Posted by Editor on 02/5/03
Tour de Langkawi
This report made possible by Human Kinetics Publishers
Today Team Canada had an ugly reminder of how quickly things can change at a stage race. After a rear flat 14 kilometres from the end of the sixth stage, Green dropped from second overall to 63rd, and is now 1:49 behind leader Nathan O'Neill (Saturn). To add insult to injury, Team Canada went from second to 18th in the team standings.
The 136.3 kilometre stage along the east coast from Marang to Cukai was supposed to be another day for sprinters, and Stuart O'Grady (Credit Agricole) did, in fact, outsprint Green Jersey holder Graeme Brown (Ceramiche Panaria) for the stage win.
The obligatory breakaway was established 18 kilometres into the stage by Peter Wuyts (Palmans-Collstrop) and Koji Fukushima (Japan). With severe crosswinds blowing in off the ocean, there was little inclination to chase, and the pair quickly built a sizable gap, up to 4:40 by kilometre 52. However, then the peloton finally went to work, and the gap began to drop rapidly. It stalled at around 2 minutes with 15 kilometres to go, but then Green had his flat and Saturn went to the front to turn up the pressure. Despite the 65 kilometre per hour charge, the leaders were not finally caught until 750 metres from the line.
"Nice to see how motivated they are when a guy's in the ditch." commented Green afterwards. "Everything was going fine, until I got a rear flat. My team mates came back to help chase, but it was going too fast at the front. It was just bad timing, but hopefully after stage 9 (Genting Highlands) those kind of deficits won't matter."
McGrath dropped back to assist Green, along with the rest of the squad, but "Gord told me to get back up there if I could. I tried, but it was going so fast that I couldn't get across to the front group." He finished in the second group, and dropped from 9th overall to 55th, 1:38 behind O'Neill. The strategy made sense, since one extra rider wouldn't have made a lot of difference in bringing Green up, and McGrath is the next best climber on the team, and thus the logical next choice to protect. With the Team Canada mishaps, Eric Wohlberg is now top Canadian on GC, in third place, behind team mates O'Neill and Tom Danielson.
While Roland Green has certainly suffered a serious setback, a quick look at the riders ahead of him on GC shows that at least 50 won't be at the front on the climb. A strong ride could still see him on the podium.
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