DA SILVA ON HOME GROUND AS HE SCOOPS EARLY PRIZES
Sunday July 2, 1989
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All three major classifications were snapped up by one man, Acacio Da Silva (Carrera), as the favourites went to sleep on this opening road stage of the 1989 Tour.
Those of us expecting the go-all-the-way pattern of recent Tours were suddenly faced with a different menu. For on the first of two stages on Sunday, the field allowed a three-man break to take 11 minutes out of them at one point, from which Portugal’s early bird Da Silva scooped the pool to take his third Tour de France stage victory in three years. He covered the 135 kilometres in a time of 3-21-36.
Not even the afternoon’s stage three team time trial was expected to shake him. And this team race nearly always turns the classification upside down.
Perhaps the main field were holding back some reserves for the 46-kilometre test that would start some three hours later. As it was the 11-minute gap was reduced, of course, to 4-40, but the chase wasn’t too serious as overnight leader Eric Breukink and his Panasonic team gladly relinquished the heavy responsibility of the yellow jersey to another outfit.
However, Da Silva’s lead of just over four minutes on the favourites should see him retain the jersey for several days, some say as far as the mountains.
Da Silva is no stranger to the top slot or to stage victories, most of them taken in the early stages.
He twice held the pink jersey of race leader in the recent Tour of Italy. In fact it was Breukink he temporarily relieved then, before Laurent Fignon took it for good.
Although Da Silva dominated the stage, he shared the limelight with two others, Denmark’s Soren Lilholt (Histor-Sigma) who took second place at eight seconds, and Roland Leclerc, riding for Paternina, the new sponsor for the team that entered the Tour as Caja Rural. Leclerc blew apart to finish third at 1-41.
It was Lilholt who broke away to take the first Catch sprint 13 kilometres out of Luxembourg city. He was chased by Da Silva and Leclerc and after 56 kilometres the trio were 6-37 ahead. And at last, the uninteresting route, which had been diving on and off motorways on its loop around one of the smallest countries in Europe, began to find the scenes softer on the eye, notably the wine-growing region along the banks of the Moselle.
Lilholt and Leclerc won one fourth-category climb each, at 16.5 kilometres and 81 kilometres respectively. Their lead reached over 11 minutes as they swooped into Echternach, the gateway to ‘Little Switzerland’.
On a long, gradual climb up through wooded gorges, Leclerc’s strength began to fade. Along this winding road the other 195 riders began to speed up but they were too late to stop the runaways.
For Da Silva it was a splendid moment, for he was brought up in Luxembourg where he raced as an amateur. Huge crowds saw him ride like a champion back into the capital where he turned killer on the 900-metre long Cote de Pabeierberg three kilometres from the finish, the same climb that figured in the Prologue.
Da Silva attacked and destroyed Leclerc who lost over a minute. But Lilholt came back to Da Silva who was obliged to jump hard again, near the summit. And free at last, Da Silva dropped into the finish down wide boulevards to a storming lone victory.
The main field were led in by Belgian sprint ace Etienne de Wilde (Histor-Sigma) who took fourth place two lengths ahead of Sean Kelly.
Lilholt was second overall, Leclerc third, Breukink slipping to fourth.
1. Acacio Da Silva (Por) Carrera 3-21-36
2. Soren Lilholt (Den) Histor-Sigma at 8secs
3. Roland Leclerc (Fra) Paternina at 1-41
4. Etienne De Wilde (Bel) Histor-Sigma at 4-40
5. Sean Kelly (Ire) PDM at st
1. Acacio Da Silva (Por) Carrera 3-31-44
2. Soren Lilholt (Den) Histor-Sigma at 13secs
3. Roland Leclerc (Fra) Paternina at 1-54
4. Erik Breukink (Ned) Panasonic at 4-26
5. Laurent Fignon (Fra) Super-U at 4-32
JONES BOY IS BACK ON THE TOUR
Former Tour de France rider Graham Jones, once the pride of the Peugeot team, is back on the Tour. Not as a two-wheeled gladiator , but as a driver of our British press car.
Jones, 31, whose best final overall placing in the Tour was 20th in 1981, was looking forward to renewing old acquaintances. Former double Tour de France winner Bernard Thévenet, himself now driving a support vehicle, was one of many to greet Graham in Luxembourg.
“Coming home was a mistake,” said Jones last week savouring once again the ambience of big-time racing. “I should have stayed abroad.”
Now his opportunities lie in business, he is a marketing assistant for Moore Large, the cycle and accessory importers and distributors.