June 19/04 4:25 am - Grand Prix Cycliste de Beauce: Stage 5 Photos and Story
Posted by Editoress on 06/19/04
Nathan O'Neill (Colavita-Bolla) won stage 5 of the Grand Prix Cycliste de Beauce on Saturday, less than a year after suffering a life-threatening injury at the Tour de 'Toona. O'Neill won the 14 kilometre individual time trial with a time of 17 minutes and 9.09 seconds, less than a second ahead of Viktor Rapinski (Navigators). Svein Tuft (Symmetrics) was the top North American finisher, in fifth place, 22.41 seconds behind O'Neill, and one spot ahead of Scott Moninger (Health Net). Overall race leader Tomasz Brozyna (Action ATI) finished third in the stage, and continues to hold the Yellow Jersey, 41 seconds ahead of O'Neill. O'Neill vaulted over Moninger after former second place holder Radoslaw Romanik (Hoop CCC) had a poor race, finishing 11th and dropping to fourth overall. Dominique Perras (Team Canada) remains the top Canadian in the overall standings, three minutes and 57 seconds back in 13th place.
O'Neill, the Austrialian time trial champion, suffered a horrific crash last summer at 'Toona, breaking his neck and risking paralysis. After six months of rehabilitation and recovery he began racing again, only to injure his knee in February, requiring surgery and keeping him off the bike until May. His win at Beauce, and second place ranking, caps a remarkable comeback for the 29 year old rider.
"I didn't know how good a ride I was having" said O'Neill afterwards. "I wanted to win the stage, but the most important thing was to move up in the general classification. I would like to win the overall, but 41 seconds is too much; the Polish team is too strong for the remaining two stages.
This has been a real confidence builder. Realistically, I didn't have high expectations coming into Beauce. The toughest part today was in the middle 4 to 5 kilometres, the rest was fairly routine. I rode hard and solid, but I was never in distress."
Tuft, a former stage winner at Beauce, is also on the comeback trail. The talented 27 year old rider burst onto the professional scene in 2001 with his stage win at Beauce and subsequent signing with a major U.S. professional team. After two seasons on the U.S. circuit, he quit cycling last July and did not touch his bike for 8 months, before starting up again this spring with a local British Columbia development squad, Symmetrics Cycling. Beauce is only his seventh race since returning to competition.
"I was pretty cracked after being away in a break all day on Friday, so I wasn't sure what I was capable off." commented Tuft. "But, 14 kilometres is short enough that you can give 'er the whole way and hang on to the finish. I knew coming across the line that I had a good time, but not how good."
Moninger sits 6 seconds behind O'Neill, with Romanik at 1:01 and Rapinski at 1:45. This evening the riders face a 50 lap, 75 kilometre criterium in St Georges, on a tough circuit with a short little 12% climb each lap. Tomorrow the final 165 kilometre circuit race takes place around St Georges - 15 laps of an 11 kilometre circuit with an 8% climb per lap.
- Eric Wohlberg (Team Canada) had, for him, a relatively poor ride, finishing 8th. To add insult to injury, while riding back from the time trial he flatted, and had to walk the final kilometre back to the race headquarters.
"I was already tired coming into Beauce; our focus as a team (Sierra Nevada) was Nature Valley last week, and I spent most of the week on the front (of the peloton). After tomorrow I'll have a few days to rest up and get ready for Nationals."
- GP President Yvan Waddell revealed that as little as a month ago, the organization was about to pull the plug on the race, when the expected deficit for the event was $65,000. "Beauce had never run a deficit. But the sponsorship scandal and the election call saw our federal contribution slashed to half and then half again. Plus, Poste Canada was delayed in signing on, so it looked like we were going to have to cancel. I spent many hours on the telephone with the Feds before we were able to get the funds committed. Still, we will have a $15,000 deficit, our first ever."