Posted by Editor on 06/18/99
Leipheimer Takes Charge at Beauce
Today, Saturn's Levi Leipheimer showed the rest of the field at the GP Cycliste de Beauce why he is the defending champion, with a decisive victory on Mont Megantic that also put him in the leader's jersey. However, a guttsy breakaway, that dwindled to a lone rider by the end, was not caught until the final 4 kilometres of the stage, keeping everybody guessing on the outcome.
The reason Mont Megantic is considered to be the 'race defining' stage is the fearsome 5 kilometre climb at the end - with a summit finish at the top of the highest paved road in eastern Canada. The climb averages 8% for the entire ascent, but contains sections of 15% and 18%. At the end of a 170 kilometre stage, and with 500 kilometres on the riders' legs before they reach it, time lost or gained is usually measured in minutes, not seconds.
Normally, the selection of contenders is made before Mont Megantic, with only 15 or so riiders having a chance on general classification at this point in the race. This year was different - nearly 60 riders were within 30 seconds of leader Gord Fraser of Mercury. This meant that all the top teams had multiple riders still in the hunt for GC, and there was no incentive to attack early.
The situation opened the door for lesser known riders to take a chance, and they did - beginning with Jean-Charles Pinsonneault of the Quebec provincial team, who was twelve and a half minutes back of Fraser. He bolted off the front immediately after the end of the 5 kilometre rolling neutral start, and gained a minute by the 10 kilometre mark. Team Canada sent Alexandre Bernard up to join him 17 kilometres into the race and, a few kilometres later, Ron Schmeer (Nutra Fig) and former Canadian champion Darko Ficko (Composite A) set off in pursuit.
Pinsonneault was dropped by Bernard, who was in turn bolstered at the 40 kilometre mark by Ficko and Schmeer. This trio then proceeded to put some serious time on the uninterested field. By the 60 kilometre mark they were nearly six and a half minutes up. A few chase groups and a couple of Mountain primes stirred things up for a while and brought the breakaways down to 3:15, but then they started to pull away again, reaching a 9:30 lead at the 95 kilometre point.
The field decided this was too much, and started to reel them back in. Ficko dropped off the front, falling back to a couple of chasers (Charles Dionne of Degree Radio Energie-Shaklee and Jon Hambien of Navigators) who were dangling in the middle between the front and the pack, and this group was absorbed by the field with 40 kilometres to go. At the same time, Bernard finally blew at the front, leaving Schmeer on his own.
Once again, the peleton backed off, with Saturn deliberately not contributing to the chase: "we weren't going to attack because our team is all strong climbers", said Leipheimer after the race. "We wanted to have everyone at the front for the climb."
However, there was still the matter of that annoying Nutra Fig rider out in front by 5 minutes, who refused to give up. Unfortunately, the road began to turn upward in the final 20 kilometres, and the peleton slowly and patiently reeled Schmeer in. He didn't give up without a fight though, staying off the front until the road went vertical. He eventually finished 64th on the stage, losing 12:44 in that last 4 kilometres. Schmeer's comment after the race was: "I did not have a good climb."
Now Saturn went to work. Matt Anand went to the front and set a hard pace, which peeled off a large section of the field, leaving a core group of 15 - including 4 Saturns. Leipheimer then "looked around and I saw that everyone was at their limits, and I felt strong." So strong, that he punched it on an 18% section and immediately gained 20 metres. He then settled into a steady, smooth rythm and rode away from the group. A few half hearted efforts were made to follow him, but each had Saturn rider firmly attached to it, so the group decided to prepare for a 'sprint' for second place. Jaroslav Bilek (Wustenrot-ZVVZ), who had also finished second in the prologue came in 45 seconds later, with Vasilly Davidenko (Navigators), Jan Hruska (Wustenrot-ZVVZ) and Mike Barry (Saturn) trickling in at 2 and 3 second intervals afterwards. Bilek sits behind Leipheimer by exactly that 45 second finishing gap in the general classification. Tomorrow the riders face a 14.4 kilometre time trial in the morning, and a 61 kilometre criterium in the evening.
