Posted by Editor on 02/16/01
Paolo Lanfranchi (Mapei-Quick Step) has weathered the last serious threat to winning his second Tour de Langkawi by surviving the stage 10 time trial, while his team mate Paolo Bettini has moved into second and Chris Wherry salvaged some Mercury pride with a superb ride that jumped him up two places into third overall. Australian Nathan O'Neill (Ceramiche Panaria) took the stage to give his team their third victory of the Tour. Canada's Svein Tuft finished a very creditable 14th on the stage.
The 24 kilometre race against the clock (reduced from 26.6) took the riders around Shah Alam mosque - the largest of its kind in Asia. While there were numerous twists and turns on the circuit, most were of the sweeping variety and hardly slowed down the riders at all. Of more concern was the thunder storm blowing in from the north, which threatened to soak the course for later riders.
O'Neill, a second year pro with Panaria, was one of the early riders on the circuit. He was actually part of the group containing Gord Fraser and Jans Koerts (Mercury Viatel) that got eliminated in yesterday's mountain stage. "I got nervous that the group was going too slow so I left them." A smart move, as it turned out.
O'Neill's margin of victory over favoured Michael Rich (Gerolsteiner) was 8.4 seconds, and he agreed afterwards that he may have benefited from going early, when rain briefly soaked the course for Rich and others riders in the middle of the field. "Being before the rain certainly made a difference. Sometimes you get luck, and sometimes not."
Lanfranchi finished 13th on the stage, but it was enough to preserve his lead. Second place Paolo Bertoglio (Ceramiche Panaria) dropped to fourth after a poor showing, finishing 25th on the stage, while Lanfranchi's team mate Paolo Bettini moved into second after finishing fourth on the stage.
However, the big story was Chris Wherry, who finished third on the stage and gained enough time to overtake Bertoglio for third overall. Mercury had something to prove after losing the green jersey (Koerts), Fraser and Henk Vogels, and Wherry used it to fuel his ride.
"It wasn't pressure today, it was anger. I carried a lot of energy from the boys and it made the difference."
Wherry is having a superb Tour, riding at the front on the mountain stages and now finishing third in the time trial. He says that he came into the time trial confident. "As a junior I went through the U.S. junior time trial program and rode the Team Time Trial at the '91 Worlds, so I knew that I could do well."
Tuft, in only his second year on the national team, is coming back from bronchitis that he picked up after the sixth stage, and which slowed him down considerably in the mountains. The 23 year old rider from Langley, B.C. knew he was riding well, but didn't know how well.
"I felt like I was hurting all the time out there, but not hurting too much. I was pretty lucky to miss the rain, but the downside was that it was so hot out there. I figure that the speed work from the race and the breaks I was in have helped me a lot so that I could do this well."
Tomorrow the riders face a 162.9 kilometre stage that begins downtown in Kuala Lumpur and ends at Shah Alam.
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