RAUL’S MEXICAN BREAKTHROUGH
Monday July 3, 1989
Luxembourg-Spa Francorchamps, 241km
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LUXEMBOURG put on its best face to see the Tour off in the direction of the Belgian border, 97 kilometres away. Thousands lined the streets of the old towns to watch the field make a rapid departure along the beautiful forested roads of the Ardennes.
They had a favourable wind to speed them up the four-kilometre third-category climb of Vianden (47 km), where Sean Kelly (PDM) was first over the summit. Perhaps Kelly’s surprise win here was an omen for PDM who had even better things to look forward to as the day warmed up.
Animated though the race was, this was a long, long stage and the massive crowds across the Belgian border were not surprised to see one big group whoosh by.
The action came at last as another PDM man, Mexico’s Raul Alcala forged a breakaway group of nine men who came together after the second feed at Saint Vith with 50 kilometres to go. The most dangerous to race leader Da Silva was Thierry Marie (Super-U) fourth overall at 2-41. The others in the break were Ronan Pensec (Z-Peugeot), Patrick Tolhoek (Superconfex), Jesper Skibby (TVM), Marc Madiot (Toshiba), Christian Chaubet (Fagor), Henk Lubberding (Panasonic) and a lone Belgian for the home crowds to shout for, Rik van Slycke (Histor).
This group gained 1-45 on the pack, which did not chase directly, but closed to 1-25 with 35 kilometres to go.
Sensing this, Alcala and Skibby jumped clear and the race-winning move was made. Within five kilometres they were joined by Marie and Tolhoek as the field fell back to over two minutes as the leaders entered the hilly motor racing circuit of Francorchamps, surely one of the best arenas for a stage finish. The spectators packing the stands had a clear view of the wicked downhill swoop 500 metres from the uphill finishing straight.
They had two and a half laps of the seven-kilometre circuit to do and Skibby tried getting away on the long drag three kilometres from the line. There were two laps to do as the four stormed up through the main stands to great applause from the crowds. And they shouted even louder for Madiot who attacked clear of his dropped companions to close a 19-second gap in four kilometres.
With the main field led by Panasonic’s Teun Van Vliet coming through at 1-36, they had no chance of hauling the leaders back.
It was Alcala, instigator of every move that mattered, who led the break through with the bell ringing loud and clear. And it was Alcala who attacked near the top of the long sweeping uphill drag with three kilometres to go to score his first Tour de France stage victory. In 1987 Alcala won the white jersey of best young rider. And now he moved from 26th overall to sixth at 2-52 on overall leader Acacio Da Silva who retained his yellow jersey.
Alcala finished the stage five seconds ahead of Skibby who beat Tolhoek, Marie and Marc Madiot in a close sprint. Of them all it was Marie who gained the most, moving from fourth overall to go third by displacing his team leader Laurent Fignon by one place.
Of the original break, only a tired Van Slycke held out from the now eager bunch. And it was Frederic Vichot (Helvetia-La Suisse) who took the bunch sprint for seventh place, just ahead of Kelly.
1. Raul Alcala (Mex) PDM 6-34-17
2. Jesper Skibby (Den) TVM at 5secs
3. Patrick Tolhoek (Ned) Superconfex at st
4. Thierry Marie (Fra) Super-U at 6secs
5. Marc Madiot (Fra) Toshiba at st
1. Acacio Da Silva (Por) Carrera 11-2-34
2. Soren Lilholt (Den) Histor-Sigma at 24secs
3. Thierry Marie (Fra) Super-U at 1-57
4. Laurent Fignon (Fra) Super-U at 2-37
5. Pascal Simon (Fra) Super-U at 2-48