February 4/00 3:52 am - Horner Keeps Yellow
Posted by Editor on 02/4/00
Chris Horner of Mercury dispelled any lingering doubts that he would not be able to hold onto the Yellow Jersey at the Tour de Langkawi once the riders reached the leg-breaking Genting Highlands climb, by turning in a superb performance to finish fourth on the stage. Julio Alberto Perez (Panaria Gaerne) took the stage, after the expected performance of Serguei Ivanov (Farm Frites) did not materialize. Canada's top hope, Mark Walters, rode strongly for much of the climb, but faded to 20th in the final few kilometres.
The 10th stage started right downtown in Kuala Lumpur, and headed east towards the Highlands. The final 25 kilometres of climbing starts out relatively easy, before going completely vertical in places - up to 20%. Some Tour de France veterans compare it to Alp d'Huez.
The 111 kilometre stage started quickly, with attacks coming from all directions. Last year, an early break (containing Eric Wohlberg) managed to sneak away to an over 10 minute advantage by the base of the climb, with one member holding on for the win. This was obviously on the minds of many riders.
However, Mercury, and teams with climbers, were not of a mind to let this happen, and the maximum any break was allowed to get was a minute and a half. The climb began with 25 kilometres of racing still to go, and within 5 kilometres riders were being shed like flies. All the Canadians were still in the peloton at this point, and Walters was shadowing Horner closely.
At the front the pace was being set by former world triathlon champion Spencer Smith (Linda McCartney), competing in his first stage race. With 14 kilometres to go, as the climb began to steepen, one of the favourites for the stage, Columbian Jose Chepe Gonzales (Selle Italia) attacked hard, taking Matt Stephens (Linda McCartney) with him. Stephens dropped Gonzales, who blew badly and eventually finished 14th, but the chase was taken up by Walter Beneteau (Team Bonjour).
Stephens was storming up the climb, followed by Beneteau, and ahead of a chasing group of 30, containing Horner, Walters, second place Antonio Cruz (Saturn), third place Fortunato Baliani (Selle Italia), Ivanov (second overall last year, and third on this stage) and Wong Kam Po (Telekom Malaysia All Stars). The maximum gap Stephens reached was 2:44, enough to put him in the Yellow on the road, but the gap started to go down as the chasers picked up the pace and started shedding riders. Perez launched a strong attack with 5 kilometres left, and no one could respond. He flew up the climb, picking off first Beneteau with 2 kilometres left, and then Stephens in the final kilometre, to win over the British rider by 24 seconds.
The chasing group was whittled down to 8, including Mark Walters. Walters was finally dropped with 3.5 kilometres still to climb. "I felt good in the earlier part of the climb, but then I started to lose it big time. I would lose my rhythm, get it back, lose it...". Horner attacked the remnants of his group with 2.5 kilometres remaining, taking two riders clear with him - Baliani and Tiaan Kannemeyer (South Africa). "I was worried when there were only three of us left. I knew the time gaps were okay (to Perez) from my radio, but I had to do all the pulling, and I was trying to just get back as much time as possible."
The Mercury strategy worked, with Horner finishing 1:24 down on Perez, and holding onto his jersey by a comfortable 24 second margin. Perez's win was enough to catapult him into second overall, with Baliani moving into third. Mark Walters, finishing 3:37 behind Perez, dropped to 11th overall.
- the middle portion of the stage was very narrow and twisty, and two teams managed to total their cars by crashing into each other - Big Mat Auber 93 and Farm Frites.
- Barring an unforseen circumstance, the race for yellow is over. The riders do a circuit race tomorrow, and a criterium Sunday. Neither should affect the overall standings at the top.
- Genting Highlands has been described as Disneyland gone bad. It is located at the top of a 5,300 foot mountain, where the top has been leveled off and hotels, pinball arcades and a theme park have been built. It may not be tasteful, but it is very popular.
1. Stage Winner Julio Alberto Perez.
2. Second place Matt Stephens.
3. Race leader Chris Horner.
4. Top Canadian Mark Walters.
Stage 10 - Kula Lumpur to Genting Highlands 111 km
1. Julio Alberto Perez (Panaria Gaerne) 3:09:13
2. Matt Stephens (Linda McCartney) at 0:24
3. Walter Beneteau (Team Bonjour) 1:21
4. Chris Horner (Mercury) 1:24
5. Fortunato Baliani (Selle Italia) s.t.
6. Tiaan Kannemeyer (South Africa) 1:35
7. Loic Lamouller (Big Mat Auber 93) 2:01
8. Graziano Recinella (Mobilvetta Design) 2:12
9. Lennie Kristensen (Denmark) 2:17
10. Serguei Ivanov (Farm Frites) 2:29
20. Mark Walters (Canada) 3:37
31. Michael Barry (Saturn) 5:28
40. Peter Wedge (Canada) 7:19
41. Eric Wohlberg (Canada) s.t.
72. Sylvain Beauchamp (Canada) 14:40
74. Paul Kelly (Canada) s.t.
83. Dominique Perras (Phonak) 16:45
118. Gord Fraser (Mercury) 22:42
1. Horner 33:56:51
2. Perez at 0:27
3. Baliani 0:29
4. Stephens 1:05
5. Kristensen 1:50
6. Floyd Landis (Mercury) s.t.
7. Recinella 2:02
8. Rene Haselbacher (Gerolsteiner) 2:07
9. Chris Wherry (Saturn) 2:25
10. Lamouller 2:27
11. Walters 2:30
24. Wohlberg 8:58
28. Barry 10:53
50. Wedge 26:46
56. Perras 29:26
59. Kelly 30:24
65. Fraser 36:54
66. Beauchamp 37:48
1. Mercury 101:52:39
2. South Africa at 0:38
3. Linda McCartney 2:59
8. Canada 18:49
1. Fraser 97
2. Guido Trenti (Cantina Tollo) 82
3. Haselbacher 66
7. Walters 34
1. Perez 66
2. Kristensen 57
3. Floyd Landis (Mercury) 34
4. Walters 34