Posted by Editor on 02/5/02
The initial selection has been made at the Tour de Langkawi, with a group of 31 riders putting a 15 minute gap on the rest of the peloton in the 130 kilometre fifth stage from Bangi to Melaka. Overall leader Robert Hunter (Mapei-Quick Step) was in that select group and, to no one's surprise, he won the sprint to take his third stage win.
Two Canadians made the break as well - Ryder Hesjedal (Team Canada) and Dominique Perras (iTeamNova.com). Both have thus moved well up in the standings, with Perras holding down 8th and Hesjedal 15th. Significantly, both are among the better climbers who are within striking distance of Hunter as the race approaches the penultimate and probable deciding stage at Genting (on Saturday).
The race began slowly, with the riders wilting under a fifth day of oppressive heat, and nervous on narrow roads with multiple speed bumps in the first 20 kilometres. Two riders - Thomas Voeckler (Bonjour) and Innar Mandoja (Ag2r Prevoyance) - attacked in the narrow twisting section, and had a gap of nearly 3 minutes by the end of the first KoM at 30 kilometres. Behind, the chase was livening up, and the KoM was all the impetus needed to blow the race open.
"We knew Alexia (Alluminio, the team of two-time winner Paolo Lanfranchi) was mad after missing the break yesterday", explained Perras. "They were pushing in the KoM sprint, and some of us were going across at the front. The climb continued for another K or so after the KoM line, and when we looked around we saw that we had a gap.
The group went really hard at first. Everyone was pulling through and we were going 60K per hour. There were enough people there that once we got going it really opened up."
Hesjedal also was in the right place at the right time: "I was right there at the beginning. There was just attack after attack and one finally stuck. I just hammered. I knew Lanfranchi was there, and the yellow jersey, so it was a good one."
However, the young mountain biker had a few problems during the day. First, in the confusion of the break, no one in the Team Canada cars realized that he was up the road; thus he couldn't get a feed for quite a while until Perras' team gave him a couple of bottles. Then, he rear flatted, while Canada was back servicing other riders, including Mark Ernsting, who had been dropped on the KoM.
"I was sitting at the back getting a feed when it happened. I just kept riding on the rim, coasting, looking back and looking back. Finally Mavic got up to me and serviced me. Then I had to chase all back through the caravan to get back on. Luckily it was when it slowed down to 45 (kph).
Maybe they'll stop writing such BS about me in the Forums now." (Editor's Note: He's right - Ryder should be applauded for expanding his cycling skills, not criticized for "taking a road spot".)
Eric Wohlberg was the big loser - dropping from second to 11th to 35th in two days; and is now 18:15 behind. "I could see it and I was going up the side (of the peloton), but I was pinned in and fell way back. Basically I was screwed after that when I didn't make it across." Wohlberg, Josh Hall, Geoff Kabush and Glen Rendall all finished with the main peloton.
There is still half the race to go, but right now it looks like the race has narrowed down to 27 riders, 26 of whom are less then 7 minutes from Hunter - who has admitted that he will not be factor on Genting. Other riders to watch at the front include Nathan O'Neill (Panaria), Wong Kam-Po (Telekom Malaysia), Fortunato Baliani (Colombia-Selle Italia), Artur Babaitsev (Nurnberger) and David Gracia Canada (Mapei-Quick Step).
- Canada had lots of problems today - offset by the stellar showing of Hesjedal. Andrew Pinfold did not start, suffering a fever during the night from heat exhaustion. Mark Ernsting dropped of the pace early and finished well outside the time limit. There were the aforementioned problems with trying to services both ends of the race and, finally, one of the Team Canada cars crashed into a Collstrop vehicle. Tomorrow Canada is relegated to last position in the convoy for "dangerous driving"... By the way, Canada is not the first, and will not be the last team to have this happen to them.
- Geoff Kabush is not feeling 100%. "My legs felt okay, but my whole body's just aching and I have a bit of a chest infection. The heat's been really getting to me, and I got really dehydrated today. I'll just rehydrate tonight and suffer through a few more days (until Genting)."
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