 0:40
7. Chris Wherry (Saturn) 0:50
8. Lennie Kristensen (Denmark) 0:57
7. Rene Haselbacher (Gerolsteiner) 0:59
10. Bjornar Vestol (Linda McCartney) 1:08
25. Wohlberg 3:03
26. Kelly 3:28
48. Barry 12:16
49. Perras 14:05
52. Fraser 15:56
63. Wedge 20:51
73. Beauchamp 24:32
99. Anand 35:57
1. Saturn 57:54:28
2. Mercury at 0:41
3. Gerolsteiner 2:59
7. Canada 6:00
1. Fraser 52 points
2. Haselbacher 47
3. Trenti 40
5. Walters 34
1. Kristensen 43 points
2. Perez 41
3. Walters 34
31. Wohlberg 1