Posted by Editoress on 02/14/04
Tour de Langkawi
As expected, the Colombians dominated the race-deciding Genting Highlands stage today. Ruber Marin won the stage, but did so while pacing Freddy Gonzalez into the yellow jersey. Roland Green put together a good ride to finish seventh on the stage and move up to ninth overall. Eric Wohlberg also did a strong ride for a "non-climber", finishing 25th on the stage and moving to 17th overall.
The 130 kilometre stage from Kuala Lumpur to Genting Highlands is legendary, finishing with a 26 kilometre climb up to 1716 metres that just keeps getting steeper and steeper and steeper. Former two-time winner Paolo Lanfranchi rates the Genting climb harder than Alpe d'Huez.
The stage started out with a rather bizarre incident, when Points Leader Gord Fraser crashed in the Neutralized portion at the start of the stage. Although he came out of the incident with ripped jersey and shorts, he was more embarassed than injured.
"I was trying to show Graeme (Brown - Ceramiche Panaria) how he hooked me yesterday, and I guess I'm not as good at it as he is, because I hooked myself into the ground. It looked a lot worse than it was. It didn't hurt and I got right back up, it was just embarassing and I didn't need to have it happen. The main thing was I tweaked my back a bit, but I had it adjusted afterwards and it seems to be okay now."
Fraser obviously wasn't too injured, because he contested the first two HotSpot Sprints, finishing second and third, and assuring himself the Points jersey.
"I've got it locked up now. I won't participate in the HotSpots tomorrow - I'll save it for the sprint. We haven't got a stage victory yet, so I definitely want to go for it. Whatever happens (with the stage win), it has been a really good tour for me and the team. We are working out the new chemistry and staff, and everything, so it has been good."
A few riders attempted to get away on the flat lead in to the climb, hoping to build up a cushion that would allow them to avoid being dropped early on, once the road went vertical. However, Palmans-Collstrop, who appear to be working for Selle Italia, did a good job of policing the action. It wasn't until a few kilometres after the second HotSpot Sprint that a group of 11 managed to carve out a lead. Dominique Perras was in this group.
"We were hoping to start the stage with a bit of a gap. We had a Colombian with us, so we thought it might work, but at the bottom of the climb we were about to get caught. I went solo, but they were catching me, so I just sat up."
Michele Gobbi (De Nardi) attacked and passed Perras as he was dropping back with 22 kilometres to go. Gobbi initially opened up a strong lead, going to two and a half minutes with 15 kilometres remaining, however, the road was getting steeper, and the tempo was increasing, as the number in the front group began to dwindle. Tonton Susanto (Wismilak) set off in pursuit with 19 kilometres to go, pulling to within a minute of Gobbi.
Behind, Dave Bruylandts (Chocolade Jacques) and Tiaan Kannemeyer (Barloworld) were setting the pace, with Colombians Gonzalez, Marin and yellow jersey Marlon Perez sitting on. Also in the group were David George (Barloworld), his team mate Ryan Cox, Nicholas White (South Africa), Ghader Mizbani (Iran) and Roland Green. They caught Susanto with 10 kilometres to go, and Gobbi with 5 kilometres remaining. Bruylandts lit it up at 6 kilometres to go, and this is when all but Cox, Marin and Gonzalez were shed - the yellow jersey was gone, and would eventually lose three minutes in the final six kilometres. The Colombian pair dropped Bruylandts and Cox with three kilometres remaining, and Marin paced Gonzalez up the last of the climb. He was awarded the stage victory as the two riders came across the line together.
Bruylandts took third ahead of Cox, 37 seconds back, and then George and Kannemeyer came in together. Green was less than 20 seconds behind, and might have challenged george for fifth if his chain hadn't fallen off in the final 500 metres.
"There was a surge between five and six kilometres to go" said Green afterwards. "I didn't go with it. I decided to ride my own pace and I ended up passing quite a few guys who had gone out hard. I know how steep that last bit is, and you can easily end up overdoing it. I had good legs at the end, and nearly caught the two South Africans in front of me. There's a bit at 500 metres where you go over the top and drop down before the finish. I dropped my chain then, so that was it. It wouldn't have made a difference on GC, but it would have been nice to do a top-5."
The final GC looks to be set, with Gonzalez in the yellow, Cox 48 seconds back and Bruylandts at 1:54. Bruylandts is only one second ahead of Kannemeyer in the battle for third, so we can expect to see some attacks in the HotSpot Sprints in tomorrow's final circuit race in downtown Kuala Lumpur.
- Team Canada is on a very tight budget here - the riders have to chip in to buy race food and drinks, and there are no radios that work. A sad commentary when the race is part of an effort to gain as many UCI points as possible for Olympic qualification. The UCI points hunt will get a boost with Wohlberg's stage win, and his and Green's high overall finishes. However, this will be offset by the points they lose from Green's fourth place last year. Also, the South African's have performed extremely well, and they were just in front of Canada (and are probably no longer catchable).
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