Posted by Editoress on 06/18/99
Megantic Stage has begun - We are starting our reports early, as the racing started with an attack at the 5km mark, end of the neutral zone, by Jean-Charles Pissoneaunt of Equipe Quebec. He quickly gapped the pack and had over 50seconds by the 17km mark, when Alexander Bernard (Canadian National) bridged up to him and the gap increased to 1:15. At the 25 km mark the 2 were joined by Darcko Ficko (Composite A) and Ronn Schmeer (Nutra Fig). By the 33 km mark the pack decided that enough was enough and excelerated to within striking distance and caught Pissoneaunt. Just when it looked like Ficko and Schmeer were to be caught, the pack slowed down and let them get away. Alexander Bernard, who had managed to get away from the other 3, used this time to open up an even larger gap and now has 2:35 on the pack and 40 seconds on Ficko and Schmeer at the 35 km mark
At the 50km mark, the 2 chasers (Schmeer and Ficko) have caught Bernard and the 3 have put a larger gap between themselves and the pack. At times it has reached a maximum of 4:20 but stays fairly consistent at around 3:50.
At the 52 km mark Charles Dionne (Degree Radio Energee-Shaklee) is attempting to bridge and has put 40 seconds between himself and the pack.
At 70km, the breakaway group of 3 (Bernard, Ficko & Schmeer) has widened the gap even more. At times it has reached 6 and a half minutes, but the pack has pulled it back to 5:25.
90 km into this 169km stage, and the group of 3 (Bernard, Ficko & Schmeer) had 7:10 on the main pack. Charles Dionne was 3:10 behind the leaders and Jon Hambien of Navigators is 30 seconds behind him.
At 100 km The lead break has 9:25 on the pack. Dionne and Hambien are together at 3:05. There are 2 more riders (Jonathan Tremblay Carl Dessureauilt - both of Equipe Quebec) trying to bridge at 4:55.
The pack has just had a serious looking chase group of 13 riders go off with riders representing all of the major teams. This group contains Mike Sayers of Saturn who is 5th in GC.
The attempted break by the 13 riders was short lived ans the main pack has decided to take things serious. Attacks and counter attacks by various riders have closed the gap between the 3 leaders to 5:50, which is now down to 2, as Ficko has been dropped.
There are approx 60 km remaining in todays stage. Climbing starts in 30 km, with the infamous Mont Megantic climb in the last 5 km.
The pack was not able to find the "right combination" to chase the leaders, and have settled back down and are preparing to start climbing in about 20 km.
Bernard and Schmeer are still solidly ahead a with a 5:45 gap between them and the pack. There is a 3 rider chase group of Ficko, Dionne and Hambien at 3:10.
With 40 km to go, a strong chase group has just launched an attack that seems to have the "right stuff". In the group are Mike Barry and Matt Anand of Saturn, Mark Walters of Navigators (the Canadian road Champion), Thurlow Rogers of Mercury, Peter Wedge and Graham Miller of Degree Radio Energee-Shaklee and Thomas Konecny who rode well here last year.
1:45pm - Leipheimer takes the win
With 30 km to go the pack decided it was now or never, and lead by ZVVZ, quickly closed the gap between them and the 9 earlier attack group. At the same time Bernard was being dropped by Schmeer. At 25 km to go the group of 3 (Ficko, Dionne and Hambien) were absorbed by the pack, who then went on to catch Bernard at the 20 k to go mark.
At this point Schmeer still had nearly 5 minutes on the pack, but Mercury decided that this was too much and started a chase that would catch him at the 4 km to go point (1 km into the Mont Megantic climb). The pack, still a strong group of 35, had just gotten together when a group of 10 went hard off the front. In this group were riders from all the strong teams (Saturn, ZVVZ, Mercury and Navigators).
At 2 km to go Levi Leipheimer (Saturn) bolted off the front and rode away to take the win. The rest of the group rode together to the finish and sprinted for second.
1. Levis Leipheimer (SATURN)
2. Jaroslav Billek (WÜSTENROT - ZVVZ)
3. Vasili Davidenko (Navigators)
4. Jan Hruska ((WÜSTENROT - ZVVZ)
5. Michael Barry (SATURN)
Levis Leipheimer - "It (the stage) started very slow at the beginning. I think many riders were afraid of the climb. We (Saturn) weren't too worried about Schmeer's lead near the end, we knew we could reel him in on the climb."..... regarding his attack with 2 k to go "I thought that I had gone too early on the climb, but Matt (Anand) was pulling and making it really hard on everyone. I looked around and everyone seemed at their limit, but I still felt good, so I went."
Brian Walton - "We (Saturn) had 4 bullets in our gun. Mercury was putting all their hopes on Moninger, so we knew we had it."
Leipheimer will take over the lead in GC.
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