Posted by Editor on 06/19/99
Clinger Takes Stage 5 for Mercury
This evening criterium stage through the streets of St Georges rarely has an effect on general classification, but that didn't mean that the riders aren't racing just as hard. Mercury's David Clinger was the bunch sprint winner, after a fine solo attack attempt by team mate Gord Fraser.
For the first half of the 38 lap, 61 kilometre stage, the pace was high enough to discourage breakaway attempts. Add to that high speed an immediate response by Saturn to any dangerous move, and it looked like the crowd was in for a bunch sprint finish. However, with about 15 laps to go, Mike Barry (Saturn), Mike Sayers (Navigators) and Clinger took a flyer off the front which gained 8-10 seconds. Wustenrot-ZVVZ couldn't allow this to happen, since Barry might leapfrog over two of their riders in GC. So, their blue and white train went to the front to pull things back together.
This, of course, set things up perfectly for a counterattack, and Gord Fraser didn't disappoint. Fraser, hunkered down over his bars like he was in a time trial, was 15 seconds clear with 10 laps left in the race and, as the counter dwindled, it looked like his gamble might pay off. Finally, with 4 laps left, Die Continentale and Degree Radio Energie-Shaklee took up the chase, and Fraser was back in the field with a lap and a half left to go.
Then race leader Levi Leipheimer (Saturn) decided to go for broke in the last half lap and attacked. He had a good gap, but "I was carrying a lot of speed into the last corner, and I got a little scared, thinking about my leader's jersey, so I backed off."
This set things up for Clinger: "Levi's move meant that we had a really long sprint, which suits me perfectly." Stage 1 winner Andreas Beikirch (Die Continentale-Olympia) was second, and Mark McCormack (Saturn) third.
Tomorrow the race finishes up with a 174 kilometre stage that still has the potential to rearrange things significantly in the general classification. The race begins at 9:00 am, and we will be doing live coverage through the stage.
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