Posted by Editor on 06/25/01
"Tuft by name, tough by nature." was overall winner Henk Vogels' comment about GP Cycliste de Beauce final stage winner Svein Tuft (Team Canada). Vogels was able to give Mercury-Viatel their first ever win at Beauce after Saturn was unable to exert enough pressure to crack their rivals.
Mercury had good reason to worry - last year they had Scott Moninger in the lead going into the final stage, only to lose it all when they succumbed to relentless attacks by other teams. This year the course seemed custom made for such a situation; 15 laps of an 11 kilometre circuit with 2.5 kilometres of climbing per lap.
Andrew Randell (7Up-Colorado Cyclist) started the action on the first lap, with an attack on the climb. He was quickly joined by 6 others, including Czeslaw Lukaszewicz (Team Canada) and Vassili Davidenko (Navigators). At the beginning of lap 7, Tuft powered a chase across the gap, taking Elio Aggiano (Mapei-Quick Step), Harm Jansen (Saturn) and Mark Walters (Navigators) with him.
Mercury was quite content to have this group off the front, since none were a threat to Vogels' lead. Saturn and Mroz-Supradyn Witaminy seemed content to let Mercury set tempo, bidding their time.
The break had shed two - Randell and Jason Crookham (Sympatico.ca), who suffered a flat and could not rejoin. Navigators and Team Canada were setting the pace at the front, with two riders each in the break, and the gap was hovering at a comfortable 3-plus minutes.
Tuft's break came almost by accident. "Davidenko attacked on the downhill at the end of the 10th lap and Czeslaw brought me up to him. I countered at the corner at the bottom and looked back and saw that I had a gap. So I decided to give it a go."
Tuft quickly established a minute on the chase, despite the efforts of Navigators. "He was strong out there", commented Walters. "We were chasing hard and couldn't get anywhere."
It was only in the last lap and a half that Tuft began to falter, with his lead slipping to 45 seconds, and then to only 7 seconds at the line. "I was hurting so much at the end, and it wasn't until the final 400 metres that I really knew that I had it." said the 24 year old from Langley, B.C. His team mate Lukaszewicz made it 1-2 for Canada as he outsprinted Vincent Templier (Saint Quentin-Oktos).
Meanwhile, Saturn was getting frustrated back in the peloton. "We were trying hard, especially in the last four laps" said top placed rider Michael Barry, "but none of the other teams would do anything. We split it open (the peloton) a couple times on the climb, but once we got over the top the other teams just sat up. It was very frustrating."
Vogels agreed: "They (Saturn) were able to gap me a few times, but only by 20-30 metres at the top, and then the rest of my team mates would pull it back together. I think that they (Saturn) just didn't have enough left in their legs."
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