Posted by Editor on 06/20/01
Henk Vogels (Mercury) has been to Canada exactly twice: the first time was in 1994 when, as a member of the Australian team, he won gold at the Commonwealth Games in Victoria, BC, in the Team Time Trial. The second is his current trip to the GP Cycliste de Beauce, where he won today's third stage and took the overall lead in the race. Obviously, Canada agrees with him...
The third stage, at 190 kilometres, is the longest of the race. A single loop around the town of Lac Etchemin, it promised long rolling climbs of 7-8%, and strong winds. With less than a minute separating the first 35 riders, it was a stage ripe for a breakaway, and that is what happened a mere 8 kilometres into the race when Svein Tuft (Team Canada) attacked. He was quickly joined by Vogels and two kilometres later by Florencino Ramos (Team Tecos), and the trio went to work.
"I wanted to be aggressive, and was hoping a group would come up", said Tuft. "but with three that was enough to work."
After 10 kilometres off the front the gap had grown slowly to 2 minutes, and seemed destined to dangle within striking distance until the peloton decided to reel them in. However, then it appeared that the race leading Mroz team went to sleep and the split mushroomed to 9 minutes by the 35 kilometre mark.
At this point, according to Saturn team director Jim Copeland, it got a little confusing, with contradictory time reports coming in over the race radio. "We heard 9 minutes, and then all of a sudden it was 13, 15, 19 minutes! At that point the gap became every team's problem." The split actually reached a maximum of 23 minutes at the 60 kilometre mark, with the leaders nearly 14 kilometres ahead of the pack.
Saturn went to the front to help Mroz, and the speed reached as much as 60 kilometres an hour as the chase turned into a deathline in the strong crosswind. The gap was coming down, but not as fast as expected. At 106 kilometres it was still 15 minutes, and with 40 kilometres to go the gap was 12:25. At that point Saturn backed off a bit, complaining that Mroz and the other teams were not doing their fair share, and the deficit zoomed back to 14 minutes for a short while before Cantina Tollo took a turn at the front and the chasers started to creep closer again.
Meanwhile, at the front, Tuft and Vogels ditched Ramos. "Our speed would actually go down when he went to the front" explained Vogels, "and then he jumped us on the KoMs, that was the last straw." Vogelswent to the front on the next descent and set a pace that scared Tuft ("I've never seen anyone descend like that; it was all I could do to stay close") and dropped the Mexican rider for good.
In the last 20 kilometres it appeared that the effort was finally starting to get to the front pair, and the gap began to shrink more rapidly as the speed of the peloton went up over 60 kmph again. In the final 2 kilometres Vogels refused to pull through, further slowing the pace, and easily outsprinted Tuft for the stage. Stage 2 winner Gord Fraser (Mercury) won the field sprint for third, 4:02 down on the leaders.
While Vogels has a 40 second lead over Tuft, and a 3:50 margin over the former leader Remegijus Lupeikis (Mroz-Supradyn Witamin), he has no false expectations over his ability to hold onto the jersey. "In this race it could change overnight, and with the Mont Megantic stage on Friday I know I will not be there."
- Tuft takes the Climbers jersey from yesterday's winner Jason Crookham (Sympatico.ca). Crookham had a very tough day. He flatted twice, the second time as the pace went over 60 kmph. Two team mates paced him back to the peloton (and were then dropped, eventually abandoning), and then at the base of the second KoM he dropped his chain. He eventually finished 22:37 down. However, he is still only 1 point behind Tuft.
- At 182 kilometres, this was certainly the longest breakaway ever in a Canadian UCI sanctioned race, and possibly the longest in North America.
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