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July 27/03 2:16 am - Tour de L'Abitibi: Stage 7 Story and Photos


Posted by Editoress on 07/27/03
 

Tour de L'Abitibi

Stage 7: Preissac to Val d'Or, 102.7 km

Photos

Kevin Lacombe (Equipe Quebec) has fought off challenges to his lead for another day, after a seemingly minor crash at the back of the peloton almost shook up the general classification. The 102.7 kilometre stage from Pressiac to Val d'Or featured to Intermediate Sprints in the first 30 kilometres, and French sprinter Anthony Jaunet has been gradually eating into Lacombe's lead with a few seconds every day. Jaunet began stage 6 in third, 15 seconds behind Lacombe, and conceivably could have taken the overall lead with a stage win and intermediate time bonuses.

Lacombe's team has not been particularly effective in the past few days at trying to contain the French threat, however, on Saturday they were much more aggressive, and were assisted by other teams looking to gain a stage win.

In the first sprint, Jaunet took the maximum 3 seconds, but Lacombe was right on his wheel for 2 seconds, with second place overall Matt Crane (Hot Tubes) third for 1 second - the lead was down to 14 seconds over Jaunet and up one second to 10 ahead of Crane. The second sprint didn't go according to French plans, with two riders jumping away early, leaving third place for Jaunet. Still, he gained another second on Lacombe.

The race settled down after this, with no more time bonuses until the finish line, after 8 laps of the 2.2 kilometre finishing circuit in Val d'Or A light drizzle began to fall, slickening the road and, just before the halfway point, Lacombe swerved to avoid a pothole, with Crane behind him hitting it and going down, causing a chain reaction across the road. No one was seriously hurt, and the major contenders all reassembled in the field after a few kilometres of chasing, but a break had gone as the crash was occurring...

So, a peloton tired from 6 days of racing had to chase, with the onus on the French to do the work and bring it back together for a field sprint. The group was caught 10 kilometres from Val d'Or, but then another group of 12 broke clear, gaining 10 seconds. Among the riders in this group driving the pace were Symmetrics team mates Marsh Cooper and Brad Fairall.

Again the French went to the front to drag it back, but they were visibly fading, with one rider finally dropping off the back of the peloton. Cooper stayed away the longest, joined by team mate Max Plaxton at the end, but they were caught in the final lap, and Jurgen Roelandts (Belgium-Sweet Paradise) took his second stage win. Jaunet was unable to grab any extra time bonuses, although his team mate Mathieu Chiocca took third, and retrieves the Orange Points Jersey from Jaunet.

So, the race enters the final stage with Crane nine seconds behind Lacombe, and Jaunet at 13 seconds. The 32 lap criterium has no intermediate time bonuses (although this was a matter of debate - see Race Notes), meaning it will require a stage win and a breakaway to dislodge Lacombe from the overall win.

Race Notes:

- halfway through the stage it was announced on race radio that 2 intermediate time sprints would be added to the final stage. The French were very happy, Team Quebec furious. The reason given was that they had been inadvertently left out earlier in the race bible. That may be, countered Quebec, but they aren't in the bible, and you can't just add them in.

Josée Robitaille, who manages the VW-Trek squad Lacombe usually rides for said "do you want to tell these crowds that their local leader could lose because of this - there will be a riot!"

Eventually, cooler heads prevailed, and the intermediate sprints were removed.

- you know that you are in the North when the police at the front of the race have to stop and shoo some curious moose away from the road...

- Lacombe is the second Abitibi native to wear the Brown Jersey, and would become the first to win the overall victory, should he hold on to his lead today. The only other local wearer of the jersey was Bernard Deshaies, who wore it for 3 stages, back in 1971. Deshaies is from Amos (the same as Lacombe).

- I was rather amusing to see the Mavic boys repairing a flat on their motto before the start of the stage. Especially when they had to put a call out for a puncture repair kit, as they did not have one. See photo in gallery.

 


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