FIGNON IN THE DRIVING SEAT
Sunday July 2, 1989
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Laurent Fignon’s Super-U Raleigh team won their first Tour team time trial since 1986, their time of 53-48 beating Panasonic by 32 seconds and pushing Fignon two places up the overall classification to third overall behind race leader Acacio Da Silva, winner of the morning’s stage.
Third fastest team was Superconfex, led by Rolf Golz in a time of 54-37. It was a significant triumph for Fignon who marched five of his colleagues into the top eight after him. They replaced several rivals who dropped out of the reckoning because of their teams’ poor performance in this specialist event where precision counted for everything and each nine-man team worked as a single machine or lost.
The man who suffered most was Pedro Delgado who ‘exploded’ and was dropped at half-distance by his Reynolds team, which was obliged to wait for him.
As a result they finished last, in 58-20. And although Delgado moved off the bottom rung, to 197th place, he lost another 2-48 to Fignon to go 7-20 behind him overall.
Delgado’s manager Jose-Miguel Echavarri explained this further embarrassment by saying he had simply got hunger-knock.
No complicated system of bonuses could confuse the outcome of the team time trial this year. Actual time counted, unless a dropped rider lost more than five minutes on his team, in which case, five minutes was all he lost. Unless, of course he finished outside the time limit set at five per cent of the winning team.
The magic figure to beat was 1-4-33 and two unfortunate riders couldn’t manage to achieve this. So Manuel Guijarro (Kelme) who was dropped by his team and finished in 1-5-2, and Johan Capiot (TVM) who scraped outside in 1-4-39 became the first men to be eliminated from the 1989 Tour.
But the event still scattered some top men around the classification. First-day leader Breukink, for instance, dropped from fourth after the morning’s stage to ninth, at 23 seconds on Fignon.
Sean Kelly, whose PDM team were fifth fastest in 54-39, dropped seven places to 13th , at 47 seconds on Fignon who becomes the standard bearer by whom all others are judged. And 1986 Tour winner Greg LeMond also dropped seven places, to 14th.
There were bigger losers. Charly Mottet’s RMO team were seventh fastest in 55-2, and so Mottet fell from ninth to 35th at 1-17 on his French rival.
And Canada’s Steve Bauer dropped from eighth to 56th at 1-48 on Fignon, when his Helvetia La Suisse team were placed 10th in 55-34.
But perhaps the greatest surprise was the demise of the 1987 Tour winner Stephen Roche who dropped from 39th to 95th at 2-39 on Fignon. Roche’s Fagor team could only finish 15th.
And even though Robert Millar jumped from 73rd to 51st when his Z-Peugeot team finished eighth, he actually lost time to Fignon, from being 30 seconds behind, he was now at 1-25.
1. Super-U 53-48
2. Panasonic at 32secs
3. Superconfex at 49secs
4. PDM at 50secs
5. ADR at 51secs
1. Acacio da Silva (Por) Carrera 4-27-27
2. Soren Lilholt (Den) Histor-Sigma at 26secs
3. Laurent Fignon (Fra) Super-U at 2-37
4. Thierry Marie (Fra) Super-U at 2-41
5. Pascal Simon (Fra) Super-U at 2-48
ROCHE UNCONVINCED BY VICTORY PROSPECTS
Asked after the team time trial if he could win his second Tour, Stephen Roche said, “Sincerely, no. I’m not going to win this Tour. I’ve got lots of doubts. I’ve not recovered from the Giro. You must be realistic. I’ve been among the top in most races this season but the Tour is the Tour and riders in my shape can’t compete with the best in the mountains or the time trials.
Meanwhile, Acacio Da Silva was celebrating his first defence of the yellow jersey on stage one. “I’m very happy to win the jersey in Luxembourg. This was my home for 14 years. But I’m living day to day. I do not expect to keep the overall lead until Paris.”
Spain’s Caja Rural team had allegedly not been paid for two months prior to the Tour. So the riders, whose top man is Marino Lejarreta, third in last year’s Tour of Lombardy, found another backer and the team duly turned up for the Luxembourg start under the name of Paternina-Marcos-Eguizabal.
Luxembourg’s most famous cycling son, the Angel of the Mountains, Charly Gaul, Tour winner in 1958, was presented with a special polka-dot mountains leaders jersey when the 76th Tour started in his home city.