Posted by Editor on 06/20/02
Grand Prix Cycliste de Beauce
Stage 4: Sainte Georges to mont Mégantic, 171 km
Stage four of the Grand Prix Cycliste de Beauce saw a complete revision in the overall standings, with unheralded American rider Matt Decanio (Prime Alliance) taking the lead away from Lubor Tesar (NÃƒÂ¼rnberger). Mark Walters (Navigators) was the top Canadian finisher on the stage, in 17th place, and is also the best placed Canadian rider in the overall standings, at 14th, one minute and 44 seconds behind Decanio.
The 171.7 kilometre stage is the "Queen" stage of the race, the one that reduces the number of contenders to a handful. The long rolling climbs from the first few stages wearing down the riders, and the final 5 kilometres to the top of Mont Megantic is rated the hardest in a North American stage race. Stage winner Stéphane Barthe of France, a two-time Tour de France competitor, concurred.
"This race is very hard, with all the short, steep hills. The finish (at Mont Mégantic) is as hard as the biggest climbs in the Tour de France."
The stage started fast, with constant attacks keeping the pace high. For the first 40 kilometres nothing would stick; the mix just wasn't right.
"The groups were too big. Everyone wanted to be there, so nothing could get away." explained Josh Hall (Sympatico-Jet Fuel).
Andy Cappelle (Marlux-Ville de Charleroi) and Alexandre Chouffe (Saint-Quentin-Oktos) finally got a gap at about 40 kilometres.
"We were at a 30 second gap for a long time" said Cappelle. "We just kept working and eventually got more (time)."
When the gap reached 1:30, Barthe joined the front duo and, within 10 kilometres, Chouffe had been dropped (he had a mechanical shortly afterwards, and was then scooped up by the peloton).
Barthe and Cappelle were in a breakaway at the front of the race for over 130 kilometres, reaching a maximum lead of 10 minutes and 20 seconds. The pair were not seriously chased by the rest of the field, because the two riders were over 20 minutes behind in the overall standings, and did not present a threat.
Barthe, a former French champion, was visibly the stronger climber, and rode away from Cappelle early on in the climb. Barthe actually rode the climb (which has a maximum grade of 18%) with a 21 because the team did not bring anything larger - the 23 tooth cogs were at the Tour of Switzerland...
"Having a 21 was better maybe. It allowed me to pace myself up the climb. But I never believed I was going to win, even in the last 150 metres I still thought I could be caught."
Barthe was in no danger, finishing 2 minutes in front of Cappelle, but Cappelle was only 42 seconds ahead of Decanio, despite starting the climb with around a 6 minute advantage.
While Barthe and Cappelle held on to take first and second on the stage, behind a battle was taking place between the half-dozen teams who had contenders for the yellow jersey of the overall leader. Decanio's Prime Alliance teammate Danny Pate made the first attack that shattered the field, and then Decanio counter-attacked to take possession of third place for the stage, finishing 49 seconds in front of Tesar, enough to wrest the yellow leader's jersey from the Czech rider's shoulders. Australian Michael Rogers (Mapei-Quick Step) finished just behind Decanio, and is only four seconds out of the lead, with 4 stages remaining.
Decanio was completely amazed with his win, the biggest of his career.
"We were working for Danny. I got lucky, I didn't ever think I could beat him, I'm usually a domestic. It's been a long road, but if you keep working at it, eventually it will come to you.
- Scott Moninger (Mercury), a perennial favourite at Beauce dropped out during the stage. He injured a hamstring at Philadelphia, and it has not been responding to treatment.
- tomorrow the riders face a 22.1 kilometre time trial. The course is a brand new one; rolling and looks to be harder then the old one. The first rider, Paul Rego (Atlas / Ital Pasta) is off at 9:30, with Decanio leaving the starting ramp at 11:20.
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