Posted by Editoress on 02/9/04
Stage 4 saw few changes to the general classification at the Tour de Langkawi, with another long breakaway succeeding in staying away. Australian Sean Sullivan (Team Barloworld) outsprinted his breakaway companion, Devis Miorin (De-Nardi) to take his first pro win, with Health Net taking third fourth and sixth on the stage. Gord Fraser solidified his lead in the points competition with a win and a third place in HotSpot sprints, and won the field sprint for sixth.
Everyone was expecting that this would be the stage when we finally saw a field sprint, but the day unfolded in a surprising manner. After some early attacks, which always brought back by Colombia-Selle Italia, a group of three got away at the 40 kilometre mark - Miorin, Alessandro Cortinovis (Lampre) and Ryan Cox (Barloworld). Cox is second on GC, so this wasn't going to succeed, but once he sat up and drifted back to the peloton, his team mate Sullivan bridged up to the leaders, and they began to open a gap.
By the end of the first KoM, the gap was hovering around a minute, and it stayed there for 30 kilometres. Cortinovis dropped back to the peloton at the base of the second KoM, and the remaining duo began to finally open up some time. The gap opened to over five minutes in the final 20 kilometres, which put Sullivan in the "virtual" yellow jersey. Colombia-Selle Italia went seriously to work pulling the leaders back at this point.
"It was similar to yesterday's race; it started very fast, eased up a bit and then a break went. I went across, and it (the gap) stayed at 45 seconds to a minute for a long time. We just kept riding to see what would happen."
Gord Fraser started the second break by going for the third place points in the final HotSpot sprint of the day, 34 kilometres from the finish.
"I figured that I would go early on the last bonus - it's only two points, but it keeps adding up. I told Selle Italia that I would come back and went for it. A Philippine rider (Albert Primero - Pagcor-Casino Filipino) came with me, so Brice (Jones) and Mike (Sayers) came to cover him. Since he kept going, Mike and Brice went with him."
The trio pulled to within a minute of the leaders, and first Sayers and then Jones attacked Primero to lock up third and fourth respectively, while Fraser led home the bunch at 1:29, ahead of Enrico Degano (Barloworld) and Graeme Brown (Ceramiche Panaria-Margres). All Canadians finished in the main bunch.
The question on everyone's lips was: "why didn't the sprinter teams pull back the break?"
"It was a weird day" confirmed Fraser. "No sprinter team wanted to expend the effort to bring it back. They are all riding conservatively in the heat. It certainly works in our favour."
Yellow jersey holder Freddy Gonzalez (Colombia-Selle Italia) said that non-tactics of the sprinter teams meant that his squad had to work a lot harder than planned.
"The team was not worried when the the break went, we just wanted to keep it around three minutes. We thought that the sprinter teams would work to bring it back, but we were surprised to see that they didn't, so we had to work harder than expected, especially since we are one rider short."
In the last 500 metres, the lead duo began to play cat-and-mouse, with Miorin slowing at the front to try and force Sullivan into the lead. Sullivan resisted, until the last 100 metres when he went by Miorin to take the stage.
Tomorrow is the important time trial, which will give everyone a clearer picture of who is likely to be a contender on Genting.
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