Posted by Editoress on 02/15/04
As expected, the final stage of the Tour de Langkawi was largely ceremonial, with all the major jerseys and top GC positions decided the previous day on Genting Highlands. Ruben Bongiorno of Ceramiche Panaria took the final stage, making it looking easy, with time to sit up and look around as he rolled across the line in front of Greg Henderson (Health Net). Fraser, feeling the effects of his injuries yesterday took it easier today, leading out Henderson and then rolling across the line in 20th place. His insurmountable lead in the Points competition took the pressure off today.
"I just told the guys I was not feeling so good, so we rode for Greg. I was at the front with 300 metres to go and we rode according to our plan. We got second, which was a little disappointing, but lots of goals were met for the team, so it is enough to make us feel good. This race has been reminiscent of 2000, when I won the Points Jersey without winning a stage. That year I went on to have my best year ever."
Charles Dionne was the top Canadian for the stage, in 16th place. Roland Green finished as the top Canadian overall, dropping one place to 10th after a mechanical problem caused him to get gapped in the final few kilometres of the 12 lap, 74 kilometre circuit race through the streets of Kuala Lumpur.
Numerous attempts to form breakaways were always brought back, with Formaggi Pinzolo Piave riders and Peter Wedge of Team Canada particularly active. The chasing done by Palmans-Collstrop and Panaria led credence to the generally accepted notion that Colombia-Selle Italia had "bought" some extra assistance, although, given the dominance of the Colombians on Genting, it wouldn't have made much difference if they weren't in the mix.
Canadians did well at Langkawi this year, with Wohlberg winning a stage, Fraser taking the Points Jersey and multiple top-10 placings, and Roland Green recording a top-10 finish overall. Team Canada finished sixth overall in the Team GC.
"Yeah, we are happy with the results" said Wohlberg. "I tried to get across to one of the breaks, because I was only five seconds out of 15th, but I was mowed down by the field. In general, we have had a pretty good three weeks down here with New Zealand and Langkawi - I don't think we could have gone much better. The team raced well, doing everything we could to get into the moves, but it is difficult with all the secret handshakes that were going on."
Roland Green agreed that the project was a success, as far as Canada's aim of gaining UCI points went. "The UCI points we got are good, and Eric hauled in a bunch of points. I feel like my form went up a lot during the race, and I feel really good at the end of the race; not too tired. It is a good start to the season."
- Prior to the start of the final stage, one minute of silence was observed as a tribute to Marco Pantani, whose death was the talk of the race when word spread this morning.
- David George had a miraculous recovery from a flat tire in the last lap - the peloton was going 60 kilometres an hour, but he still managed to get back up to the same group as Green, dropping to 8th from 5th in the final GC. Cory Lange, who also flatted on the last lap, had a more reasonable explanation: "I saw him go by me at 80 kilometres an hour hanging on to a car."
- Roland Green also laid out his program for the season (up to the Olympics). "From here I go home and then to our team training camp just before the first Norba (Waco, Texas). After that is Sea Otter and I'm looking at the Tour of Georgia. Then I'm heading to Spain in the first week of May, which will be my base. I'll do the test race in Athens then the first three World Cups. I'll see where I'm standing at that point and either do the fourth World Cup (Austria) or head back home. After that I'll race and prepare in North America and then I'm not back to Europe until the Olympics."
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