September 21/98 7:26 am - Hokkaido, Vuelta
Posted by Editor on 09/21/98
Tour de Hokkaido - CLOSE BUT NO CIGAR
(courtesy Kris Westwood)
The final stage of the Tour de Hokkaido was a criterium run around the smooth, curving lanes of Makomanai Park in Sapporo, just in front of the stadium that hosted the 1972 winter olympics. The 4.1 km course did not include any big climbs, but the tight corners and a strong wind made the race very selective.
Going into the stage Charles Dionne was 12 points down on the leader of the points classification, Takehiro Mizutani (JPN/Nippon Hodo). The entire Nippon Hodo team was still in the race, while Charles only had Pascal Choquette to give him a hand. To take the overall points lead was a tall task, but mathematically it remained possible: there were five intermediate sprints that awarded points and time bonuses to the first three, and a bigger share of points at the finish.
The race got under way in the early afternoon under sunny skies. The temperature was about 30 degrees, the first time in the Tour that the riders had to deal with hot weather. The pace was quick from the beginning, and on the first lap a group of a dozen riders split off the front of the bunch. Though none of the riders in the break were a threat on the overall, they would prevent Dionne from gaining any points in the intermediate sprints. Choquette quickly went to the front and set a pace that kept the leaders within reach, but in so doing he spent what little remaining energy he had. While the pack caught the break just before the sprint, Choquette was soon to be seen drifting off the back.
Dionne failed to score any points in the first sprint, but neither did Mizutani. In the lull afterwards Choquette chased back on, but when an attack went he got dropped again and never saw the pack again until he was lapped and pulled from the race. The riders forcing the pace at the front were Raymond Clarke (IRL) and Tomokazu Fujino (JPN/Inoak-Deki). The break lasted for ten laps or so, spanning two of the intermediate sprints and though Dionne won one of those pack sprint he only gained a single point by doing so. The Irish team had a valid reason for sending Clarke off the front: one of their riders, Michael McNena, was second on the overall classification but only a few seconds ahead of third and fourth. With a breakaway taking the time bonuses McNenaâ€šs second place was safe.
The two were finally caught just before the third sprint, which Dionne narrowly lost to Mizutani. Four laps later, Dionne beat Mizutani which meant he would be going into the final sprint with a ten point deficit on the Nippon Hodo rider. If Dionne won the stage, and Mizutani finished fourth or worse, Dionne would take the jersey. Nippon Hodo obviously did not have any wish for this to happen, so they started letting groups get away, and with three laps to go a break of three riders, Ciaran Power (IRL), Philipe Mauduit (FRA/Nippon Hodo) and Bong-Min Kim (KOR) rode virtually unopposed off the front.
Alone, Dionne was powerless to prevent the break from getting away, and the three stayed away to sprint for the win. Power took the stage, followed by Kim and then Mauduit, who pulled a foot out in the sprint. 18 seconds later the pack came in. Dionne was only beaten to the line by Derek Wilkerson of the US team, but Mizutani was just behind. Dionne had done everything he had to do, despite having no teammates to help him, but he only closed to seven points behind Mizutani. However, his accumulated time bonuses moved him up to 7th overall.
Hideto Yukinari (JPN/Miyata Subaru) retained the lead of the race without difficulty to become the overall winner. Osamu Sumida (JPN/Shimano) took the climberâ€šs title, followed by two of his own teammates. Finally, the Nippon Hodo team won the overall team classification, followed by Shimano and Inoac-Deki, to complete a clean sweep by the Japanese.
Though only 19 years old, Charles Dionne was the only Canadian to finish the race. He produced some excellent results and demonstrated an ability to think clearly while racing, a rare ability. Though none of the others finished the stage race, some flashes of good form will make it difficult to evaluate just who should be selected for the world championships.
RESULTS: Stage 6
1ST CIARAN POWER (IRL) 105 km in 2h27â€š05"; 2nd B-M. Kim (KOR); 3rd P. Mauduit (FRA/Nippon Hodo), all same time; 4th Derek Wilkerton (USA) at 18"; 5th C. Dionne (CAN) same time; 6th T. Mizutani (JPN/Nippon Hodo) same time . . . 48 riders started, 37 finished
FINAL OVERALL AFTER STAGE 6:
1st HIDETO YUKINARI (JPN/Miyata Subaru) 19h42â€š36"; 2nd M. McNena (IRL) at 30"; 3rd S. Fukushima (JPN/Bridgestone) at 38"; 4th O. Sumida (JPN/Shimano) at 44"; 5th X. Tan at 2â€š10". . .7th C. Dionne (CAN) at 2â€š28"
1st TAKEHIRO MIZUTANI 94 pts; 2nd C. Dionne (CAN) 87 pts; 3rd T. Xuezhong (CHI/Acom Ravanello) 62 pts. . .
BEST CLIMBER CLASSIFICATION
1st OSAMU SUMIDA (JPN/Shimano); 2nd H. Nodera (JPN/Shimano); 3rd; H. Imanishi (JPN/Nippon Hodo) . . . 15th C. Dionne (CAN) . . .
Stage: 1st Nippon Hodo; 2nd USA; 3rd Bridgestone Anchor . . . 12th Canada . . .
Overall: 1st Nippon Hodo; 2nd Shimano; 3rd Inoac Deki . . . 12th Canada. . .
15 teams classified
CANADIAN RIDERS CLASSIFICATION
Stage / Overall
Alexandre LavalÃ©e - / -
Pascal Choquette Eliminated / -
Matt Hansen - / -
Charles Dionne 5th at 18" / 7th at 2â€š28"
Alexandre Bernard - / -
Manager: Kris Westwood
Mechanic: Bruno Roy
Stage 16 - Soria to Laguna Negra de Neila, 143.7 km
1. JosÃ© Maria Jiminez Sastre (Spa) Banesto at 3.28.12
2. Laurent Jalabert (Fra) ONCE-Deutsche Bank 0.33
3. Fernando Escartin (Spa) Kelme-Costa Blanca 0.33
4. Alex ZÃ¼lle (Swi) Festina-Lotus 0.39
5. Richard Virenque (Fra) Festina-Lotus 0.39
6. Manuel Beltran Martinez (Spa) Banesto 0.46
7. Abraham Olano Manzano (Spa) Banesto 0.46
8. JosÃ© Joaquim Castelblanco (Col) Avianca-Telecom 0.58
9. Roberto Heras Hernandez (Spa) Kelme-Costa Blanca 0.58
10. Daniel Clavero Sebastian (Spa) Vitalicio Seguros 1.02
1. Abraham Olano Manzano (Spa) Banesto 68.05.04
2. Laurent Jalabert (Fra) ONCE-Deutsche Bank at 0.22
3. JosÃ© Maria Jiminez Sastre (Spa) Banesto 0.31
4. Fernando Escartin (Spa) Kelme-Costa Blanca 0.38
5. Alex ZÃ¼lle (Swi) Festina-Lotus 2.12
6. Daniel Clavero Sebastian (Spa) Vitalicio Seguros 2.17
7. Roberto Heras Hernandez (Spa) Kelme-Costa Blanca 2.36
8. Manuel Beltran Martinez (Spa) Banesto 2.52
9. Alvaro Gonzalez Galdeano (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 3.04
10. Lance Armstrong (USA) US Postal 3.20