Posted by Editor on 06/22/01
Australian Henk Vogels (Mercury-Viatel) kept his yellow jersey for another day at the Grand Prix Cycliste de Beauce, despite finishing five minutes and three seconds behind stage 5 winner Philippe Koehler of Mapei-Quick Step. Koehler barely managed to hold off Canadian national champion Czeslaw Lukaszewicz (Team Canada) in a two man mountain top finish to take the stage; his first win as a professional racer.
The 170 kilometre fifth stage is considered the most difficult of the 7 stage, 959 kilometre race. The stage culminates with a 5.5 kilometre climb to the Mont Megantic observatory, atop the highest paved road in eastern Canada (over 1100 metres). It averages over 10%, with the steepest sections above 18%. Race leader Vogels commented "this is the steepest finishing climb I have ever seen!"
Koehler and Lukaszewicz were members of a 6 rider breakaway that escaped from the main field 18 kilometres into the race. Besides Lukaszewicz and Koehler, the breakaway contained Antonio Rizzi (Mapei-Quick Step), Christophe Gauthier (Saint Quentin Oktos), Chris Fisher (Saturn) and Zbigniew Wyrzykowski (Mroz Supradyn Witaminy). The breakaway reached a maximum gap of 7 minutes, but none of the riders were threats to Vogels' overall lead, since they were all over 30 minutes back on GC.
As the break entered the final 5.5 kilometres, and the road steepened, members of the breakaway dropped off. Gauthier set a hard pace at the start, and first Wyrzykowski and then Fisher succumbed. Rizzi was the next to go, but he managed to find the energy somewhere to rejoin when the grade flattened out for a short while after 2 kilometres. He then attacked, and only Lukaszewicz and Koehler could respond.
Lukaszewicz was caught in classic squeeze play by the two team mates. "The weaker rider (Rizzi) kept attacking, but I could not let him go. I knew I could beat one rider, but when there were two team mates it was impossible" said Lukaszewicz, a member of the 2000 Sydney Olympic squad. "This would have been an incredible win for me, but I know that I rode my best for second."
Koehler attacked in the final 500 metres and Lukaszewicz responded, and even counterattacked, but it was not to be, as the 23 year old Frenchman had a stronger finishing kick.
Rizzi took third, Gauthier fourth and Fisher fifth, before Scott Moninger (Mercury) came storming up the hill in sixth; the first of the leading GC riders to finish. His time was enough to move him into 3rd overall, 1:23 behind his team mate and only 5 seconds out of second, held by Zbigniew Piatek (Mroz Supradyn Witaminy). Michael Barry (Saturn) was 10th on the stage and moved into fourth overall, 1:41 behind Vogels.
- Surprisingly, Henk Vogels, who is no stranger to the winner's podium, has never won a stage race as a pro. Lots of stages, but never an overall win. What he has left to get through at Beauce is a time trial and criterium tomorrow (Saturday) and a circuit race on Sunday.
- Stage winner Koehler took over the Climber's Jersey, tied on points with former leader Arquimedes Lam (Team Tecos). Gord Fraser (Mercury-Viatel) continues to hold the Points Jersey, one point ahead of Chris Baldwin (Navigators).
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