Posted by Editoress on 02/8/03
Telekom Malaysia Tour de Langkawi
This report made possible by Human Kinetics Publishers
Stage 9: Seremban to Genting Highlands
Roland Green gave it his all, splintering the field on Genting Highlands, but was unable to drop either Yellow Jersey holder Tom Danielson (Saturn), or defending champion Hernan Dario Munoz (Colombia-Selle Italia). In the end, Green was dropped by the other two in the final two and a half kilometres, to finish third on the stage, and move into fourth overall. Munoz took the stage, but his one second margin of victory was not enough to dislodge Danielson from the lead. In fact, Danielson might have won the stage, had his foot not slipped out of his pedal.
"Going into the stage, I had my sights set on the overall lead. Since I was back on time, it was up to me to attack. I made a lot of attempts, but it wasn't enough. I'm really happy with the King of the Mountains jersey, and to finish fourth in my first race of the year. It was disappointing not to be able to take the overall lead, but a race this hard is a lead into bigger, better racing in the future. Doing something like this gets you to a different level."
Danielson commented: "Roland did so much work. He brought back the early Colombian attacks, and made it hard. He deserves the King of the Mountains jersey, no question."
After a leisurely cruise to the base of the climb, the pace got serious. Riders began dropping off the back with 20 kilometres to go, and by the time the 15 kilometres to go mark was passed there was a select group of 30, with all the favourites still in contention. Peter Wedge began to lose contact at this point, leaving Green and McGrath the only two Canadians still at the front.
Colombia-Selle Italia sent Jose Rujano off, and Green led the chase up, taking the lead group down to less then ten, and isolating Danielson from his Saturn team mates. The attacks continued, until there were only 3 riders left with 5 kilometres to go - Green, Munoz and Danielson. Green came off at 4 kilometres to go, when Munoz began surging, but got back on. He came off again with 3 kilometres remaining, regained contact briefly, and was then gone for good with two and a half kilometres to go.
He rolled in 39 seconds behind Munoz, and 46 seconds in front of Freddy Gonzalez (Colombia-Selle Italia) - unfortunately not enough to displace Gonzalez from third place in the overall standings.
Danielson was very impressive in his ride, coolly matching Munoz on every surge, even though this is not the way he likes to climb.
"His (Munoz's) efforts kept getting harder, so I thought that I might have some trouble, but to be honest I never really doubted my ability to hang with him. I stayed with him on every surge and felt really good, even though it's not the way I would want to ride this climb. I'm like Roland, I would have liked to get into a rhythm and go hard from the bottom, but that wasn't going to happen today."
Munoz seemed a little stunned that he had been unable to drop Danielson. Coming off overall victory in the Vuelta a Tachira, the hardest stage race in South America, he had been confident that he could make up the required 14 seconds to take the Yellow Jersey.
"I knew Danielson was a strong rider, from the way he has ridden this week. I thought that I could get 14 seconds back, but he was riding unbelievably, unbelievably strongly."
Munoz actually said said "unbelievably" multiple times during the post-race press conference, underlining how certain he had been of victory.
McGrath, although not with the frontrunners, had a consistent ride to finish 21st on the stage, and move up from 58th to 23rd overall. Peter Wedge also rode well, finishing 43rd (57th overall). Team Canada managed to move from 18th to 10th in the team classification, after finishing 4th in the stage standings (top 3 riders counted).
- Danielson served notice that he will be moving on from Saturn when he gets a chance: "I want to ride the Tour (de France). Hopefully I will get an offer (from a team) that will allow me to do that next year. If not, I'll be moving to Europe anyway to race and work my way onto a team." Given his performance here, there should be a number of teams knocking at his door.
- Roland Green had an interesting encounter after the stage. "I was sitting on the steps of the hotel after I finished, and these 5 Russian strippers or something, came over and sat all over me! They were rubbing themselves against me; it was pretty strange."
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