Posted by Editor on 02/8/01
Mapei-Quick Step finally made it onto the winners podium today at the Tour de Langkawi, with Paolo Betttini just nipping Phonak's Alexandre Usov at the line. Mercury Viatel's Jans Koerts continues to hold onto the yellow leader's jersey, with stage 2 winner Enrico Degano (Ceramiche Panaria) and Bettini 10 seconds back.
The 177 kilometre third stage along the east coast of Malaysia, from Kota Bharu to Kuala Terengganu, was led for much of the day by the breakaway duo of Svein Tuft (Team Canada) and Soren Petersen (Saturn). Tuft initiated the break a mere 6 kilometres into the stage, and was soon joined by Petersen. "I wanted to try and ride more aggressively. I thought of maybe just going for the sprints, but we were going well. I didn't know if we could stay away, with the headwind, but we kept going."
The pair quickly opened up a huge gap, reaching a maximum of 13 minutes before the peloton decided it was time to reel them in. First the Italians took up the chase - Mapei, Alexia Alluminio, Saeco and Selle Italia. Then Mercury joined the chase as well, and the lead began to melt away. The duo were finally caught after being away for over 120 kilometres.
Now the attacks began in earnest as the race started to close in on the finish line, however, as in the first two stages, no one was getting away. When the field lined up for the sprint, the headwind proved to be the deciding factor, as early leaders faded, allowing Bettini to come through at the very end.
Gord Fraser (Mercury Viatel) was one of the riders caught out by the wind, finishing 5th. "It was a big headwind sprint and it killed me. Our guys had set it up and Jans (Koerts) was bringing me in but I couldn't hold, and neither could (Ivan) Quaranta (Alexia Alluminio), who came by me at the line. It was just a 100 metres too long for me." Fraser was also feeling the effects of a wrist injury (left) suffered in a first stage crash, and is still "not a 100%. My morale is better than this morning (before the start), but I still can't pull on the bars like I should."
Bettini, recording Mapei's first win of the season, rode a smart finish. "I was still behind with 10 metres to go and did not come off (Usov's) wheel until the final 5 metres. The others had been caught by the wind, I could see, so it opened the way for me." Bettini took the Green Points Leader jersey with his win.
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