February 11/04 8:02 am - Tour de Langkawi: Stage 6 story
Posted by Editoress on 02/11/04
Finally the sprinters had their chance at the Tour de Langkawi, with Italian Ivan Quaranta (Formaggi Pinzolo Fiave) winning the sixth stage, a 175 kilometre flat run down the coast from Muar to Johor Bahru. Gord Fraser (Health Net) finished fourth on the stage and continues to hold the Points Jersey. The stage did not affect GC, with Marlon Perez (Colombia-Selle Italia) and all the top riders finishing with the bunch.
The riders had a tail-crosswind for most of the stage, and attacks began immediately at the end of the neutralized section. A group of 15 broke clear 5 kilometres into the stage, including Dominique Perras. However, the gap hovered around 15 seconds for over 40 kilometres, until Selle Italia finally got tired of chasing. The breakaways were aided by the fact that the one serious threat in the break, ninth placed Dave Bruylandts (Chocolade Jacques), finally dropped back to the peloton. Once that issue was dealt with, the group started to add some padding to their gap, eventually going to nearly two and a half minutes clear by the 75 kilometre mark.
This was worrisome to Selle Italia, since Jurgen Van De Walle (Chocolade Jacques) was in the break and only 4:37 down, while Jock Green (Barloworld) was at 5:38. However, the Colombians had been spending a lot of time at the front over the past few days, and seem to be having difficulty bringing back such a well organized and large group. It wasn't until Palmans-Collstrop and Relax Bodysol (who didn't have anybody in the break) came to the front to assist Selle Italia that the gap began to fall. Even then, it took another 40 kilometres to bring the gap down to a minute.
With 50 kilometres to go the gap was 37 seconds and the lead group split up. All but three riders sat up to wait for the peloton, with Perras, Alessandro Cortinovis (Lampre) and Alejandro Borrajo (Ceramiche Panaria-Magres) deciding to continue on. They quickly went back to a 1:10 lead, but it began to fall with 40 kilometres to go, and with 25 kilometres remaining were back in the peloton.
Perras: "I came back with a vengeance today! I decided that I wanted to try something today, on my birthday. At first it was only 10-12 seconds, but Bruylandts was there, so we kept telling him to go back, since we couldn't get away with him there. After that it went pretty good until Palmans started to help Selle Italia."
Almost immediately, a group of three attacked - Alex Lavallee (Team Canada), Shinichi Fukushima (Japan) and Philip Deignan (Ireland). Deignan was only 3:16 down on the yellow jersey, so the response was immediate, but the trio managed to hang on until only five kilometres remained, before being absorbed by the bunch.
Formaggi Pinzolo Fiave went to the front to set tempo for Quaranta, but Ceramiche Panaria and Health Net were absent. Health Net had a legitimate excuse - two riders had been in the break all day, Greg Henderson got a bag caught up in his rear derailleur with ten kilometres to go and had to get a bike change, and Brice Jones went down hard in an early crash, eventually receiving five stitches to his elbow (he may not start stage 7). However, the absence of Panaria, to set up defending Points Jersey champion Graeme Brown, was puzzling, as was Brown's complete absence in the sprint, although his team mate Ruben Bongiorno did take third.
Team Canada came to the front in the final kilometre, to set up Charles Dionne, with Eric Wohlberg leading Roland Green, and Dionne tucked in next. However, after Wohlberg swung off and Green came to the front, disaster struck in the form of a front wheel flat for Green, and he was forced to swing off early at 500 metres. This left Dionne out in front much too early, and he was swarmed in the last 150 metres, eventually finishing 12th.
"Eric and Peter (Wedge) did a good job" said Dionne, "and then Roland was in front of me. I was yelling to hang on, and go a little further, but he got a front flat, so I had to go early. We almost got it; if Roland hadn't flatted I think that I would have been on the podium."
Fraser had good positioning for the sprint, but admitted that he hesitated.
"I picked a good wheel - Charles' - and was in great position with 300 metres to go, but I hesitated, and Quaranta and Pagliarini (Lampre) jumped around me. It was pretty disappointing because I was in the right position. It was unfortunate for Charles, because Team Canada did a good job."
Dionne and Fraser will get another chance tomorrow in another flat stage, as the race starts to head back north again.
- Team Canada was pretty pumped about the way their leadout was working until Green's flat, and is looking forward to another attempt to put Dionne on the podium. On the other hand, the team also had a rough day - Green flatted twice and almost went down in an early crash, and Peter Wedge broke his bars and flatted as well.
- Team Malaysia is not having a good race. They are doing poorly in the Asian competition in their home event, and today the team manager and one rider were evicted from the race for extended sheltering of a rider behind a team vehicle. This morning's paper raked them over the coals, talking about "over-nourished and pampered" riders.