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By Rob Jones, VeloNews Correspondent
The list of potential winners for the Grand Prix Cycliste de Beauce has been reduced to 21 riders from the 118 who started stage 4 Thursday morning. The reason? Only 21 riders were in the break that finished over 33 minutes ahead of the peloton, a margin so great that the entire field was within a couple of minutes of missing the time cut.
David McKenzie (Ficonseils-RCC Conseils Assurance) gave his team its first win of the season by outsprinting Artour Babaitsev (Team Nurnberger) and Eric Wohlberg (Saturn), but every one of the breakaway members is virtually assured of finishing in the money now. Yellow jersey holder Henk Vogels (Mercury-Vitael) was also in the break, and thus retains the overall lead.
The break went 34km into the 178km stage, after a series of aborted attempts to establish something off the front. When the group first formed it looked too good to be true: Vogels, Scott Moninger and Baden Cooke for Mercury; Wohlberg and Michael Barry for Saturn; Chris Baldwin and Burke Swindlehurst (Navigators); Elio Aggiano and Patrick Sinkewitz (Mapei-Quick Step); McKenzie and Dominique Perras (Ficonseils-RCC Conseils Assurance); and three Mroz riders – Piotr Chmielewski, Eugen Wacker and Zbigniew Piatek. In total, 12 teams represented, most with their top GC riders.
Cantina Tollo and Ville de Charleroi completely missed the boat, and Team Canada had Min Van Velzen marking the group, instead of Svein Tuft, number two on GC. Tuft had a good excuse: he was taken down by another rider and broke both his wheels. By the time he got replacements and chased back up the break was well and truly gone.
“It went on a climb,” explained Wohlberg. “The Italians lit it up and I happened to be with them when the first group formed. Then I saw Mike (Barry) come across with another wave and I knew we had a good group. Mroz, Mapei and Mercury were doing the early work to establish the first few minutes (gap), and then pretty much everyone pitched in to make it work.”
The gap grew relatively slowly to start with, and then the peloton seemed to give up after chasing for more than 50km, and the margin went through the roof. The break worked well together until there were approximately 30km left in the stage, and then the knives came out. Dominique Perras was one of the early aggressors, attacking repeatedly, only to be brought back by Mercury and Mroz. The group settled down for a few kilometers and then Wohlberg launched a truly impressive effort with 15km to go.
The Canadian time trial champion gained 15 seconds on the group, and managed to hold it for 10km against the combined efforts of three Mercury and three Mroz riders. “It was a longshot; I was just hoping that Mercury and Mroz would try to bluff each other.” Unfortunately for him, they recognized the danger and reeled him in with less than 5km to go.
Everything appeared to be in place for a sprint finish, when Van Velzen jumped in the last corner, with 800 meters to go. He had hoped to catch the group by surprise, and almost did, but he was finally swarmed in the final 75 meters.
McKenzie took the stage by choosing the right wheel to follow – Wohlberg’s. “I stayed on his wheel until the final 150 meters and then came around him. This is the first win of the year for the team, and for me, so I am very happy.”
The result puts an entirely different complexion on Friday’s ‘Queen stage’, which finishes atop Mont Megantic with a 5.5km climb averaging over 10 percent. Traditionally, the overall victory has gone to a rider near the front at the end of this stage, but now it is virtually impossible for any rider not in the top 21 to make up sufficient time.
Stage 4 – St Georges to St Georges
1. David McKenzie (Nzl) Ficonseils-RCC Conseils Assurance 178 km in 4:04:25
2. Artour Babaitsev (Rus) Team Nurnberger
3. Eric Wohlberg (Can) Saturn
4. Chris Baldwin (USA) Navigators
5. Baden Cooke (Aus) Mercury-Viatel s.t.
6. Michael Barry (Can) Saturn
7. John Leiswyn (USA) 7Up-Colorado Cyclist
8. Elio Aggiano (Ita) Mapei-Quick Step
9. Nicolas White (RSA) Team HSBC
10. Piotr Chmielenski (Pol) Mroz-Supradyn
16. Dominique Perras (Can).Ficonseils-RCC Conseils Assurance
17. Doug Ziewacz (USA) 7Up-Colorado Cyclist
18. Henk Vogels (USA) Mercury-Viatel
19. Scott Moninger (USA) Mercury-Viatel
20. Burke Swindlehurst (USA) Navigators
21. Min Van Velzen (Can) Team Canada all same time
23. Harm Jansen (Ned) Saturn 27:19
24. Corey Gladish (Can) 31:26
27. Marc André Salois (Can) Equipe Du Quebec
28. Soren Petersen (Den) Saturn 33:32
30. Martin Gilbert (Can) Volkswagen
31. Charles Dionne (Can) 7Up-Colorado Cyclist
34. Ross Hooker (Can) Team Canada
36. Andrew Pinfold (Can) Team Canada
39. Josh Hall (Can) Sympatico.ca Cycling Team
41. Christophe Cheseaux (Can) Equipe Du Quebec
43. Gordon Fraser (Can) Mercury-Viatel
44. Jean Francois Racine (Can) Equipe Du Quebec
45. Vassili Davidenko (Rus) Navigators
46. Francois Parisien (Can) Volkswagen
48. Chris Fisher (USA) Saturn all s.t.
1. Henk Vogels (Aus) Mercury-Viatel s.t.
2. Eugen Wacker (Ger) Mroz-Supradyn at 3:48
3. Zbigniew Piatek (Pol) Mroz-Supradyn 3:50
4. Piotr Chmielenski (Pol) Mroz-Supradyn 3:51
5. Eric Wohlberg (Can) Saturn 3:58
6. Michael Barry (Can) Saturn 3:59
7. Scott Moninger (USA) Mercury-Viatel at 4:10
8. Artour Babaitsev (Rus) Team Nurnbergert 4:21
9. Patrick Sinkewitz (Ger) Mapei-Quick Step at 4:35
10. Elio Aggiano (Ita) Mapei-Quick Step s.t.
11. Chris Baldwin (USA) Navigators 4:36
12. John Leiswyn (USA) 7Up-Colorado Cyclist 4:42
13. Doug Ziewacz (USA) 7Up-Colorado Cyclist 4:44
14. Min Van Velzen (Can) Team Canada 4:45
17. Dominique Perras (Can).Ficonseils-RCC Conseils Assurance 5:01
20. Baden Cooke (Aus) Mercury-Viatel 5:54
21. Burke Swindlehurst (USA) Navigators 6:01
22. Harm Jansen (Ned) Saturn 31:18
24. Svein Tuft (Can) Team Canada 34:32
27. Soren Petersen (Den) Saturn 37:31
28. Trent Klasna (USA) Saturn 37:31
30. Gordon Fraser (Can) Mercury-Viatel 37:36
31. Chris Wherry (USA) Mercury-Viatel 37:42
37. Vassili Davidenko (Rus) Navigators 38:08
38. Mark Walters (Can) Navigators 38:08
39. Oleg Grishkine (Rus) Navigators 38:08
41. Charles Dionne (Can) 7Up-Colorado Cyclist 38:15
42. Andrew Pinfold (Can) Team Canada 38:15
43. Czeslaw Lukaszewicz (Can) Team Canada 38:17