Posted by Editor on 02/13/01
Ivan Quaranta (Alexia Alluminio) finally got on the winner's podium, but unfortunately a large crash marred the end of stage 7 at the Tour de Langkawi. Jans Koerts (Mercury Viatel) finished second and continues to hold the yellow jersey after the last stage before the mountains.
The 172 kilometre stage from Melaka to Klang (on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur) had a profile like a sawblade. None of the rollers was particularly long, but with over 1100 kilometres on their legs, and two major climbing stages to come, no one was in the mood for a fast run.
One rider did go off the front - Roberto Lochowski of Team Fakta. Mercury and Mapei stayed at the front setting tempo so that his lead never reached more than 2:30, and he was back in the peloton after approximately 85 kilometres on his own. A brief flurry of attacks took place after Lochowski came back, but the only one to succeed was Jacob Erker (Team Canada) and the leader of the Asian rider competition Makoto Iijima (Japan), who were away for 22 kilometres - long enough for Erker to take the third and final sprint of the day before the peloton brought them back with 15 kilometres to go.
"Right after a group of 15 riders was caught I went.", explained Erker. "Everyone was sitting up, so it was a good time to go. I just wanted to try something and see what would work."
So, for the seventh consecutive stage, the field set up for a sprint. Mercury and Mapei were at the front setting the pace and the peloton carefully negotiated a sharp left with 500 metres remaining to enter the finishing straight. So far a straightforward ending, until the final 100 metres.
Quaranta was already out in front, having come off of double stage winner Enrico Degano's (Ceramiche Panaria) wheel with 150 metres to go. He cruised across the line in front of Koerts and Degano. Meanwhile, about a quarter of the way back riders were starting to hit the pavement. It looked like Alexandre Usov (Gerolsteiner) was the first to go down, after fending off another rider. He was rushed to hospital (later released, but he will not start tomorrow), as was Massimo Strazzer (leg - Mobilvetta Trentini), Razali Shahrulneeza (collarbone - Malaysia) and Febrianto Febrianto (fractured hip - Indonesia). Trent Klasna and Frank McCormack of Saturn both went down but were able to get back on their bikes and finish. 149 riders finished, but at least two of these will probably not start stage 8.
Ivan Quaranta has moved up to second in the overall standings, 41 seconds behind Koerts and 1 second ahead of Paolo Bettini (Mapei-Quick Step). Gord Fraser (Mercury Viatel) remains in 4th place, 53 seconds behind his team mate.
Tomorrow the riders face 154 kilometres, with the final 50 kilometres a Category 1 climb to the Cameron Highlands.
- Fraser says that his left wrist (injured in a stage one crash) is not improving. "The doctor says that it is just a strain, but I can't move it from side to side. We won't know for sure until I get it x-rayed."
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