By Rob Jones, VeloNews Correspondent
Australian Henk Vogels (Mercury-Viatel) kept his yellow jersey for another day at the Grand Prix Cycliste de Beauce, despite finishing five minutes and three seconds behind stage 5 winner Philippe Koehler of Mapei-Quick Step. Koehler barely managed to hold off Canadian national champion Czeslaw Lukaszewicz (Team Canada) in a two-man mountain top finish to take the stage; his first win as a professional racer.
The 170km fifth stage is considered the most difficult of the seven-stage, 959km race. The stage culminates with a 5.5km climb to the Mont Megantic observatory, atop the highest paved road in eastern Canada (over 1100 meters). It averages over 10 percent, with the steepest sections greater than 18 percent. Race leader Vogels commented, “This is the steepest finishing climb I have ever seen!”
Koehler and Lukaszewicz were members of a six-rider breakaway that escaped from the main field 18km into the race. Besides Lukaszewicz and Koehler, the breakaway contained Antonio Rizzi (Mapei-Quick Step), Christophe Gauthier (Saint Quentin Oktos), Chris Fisher (Saturn) and Zbigniew Wyrzykowski (Mroz Supradyn). The breakaway reached a maximum gap of 7 minutes, but none of the riders were threats to Vogels’ overall lead, since they were all more than 30 minutes back on G.C.
As the break entered the final 5.5km, and the road steepened, members of the breakaway dropped off. Gauthier set a hard pace at the start of the climb, and first Wyrzykowski and then Fisher succumbed. Rizzi was the next to go, but he managed to find the energy somewhere to rejoin when the grade flattened out for a short while after 2km. He then attacked, and only Lukaszewicz and Koehler could respond.
Lukaszewicz was caught in classic squeeze play by the two teammates. “The weaker rider (Rizzi) kept attacking, but I could not let him go. I knew I could beat one rider, but when there were two teammates it was impossible,” said Lukaszewicz, a member of the 2000 Sydney Olympic squad. “This would have been an incredible win for me, but I know that I rode my best for second.”
Koehler attacked in the final 500 meters and Lukaszewicz responded, and even counterattacked, but it was not to be, as the 23-year-old Frenchman had a stronger finishing kick.
Rizzi took third, Gauthier fourth and Fisher fifth, before Scott Moninger (Mercury) came storming up the hill in sixth; the first of the leading GC riders to finish. His time was enough to move him into 3rd overall, 1:23 behind his team mate and only 5 seconds out of second, held by Zbigniew Piatek (Mroz Supradyn). Michael Barry (Saturn) was 10th on the stage and moved into fourth overall, 1:41 behind Vogels.
– Surprisingly, Henk Vogels, who is no stranger to the winner’s podium, has never won a stage race as a pro. Lots of stages, but never an overall win. What he has left to get through at Beauce is a time trial and criterium tomorrow (Saturday) and a circuit race on Sunday.
– Stage winner Koehler took over the Climber’s Jersey, tied on points with former leader Arquimedes Lam (Team Tecos). Gord Fraser (Mercury-Viatel) continues to hold the Points Jersey, one point ahead of Chris Baldwin (Navigators).
Stage 5: Saint-Georges-Lac-Mégantic
1. Philippe Koehler (Fra) Mapei-Quick Step 170.1 Km in 4:41:02
2. Czeslaw Lukaszewicz (Can) Team Canada at 0:05
3. Antonio Rizzi (ITA) Mapei-Quick Step 0:36
4. Christophe Gauthier (Fra) Saint-Quentin Oktos 1:19
5. Chris Fisher (USA) Saturn Cycling Team 2:08
6. Scott Moninger (USA) Mercury-Viatel 2:16
7. Zbigniew Piatek (Pol) Mroz-Supradyn 2:31
8. Chris Baldwin (USA) Navigators Cycling Team 2:43
9. Artour Babaitsev (Rus) Team Nurnberger 2:45
10. Micheal Barry (Can) Saturn Cycling Team s.t.
14 Dominique Perras (Can) Ficonseils-RCC Conseils Assurances 3:01
15. John Leiswyn (USA) 7Up-Colorado Cyclist s.t.
22. Trent Klasna (USA) Saturn Cycling Team 3:54
24. Burke Swindlehurst (USA) Navigators Cycling Team 4:03
27. Vassili Davidenko (Rus) Navigators Cycling Team 4:18
28. Soren Petersen (Den) Saturn Cycling Team s.t.
29. Doug Ziewacz (USA) 7Up-Colorado Cyclist 4:38
30. Mark Walters (Can) Navigators Cycling Team 4:43
31. Eric Wohlberg (Can) Saturn Cycling Team s.t.
34. Baden Cooke (Aus) Mercury-Viatel 5:03
36. Henk VOGELS (USA) Mercury-Viatel 5:03
37. Jacob Erker (Can) Team Canada s.t.
42. Svein Tuft (Can) Team Canada 5:55
44. Min Van Velzen (Can) Team Canada 6:15
46. Charles Dionne (Can) 7Up-Colorado Cyclist 6:18
48. Alexandre LavallÈe (Can) Team Canada s.t.
49. Harm Jansen (NED) Saturn Cycling Team 6:29
50. Francois Parisien (Can) Volkswagen 6:29
1. Henk Vogels (USA) Mercury-Viatel 18:13:33
2. Zbigniew Piatek (Pol) Mroz-Supradyn 1:18
3. Scott Moninger (USA) Mercury-Viatel 1:23
4. Micheal Barry (Can) Saturn Cycling Team 1:41
5. Piotr Chmielenski (Pol) Mroz-Supradyn 1:49
6. Artour Babaitsev (Rus) Team Nurnberger 2:03
7. Chris Baldwin (USA) Navigators Cycling Team 2:16
8. John Leiswyn (USA) 7Up-Colorado Cyclist 2:40
9. Eugen Wacker (Ger) Mroz-Supradyn 2:50
10. Laurent Paumier (Fra) Saint-Quentin Oktos 2:53
11. Dominique Perras (Can) Ficonseils-RCC Conseils Assurances 2:59
15. Eric Wohlberg (Can) Saturn Cycling Team 3:38
16. Doug Ziewacz (USA) 7Up-Colorado Cyclist 4:19
18. Burke Swindlehurst (USA) Navigators Cycling Team 5:01
19. Baden Cooke (Aus) Mercury-Viatel 5:54
20. Min Van Velzen (Can) Team Canada 5:57
22. Harm Jansen (NED) Saturn Cycling Team 32:44
24. Czeslaw Lukaszewic (Can) Team Canada 33:16
27. Svein Tuft (Can) Team Canada 35:24
30. Trent Klasna (USA) Saturn Cycling Team 36:22
32. Soren Petersen (Den) Saturn Cycling Team 36:46
34 Chris Fisher (USA) Saturn Cycling Team 37:14
36. Vassili Davidenko (Rus) Navigators Cycling Team 37:23
38. Mark Walters (Can) Navigators Cycling Team 37:48
44. Jacob Erker (Can) Team Canada 38:58
47. Charles Dionne (Can) 7Up-Colorado Cyclist 39:30
50. Alexandre LavallÈe (Can) Team Canada 41.:01