KELLY DENIED AGAIN
Saturday July 22, 1989
Aix les Bains-L’Isle d’Abeau, 127km
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Like schoolboys near the end of term, the Tour riders skipped lessons and played about for most of this penultimate stage, which took them out of the Alps on a flat route. The overall leaders could accomplish nothing that couldn’t better be done on the last day, in the final race of truth, and so a truce was called, and the usual last day promenade was brought forward.
Joking and pulling faces for the TV cameras, the riders rolled on their way. Laurent Fignon provided a sideshow when he gave away the yellow jersey he had fought so hard to keep. In fact the report on the Tour radio said he had swapped his yellow jersey for Teun Van Vliet’s Panasonic colours – briefly – as they pedalled leisurely out of the Savoie area, leaving the mountains behind.
It was not until the final 25 kilometres that the field sped up and the breakaways began. None of them worked, although Phil Anderson (TVM) looked good for a while when he attacked from a leading group of about 12 riders with 10 kilometres to go on the finishing circuit. But the main field closed up quickly.
In the final road race kilometres of the 1989 race, Jan Goessens (Domex-Weinmann) jumped away. But he was to suffer the same fate that befell him in last year’s Paris-Tours when he was caught on the line.
This time he was spared such a dramatic anticlimax, for they caught him a good 300 metres before the end.
And for the only the third time this Tour, the stage ended in a mass bunch sprint and it was Giovanni Fidanza (Chateau d’Ax) who grabbed the glory. And what a scalp he took, beating none other than fast-finisher Jelle Nijdam (Superconfex) who led out inside 200 metres to go to be pipped on the line. Ireland’s Sean Kelly (PDM) was third. It was Kelly’s best place in the road finishes, equalling the third place he took in the prologue.
There was no change overall. LeMond welcomed the easier day after the attacking racing thus far, saying at the finish, “This was a vacation. A long-awaited vacation.”
Asked about his chances of taking the jersey from Fignon on Sunday, he said, ”Sure, I’ve got a chance. I’m confident that I can do a good ride. Maybe the course is a bit short, but I’ve got a chance. If I can win, it will be a bonus.”
1. Giovanni Fidanza (Ita) Chateau d’Ax 3-26-16
2. Jelle Nijdam (Ned) Superconfex
3. Sean Kelly (Ire) PDM
4. Mathieu Hermans (Bel) Paternina
5. Carlo Bomans (Bel) Domex
1. Laurent Fignon (Fra) Super-U 87-10-48
2. Greg LeMond (USA) ADR at 50sec
3. Pedro Delgado (Spa) Reynolds at 2-28
4. Gert-Jan Theunisse (Ned) PDM at 5-36
5. Marino Lejaretta (Spa) Paternina at 8-35
The strain showed on Fignon on Saturday evening as the riders boarded the TGV express at Lyon for the transfer to Versailles over 400 kilometres north. For that God of the media, television and its attendants were all under Fignon’s feet, so that he couldn’t see where he was going.
The cameramen, walking backwards as cameramen have to do, zoomed in on the blond hero, provoking a reaction that left no doubt about his state of mind.
Fignon scowled, pushed the camera away and then took a run at them, fists clenched, shouting at them to let him pass. He was clearly tense and irritable for he knew anything could happen in the time trial.