- After the race, Darko Ficko revealed that Beauce is his first race of the season! He also joked: "expect more aggressive riding from Composites A and B tomorrow and Sunday." Darko finished 93rd on the stage, 39:46 back...
- There is much talk of the ongoing doping/Tour situation in Europe. Opinions seem to be split, with riders happy that doping is being clamped down on, but concerned that all the negative publicity will have a very adverse effect on sponsorships and public perceptions of the sport. Brian Walton said: "I am happy to see it getting cleaned up, but people seem to forget that cycling is already one of the most tested sports out there. Compared to some other (sports), we are doing a good job. This sort of (publicity) could kill the sport."
Results (full results to follow)
Stage 3, St Georges to Mont Megantic, 168.9 km
1. Levi Leipheimer USA (Saturn) 4:58:24
2. Jaroslav Bilek CZE (Wustenrot-ZVVZ) at 0:45
3. Vasilly Davidenko RUS (Navigators) 0:47
4. Jan Hruska CZE (Wustenrot-ZVVZ) 0:50
5. Mike Barry CAN (Saturn) 0:51
6. Scott Moninger USA (Mercury) 0:54
7. Brendon Vesty NZL (Navigators) 0:56
8. Floyd Landis USA (Mercury) 0:57
9. Brian Walton CAN (Saturn) 1:02
10. Matt Anand CAN (Saturn) 1:04
15. Peter Wedge CAN (Degree Radio Energie-Shaklee) 1:43
17. Eric Wohlberg CAN (Degree Radio Energie-Shaklee) 2:16
18. Sylvain Beauchamps CAN (Degree Radio Energie-Shaklee) 2:30
1. Leipheimer 13:28:00
2. Bilek at 0:45
3. Hruska 0:55
4. Davidenko 1:00
5. Moninger 1:06
6. Barry 1:08
7. Landis 1:12
8. Vesty 1:15
9. Anand 1:17
10. Walton 1:19
15. Wedge 2:04
16. Wohlberg 2:17
18. Beauchamps 2:43
20. Gord Fraser CAN (Mercury) 3:10
Tour of Switzerland
Stage 4 - Bellinzona to Chiasso 168 km
1. Gabriele Missaglia (Ita) Lampre-Daikin 4:08:32
2. Mikel Zarrabeitia (Esp) ONCE-Deutsche-Bank at 0:03
3. Amilcare Tronca (Ita) Amica Chips-Costa de Almeria 0:08
4. Armin Meier (Sui) Saeco-Cannondale 0:19
5. Gilberto Simoni (Ita) Ballan-Alessio 0:23
6. Laurent Dufaux (Sui) Saeco-Cannondale
7. Oscar Camenzind (Sui) Lampre-Daikin
8. Francesco Casagrande (Ita) Vini Caldirola all s.t.
9. Laurent Jalabert (Fra) ONCE-Deutsche-Bank 0:25
10. Mirko Celestino (Ita) Team Polti 0:31
135. Chris Horner (USA) La Francaise des Jeux 15:03
1. Laurent Jalabert (Fra) ONCE-Deutsche-Bank 14:46:06
2. Gabriele Missaglia (Ita) Lampre-Daikin at 0:18
3. Armin Meier (Sui) Saeco-Cannondale 0:20
4. Oscar Camenzind (Sui) Lampre-Daikin 0:22
5. Mikel Zarrabeitia (esp) ONCE-Deutsche-Bank s.t.
6. Laurent Dufaux (Sui) Saeco-Cannondale 0:23
7. Roberto Petito (Ita) Saeco-Cannondale 0:26
8. Gilberto Simoni (Ita) Ballan-Alessio 0:28
9. Pascal Richard (Sui) Mobilvetta-Northwave 0:31
10. Francesco Casagrande (Ita) Vini Caldirola 0:32
80. Chris Horner (USA) La Francaise des Jeux 16:36
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