February 7/03 8:43 am - Langkawi Stage 8 Story
Posted by Editor on 02/7/03
Tour de Langkawi - Stage 8
Today was the shortest road stage in the race at 112.5 kilometres, however, it has shifted around the general classification considerably. One Category 3 and two Category 2 climbs was more then some riders could handle, particularly when Roland Green pushed the pace on the final climb, with 22 kilometres to go. Stuart O'Grady (Credit Agricole) took his second stage victory, and has moved into second overall, one second behind race leader Tom Danielson (Saturn).
Approximately 70 riders made the cut, including the favourites and Seamus McGrath, but not Eric Wohlberg (Saturn), second overall coming into the stage. He lost three and a half minutes, dropping to 68th.
"I suffered on the last climb, and came off a couple of kilometres from the top, but that's okay, because Tom's still in the lead. I was helping set tempo through the first two KoM's, but on the last one it went hard, and that was it for me."
Both Green and Seamus McGrath were in the front group, and have moved up in the overall rankings, after Green's flat (stage 6) and McGrath's crash (stage 7) had dropped them back. Roland has moved up to 40th (1:25 back),and Seamus to 58th (1:58). Green continues to lead the Climber's competition.
An early break of three - Thomas Evans (Telekom Malaysia), Koji Fukushima (Japan) and Arnel Quirimit (Philippines) headed out before the first Hot Spot sprint, with Quirimit dropping off first, then Evans. Fukushima was very impressive, staying off the front for over 100 kilometres, before being reeled in. He has now moved to second in the Climber standings.
After the first KoM, a Category 3 climb, Team Canada's Cory Lange took a flyer, eventually catching all but Fukushima, before being caught and spat out by the chasers on the third climb.
"I just wanted to get away in a group over the climbs, so that hopefully I could hang in to the front group at the end. I was caught on the last KoM with a kilometre and a half to go. It was a longshot, but the stage was short, so you never know."
Unfortunately for him, Roland Green was getting frustrated back in the bunch. "It was tedious - no one was attacking on the climbs. I wanted to wake up my legs for tomorrow (Genting), and see who was into it. I attacked on the first KoM, and everyone was kind on mellow up the second one, so I attacked again on the third."
Approximately 40 riders crested the last KoM in pursuit of Fukushima, and another 30 caught on, on the descent (which Seamus McGrath called awesome, and many others called scary...). No other Canadians but McGrath and Green made the cut.
Peter Wedge, Eric Wohlberg, Cory Lange and Gord Fraser all finished in the same group, at 3:28, while Bruno Langlois and Alexandre Lavallee were further back at 8:21 and 9:06 respectively. Langlois suffered flat after the first KoM.
"The reality of living in New Brunswick caught up with me today", said Wedge. "The climbs started hard, and by the time I got into a rhythm, it was too late. I crested the last KoM just behind the main group, but then a bunch of Iranians and Malaysians were all over the road in front of me, and I couldn't make up the time."
Now all attention turns to Genting. The 142.7 kilometre stage from Seremban to Gebnting Highlands has achieved legendary status, with the final 10 kilometres averaging over 10%, and up to 14% in places.
Of the 59 riders within 2 minutes of the lead, all but approximately 6 or 7 are not expected to be in contention. Besides Roland Green, there is last year's winner Hernan Dario Munoz (Colombia-Selle Italia) and his team mates Ruber Alveiro Marin and Freddy Gonzalez, 1999/2000 Langkawi winner Paolo Lanfranchi, and current yellow jersey holder Tom Danielson. David George, the South African who finished second on the stage to Munoz last year, shouldn't be discounted either. It is probably the greatest depth the field has ever had for Langkawi going into Genting.
"It's all up to tomorrow." said Green. "This race comes down to one climb for GC. I guess no dessert for me tonight!"
- You may have noticed that Roland Green is riding a slightly different setup on his Trek OCLV. His left shifter is a downtube shifter, purely as a weight saving technique. "It is something that Lance (Armstrong) does too. It works pretty good, the (front) shifts are just a little slower."
- Gord Fraser is being pursued by three squads: Marlux-Ville de Charleroi, Health Net (a US squad with Scott Price), and a South African team that will race quite a bit in Europe. "It all comes down to which one puts together a package first" said Fraser.
- Gord was also getting his bike set up for Genting, with a 27 cog going on the back. By comparison, Roland rode a 12-23 today, mostly in the 39x17 combo on the climbs, "because I wanted to just spin." Fraser replied "there's a whole different level going on there..."