Posted by Editoress on 02/11/01
So far, the Tour de Langkawi could be named the Tour de Jans Koerts, as the yellow jersey holder from Mercury Viatel won his second stage today, the sixth day of racing in Malaysia. Koerts' victory came despite hitting the barriers 150 metres from the finish line and getting bopped on the head in the sprint.
Today's stage from Kluang to Melaka was relatively short at 150 kilometres, and is the last before the rest day tomorrow. It is also one of the last chances Koerts may have to wear the jersey and win a stage - after the rest day there is one more day of relative flat and then two days of massive climbs; something Koerts is the first to admit is not his forte.
After a transfer by car from Johor Bahru at the southern tip of Malaysia to the start at the city of Kluang, the riders headed west to the coast and then north towards Melaka, a historical city with strong links to the Dutch traders of centuries past. Dutchman Koerts was an appropriate winner.
The action began 16 kilometres into the stage when two riders went clear - Svein Tuft of Team Canada and Kazuya Okazuki of Japan. They were joined shortly after by Anthony Langella (Credit Agricole), and then began to make time on the only mildly concerned peloton.
The trio gradually crept up to a 1:45 lead, but this was all the leading teams were willing to let them have, bringing them back to a minute and a half, where they stayed until after the final points sprint with approximately 25 kilometres remaining. At this point the peloton decided it was time to get serious, and everything was back together with 15 kilometres to go.
The pace began to pick up as Mercury, Mapei, Saeco and others went to the front. The teams knew that the finish was difficult (there had been a big crash the year before), with many twists and turns and a cobblestone street for the last 750 metres, so they took it relatively cautiously until they made a sharp left onto the final 500 metres stretch along the waterfront.
"My team was setting the pace for me and I was comfortable", explained Koerts. "Gord (Fraser) was in front of me and (Enrico) Degano got between us, but I wasn't worried because I was on his wheel. Then at 150 metres he (Degano) went to the right, not on a straight line and I hit the barricades with my pedal. I had to come back up and somebody hit me in the head on my helmet!"
Despite all this, Koerts managed to power through the middle of the pack to easily take the stage. In six days of racing the blonde 9 year veteran pro has 2 wins, 2 seconds and has been the only rider to wear the yellow jersey. He also leads the points competition.
Degano received a fine, a 30 second time penalty (which drops him to 12th overall from second), was relegated to the back of the pack, and lost all of his points in the points competition for his actions.
On Tuesday the race will continue north along the west coast, with stage 7 covering 172 kilometres from Melaka to Klang, on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur.
- the story concerning Ivan Quaranta's shoulder injury (reported yesterday) turns out to be a little different than we were originally led to believe. Quaranta was not forced into the barricades during the sprint, instead there was an altercation after the finish concerning the Italian's aggressive sprinting (ie, he shoves his way through). Whether his shoulder was hurt in the scuffle or when he fell we don't know, but everything was patched up before the start of the stage and everyone started. Play nicely now children...
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