February 10/04 8:18 am - Eric Wohlberg wins Tour de Langkawi TT
Posted by Editoress on 02/10/04
Eric Wohlberg was the class of the field in stage 5 of the Tour de Langkawi, winning the 18 kilometre time trial along the coast next to the Straits of Melaka. Wohlberg finished 13 seconds ahead of Colombian Marlon Perez (Colombia-Selle Italia), who was on a mission to regain the yellow jersey he lost to team mate Freddy Gonzalez on stage 3 after crashing. Perez was successful in his goal, and now leads Spaniard Hector Guerra Garcia (Relax Bodysol) by 32 seconds. North Americans has strong results in the time trial, with John Lieswyn (Health Net) taking third, Roland Green (Team Canada) 12th and Peter Wedge 18th. Team Canada actually won the team classification for the stage, followed by Colombia-Selle Italia and Health Net.
The 18 kilometre out and back course was almost entirely flat, with the exception of one bridge overpass. However, this did not make it easy - the heat and a strong gusting wind on the outward leg put paid to the ambitions of many a rider.
Greg Henderson, the Kiwi racing for Health Net, set the first fast time of the day - 22:26.30. His leading time would last for only a few minutes, because Russel Van Hout (Colombia-Selle Italia) knocked 12 seconds off almost immediately. Van Hout held the lead for an hour and six minutes; until Lieswyn took off another 14 seconds. Unfortunately, Lieswyn had no chance to savour his result, because Eric Wohlberg was his minute man, and came across the line 21 seconds faster.
Both riders credited each other for making them push harder in the race.
"Having John out there really helped; it gave me a strong rider to chase. I could tell I was taking time out of John, but except for the time check at the turnaround I didn't really know how well I was doing." said Wohlberg. "The way out was very hard, and I was really suffering on the way back in, but I had enough left to pull it out. I felt like I was really on the gear, and when that happens I always have a good ride. Alex (Lavallee) lent me a set of wheels and the staff on the team is really working hard for us, so I'm happy that I could pull out a good ride for the team."
Lieswyn, a first timer at Langkawi, surprised himself with his result. "I didn't think top three was possible here, I was going to be happy with a top ten. But, there's not a whole lot of time triallers in this race - most of the teams send sprinters and climbers - so I thought that there was a chance for a good ride. I just decided to give it all the stick I could from the gun, and I had a real motivation of not wanting to see Eric in the rear view."
Lieswyn also had a slight problem with an erratic driver from another team's vehicle.
"The Iran car almost put me into the parked cars when I was coming by them. The way was wide open initially, but then he started to drift over to the cars. I had to bang on his car and hit the brakes, I lost maybe 5 or 10 seconds. Without it I might have got second, but I couldn't have beaten Eric; he really smoked it today."
Wohlberg and Lieswyn remained in the 1-2 spots until Perez, who started third from last, bumped the Health Net rider down one step on the podium by a slim three-quarters of a second. The Colombian admitted to still feeling a little sore from his crash, but sported a broad smile as he donned the yellow jersey.
"I felt very good today when I started. This is my second time trial this year, and the second time that I have finished second. Normally, Colombians are not so good in time trials, but now (Santiago) Botero has won the world championship, and i won the Pan Am championship, so we are getting better every year."
The time trial win boosted Wohlberg into 14th place overall, 2:24 behind Perez, with Green a further 21 seconds back in 15th and Lieswyn at the same time in 16th. Charles Dionne (Team Canada) is the next North American in the standings - 36th at 6:08. The Tour continues tomorrow with a flat 175 kilometre run down the west coast from Muar to Johor Bahru.
- Wohlberg pointed out that his result shows how problematic the IOC and UCI selection process is for the Olympic Games in the time trial event. "I can win here against an international field and finish top 25 at the worlds, but canada doesn't get a spot for athens in the time trial. It's just frustrating." The UCI restricts entry to the top 25 countries, and Canada is currently in 28th place.