Posted by Editor on 02/6/02
Yellow jersey holder Robert Hunter (Mapei-Quick Step) came close to winning his fourth stage at the Tour de Langkawi today in stage 6, but was just pipped at the line by Geoff Brown (Panaria) in a crashed-marred sprint on stage 6. No Canadians went down in the two crashes that took place in the final 500m of the stage, although a few were caught behind them. The entire peloton was given the same finishing time since the accidents took place in the final kilometre. The overall classification is also basically unchanged.
The 176 kilometre race from Muar, south to Johor Baru, the southernmost city in Malaysia, which is within sight of Singapore, was, fast. 47 kilometres per hour was the average speed, and most of the day was taken up with attacks and counter-attacks. Mapei did a superb job of controlling the race, not allowing anything to get away until the 102 kilometre mark, when they gave a little rope to a group of four riders well down in the standings: Benoit Poilvet (Credit Agricole), Frederic Amorison (Lotto), Andy Flickinger (Ag2r Prevoyance) and stage 4 winner Moreno Di Biase (Mobilvetta Design).
The foursome was left to dangle in front of the field, under the searing sun for 67 kilometres before being reeled in with 7 kilometres remaining. The outcome was never in doubt, since they weren't allowed to get more than a 1:48 lead, however, it did keep the peloton stretched out in single file for much of the day.
"It was difficult - very fast", said Dominique Perras (iTeamNova.com). "From the gun, there was a lot of stop and go with many attacks in the first 80 kilometres. My legs are sore from the previous two days (he was in the break both days), so it made it hard."
Eric Wohlberg echoed Perras' sentiments: "We (Team Canada) had a tough day. We were trying to get something going, and were getting into the breaks but nothing was sticking."
When the field regrouped, the sprinters' teams kept the pace high. The finish was a difficult one, going from a wider to narrow road with a 90 degree left turn at 150m to go. The first of two crashes took place about 500m from the line, and the second within 50m. While riders were held up by the crash, no one appeared to be seriously injured.
Given Hunter's form, he was the obvious choice to win, and as the frontrunners swept around the last corner his yellow jersey was easily visible at the front. However, he was looking over his shoulder, and appeared to hesitate slightly, leaving an opening for Brown to slip through.
"It was a tricky sprint, and at 200m to go a couple of teams were at the front leading it out. I was trying to lead out Andrea (Tafi) because we wanted to put him in a position to win. But he got caught in traffic and I was waiting a bit for him, so Geoff came by me on the line."
Brown agreed that it was a tight finish: "It was pretty hairy coming into the last few kilometres, with lots of pushing and shoving going on. Enrico (Degano) led me out from 600m. He told me after I helped him win stage 3 that "the next one is for you". I had planned on coming out of the (last) corner on the inside, but someone's wheel slipped out a bit in front of me and I was forced wide into the fencing. I thought it was over but, as Robbie (Hunter) said, he probably was not at 100%, so i was able to get by him at the line."
The Tour continues tomorrow with the longest stage - 196.7 kilometres, followed by a short 95.5 kilometre stage on Friday. Then comes the race decider - Genting Highlands. Already the speculation is that the Colombian second overall, Hernan Dario Munoz (Colombia-Selle Italia) is the one to watch.
- Geoff Kabush has survived another day. "I didn't think I was going to start last night, with the fever I had. I only decided on the line to try it, and I just sat at the back all day. I felt a little better today, so I'll just keep going one day at a time."
- After today's stage a press conference was held by the organizers, with Francesco Moser present. Moser is attending the Tour de Langkawi on behalf of the UCI to investigate whether or not Langkawi should be upgraded from a 2.3 to a 2.2 ranking. According to Moser: "All of the conditions are there for this race to be at the 2.2 level. It is as well organized as other 2.2's. The organization has nothing missing, especially for the riders."
- Numbers are noticably down at the finish lines this year, and it appears that it is because live television coverage has been added for the last hour of each stage. Initial feedback is that people are staying indoors out of the sun to watch the coverage.
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