Posted by Editor on 02/2/03
Tour de Langkawi - Stage 3
This report made possible by Human Kinetics Publishers
Mendonca Pagliarini (Lampre) demonstrated for the second consecutive day that he is currently the fastest man in the Tour de Langkawi, easily outkicking Moreno Di Biase (Formaggi Pinzolo Fiave) and Graeme Brown (Ceramiche Panaria). Gord Fraser (Team Canada) was the top Canadian finisher, in 11th place. The entire peloton finished with the same time, and there was no change to the overall standings, with Roland Green (Team Canada) still trailing Nathan O'Neill (Saturn) by 23 seconds.
The 169.6 kilometre stage down the west coast of Malaysia from Kulim to Ipoh started fast, with a number of squads testing the ability of Saturn to defend the yellow - particularly after losing Charles Dionne the day before to a terrible crash in the sprint.
"We missed Charles a lot at the beginning of the stage, because we were pretty stretched in the first hour" said Eric Wohlberg. "But then we got a break when Gord and I got in a break (at the 29 kilometre mark). It forced the other teams to chase and took the pressure off."
Besides Fraser (8th overall) and Wohlberg (4th overall), the group also contained Ruber Alveiro Marin of Colombia-Selle Italia, considered to be a strong threat once the mountains come, so no other teams wanted to let this group get much space. The gap maxed out at 30 seconds, before a 60 kilometre an hour chase brought everyone back together within 15 kilometres. A second group of 4, with no GC threats, went clear within 2 kilometres of the first group being recaptured, and stayed away for nearly 114 kilometres, reaching a maximum gap of 4:06 before being reeled in with 10 kilometres to go.
At this point Saturn (and Team Canada) could relax, because the teams began to set up for their sprinters. In the end, it was for naught, because Pagliarini literally rode the other sprinters off his wheel, having enough of a gap at the line to look over his shoulder and throw his arms in the air. His win put him 3 points ahead of second place Brown in the Points Jersey competition.
Fraser's crash the day before slowed him down a bit, and he admitted to being nervous in the finishing sprint. "I got boxed in with nowhere to go, but I'm probably still a little trigger shy. I know I will come back, and there are still lots of sprints to contest. Now our job is to support Roland, so he can do what he needs to do in the mountains."
Stage 4 is the first mountain stage of the Tour, and offers Green a chance to possibly make up some time on O'Neill for the overall lead. "Today was pretty straightforward; I just sat in to save energy. Tomorrow's going to be pretty hard I think, because the first climb is only 7 kilometres in. Some guys are going to attack, I'm sure, and if the right group got away (on the climb), with the top 20 or so guys, it could stick."
Team Canada is strongly positioned, with two good climbers within 45 seconds of the lead - Green, and Seamus McGrath in 9th overall. Both climbs are Category 1, the first going from 135m to 612m in 21.7 kilometres, and the second starting at the 39 kilometre mark, with the finish 29 kilometres later after going from 308m to 1081m. However, there is 100 kilometres left after the second climb, mostly downhill or flat, so the expectation is that a large proportion of the field will reassemble.
- Charles Dionne update: Dionne had a compound fracture of his left index finger, according to the team. He is already on his way back home, and surgery is scheduled to wire his finger up after he arrives. The injury to his left thigh, while horrific looking (the skin was literally peeled away from the muscle), is not nearly as serious, since there was no muscle, tendon or bone damage. He received stitches for this injury, but is expected to recover from it fairly quickly. Saturn expects that he could be back racing again in the late spring.
- Blame for both crashes was laid at the feet of Ruben Bongiorno (Ceramiche Panaria) by many riders. Bongiorno was sweeping the wheel of team mate Graeme Brown to keep other sprinters off, and went well beyond what was acceptable, throwing punches according to Fraser. Bongiorno and his team manager received a talking to by the officials.
- Peter Wedge received a fork transplant overnight, after his was buckled in the crash. This temporarily left Team Canada without a spare bike, so Mavic neutral support lent one to them. Team manager Kris Westwood said that they had been in touch with a bike shop in Ipoh which said that they could supply a replacement.
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