February 9/01 9:15 am - Langkawi Stage 4 Story
Posted by Editor on 02/9/01
Average speed = 51.95 kilometres per hour for 135.5 kilometres.
That is all you need to know to understand stage 4 of the Tour de Langkawi. It was fast, brutally fast; over a kilometre and a half per hour faster than Mario Cippollini's record Tour de France stage last year. Yellow Jersey holder Jans Koerts (Mercury Viatel) added stage winner to his honours, easily outdistancing Ivan Quaranta (Alexia Alluminio) and Andris Nauduzs (Selle Italia-Pacific).
The race continues to head down the east coast of Malaysia, with today's stage beginning in Dungun and ending in Kuantan. The attacks began from the first meter, and the peloton was strung out at 60 kilometres per hour by the 4 kilometre mark. The field was constantly in a state of flux with attacks and counterattacks. Saturn was particularly aggressive, with Michael Barry off the front either alone or in breaks for 15 kilometres.
Shortly after Barry was caught, his team mate Chris Fisher and Innar Mandoja (AG2R Prevoyance) broke away with 40 kilometres remaining, on what came close to being the winning move. The duo managed to get a maximum time gap of 1:16 on the Mercury-led peloton, and were only reabsorbed with 6 kilometres to go.
Then the maneuvering began. First Saeco at 5 kilometres to go, then Team Canada at 4. Ceramiche Panaria were next to try and set something up, but the speed and desire of too many other teams made it impossible for any one squad to dominate.
"We tried to set up a train", said Koerts "but it was too fast, everyone kept attacking so we gave up."
Instead, it was every man for himself in the finally sprint, with Koerts shooting to the front in the final 100 metres. "Gord (Fraser) came by me at 300 metres and yelled 'come on'. I got on his wheel and then went around to the front at the end."
The time bonus for the win padded the Dutch rider's lead to 25 seconds over Enrico Degano (Ceramiche Panaria) and Paolo Bettini (Mapei-Quick Step). Quaranta moves into a tie with Fraser 4 seconds further back.
Tomorrow the riders face the longest stage of the Tour - 241.1 kilometres.