Posted by Editor on 06/24/02
Stage 7: Saint-Georges to Saint-Georges, 144 km
As expected, Michael Rogers (Mapei-Quick Step) successfully hung onto the yellow jersey through the final stage of the Grand Prix Cycliste de Beauce. Lubor Tesar (Nurnberger) racked up his third stage win, ahead of Phil Zajicek (Navigators) and Matt Decanio (Prime Alliance).
The final 144 kilometre stage was a tough course, offering other teams the opportunity to attack Mapei and try and crack the yellow jersey - which has happened before in this race. The riders did two laps of a 60 kilometre circuit, with three climbs per lap, and two finishing circuits in St-Georges, also with a steep 18% climb.
Saturn started the attacks right away, with Eric Wohlberg leading a group away from the peloton.
"It was tough, because we were down to three riders, but we were just trying to do the best race that we could. We were driving it (in the break), and a bunch of guys were working."
Wohlberg was riding off the front of the break at times, such was the effort he was putting forth, but it came to naught by the end of the first KoM, when a group of 25 caught the break. Shortly afterwards, Gord Fraser (Mercury) caught up to the front group and went right through them on a downhill, establishing another break.
Fraser spent 10 kilometres on his own before, first, Svein Tuft (Prime Alliance) and then Ciaran Power (Navigators) bridged up. The trio established a good rhythm and expanded the lead to 1:40. None of them were a threat on GC, but when Oleg Grishkine (Navigators), Mike Sayers (Mercury), Ubaldo Mesa (Tecos) and Florencio Ramos (Tecos) bridged up at the 115 kilometre mark, the break suddenly became more dangerous to a number of teams who were looking for a stage win.
Kazakhstan, iTeamNova.com and Mapei all went to the front and the lead began to shrink. Shortly before the race entered the finishing circuit, Grishkine and Sayers broke off the front, trying to delay the inevitable. They did manage to complete one short circuit before being swallowed up.
In the final 5 kilometres, Tesar had the Nurnberger squad working to set him up, and he came out of the last corner with a gap on the field, enough that he was able to coast to the line with his hands in the air. Phil Zajicek (who missed the time cut at Beauce in 1998 in the time trial as an Espoir) just held off Decanio at the line. Tesar did make up a few seconds on Decanio with the time bonus for his victory, but not enough to knock the Prime Alliance rider out of second.
- there were a number of teams grumbling that other squads out of contention were blatantly working for Mapei during the last three stages. "The whole field was in Mapei's pocket", said the Nurnberger Director Sportif. "It was unfair, but normal" added Tesar. The final word goes to Eric Wohlberg: "They say that races are bought and sold, and this one was bought."
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