Rheinland - Pfalz Rundfahrt - cat. 2.3
Stage 5: Zweibrücken – Saarburg 163 km
While the riders of the peloton were facing their own dramas in the Vuelta Espana, over in Germany the last stage of the Rheinland - Pfalz Rundfahrt had its own dramatic twists and turns - that could not have developed better had they been written by a scriptwriter.
When Rolf Huser took the yellow jersey yesterday, even the most optimistic Gerolsteiner supporter must have considered the race to be all over but for the shouting. However, the day's events once again proved to be quite astonishing. Once again a breakaway group got clear early and, being no threat to the overall classification, got a good lead on the peloton - Allan Johansen (EDS-Fakta), Alexandre Moos (Phonak Hearing Systems), Marcus Zberg (Rabobank) and Klaus Mutschler (Team Cologne) were amongst the 9 escapees.
In truly appalling weather conditions (what’s the weather like? I can’t see, it’s raining too hard) accidents were bound to happen - as Zberg, Moos and Johansen but the hammer down they left behind their escapee companions and approached the finish together, Zberg then fell, and Johansen proved the strongest man in a two man sprint with Moos.
Meanwhile three minutes down the road the battle for Overall was unfolding. On the final climb of the day, the Nürnberger Versicherung riders Christian Pfannenberger and Christian Werner (who will be in Telekom colours next season) launched a surprise attack. Over the top of the climb they had sufficient gap to make Pfannenberger virtual yellow jersey on the road.
Naturally the race leaders responded - but just when a select group of 15 riders caught Pfannenberger, and with just two kilometres to go, it was the yellow jersey Rolf Huser who fell foul of the weather conditions - literally.
To fall at such an important moment and lose a race must be truly heartbreaking. Huser said:
"I am deeply disappointed. That is dreadful, to happen so close to the final stage of the race well..."
Ronny Scholz, second man as the day started, made no mistakes and safely finished to take the yellow jersey for Gerolsteiner. Certainly Huser was unlucky, but where was his support? The Gerolsteiner have ridden superbly well as a team - three of their riders have worn the yellow jersey throughout the race - they have won two stages and have been totally committed.
Overjoyed, Christian Henn, DS for Gerolsteiner said, "Huser was very strong and today he had really bad luck. On the other hand you can make your own luck - we worked extremely hard for the victory...which I feel was deserved."
Nürnberger can also feel very pleased with the race. They rode solidly throughout and their audacious attack may not have won them the race - put it did put Christian Pfannberger and Christian Werner on the winner's podium - a great effort against the big boys of German cycling.
CSC were pleased but reflective. "Generally, we have had a good week. We got off to a bad start, but with Garcia’s conquest of the mountain jersey, things took a turn for the better. And when Van Bondt was able to take an impressive stage win, our spirits were lifted considerably," said Johnny Weltz. (CSC)
1 Allan Johansen (Den) Team EDS-Fakta 4.01.27
2 Alexandre Moos (Swi) Phonak Hearing Systems
3 Marcus Zberg (Swi) Rabobank 0.24
4 Klaus Mutschler (Ger) Team Cologne 0.36
5 Thomas Ziegler (Ger) German National Team 1 0.44
6 Saulius Ruskys (Ltu) Gerolsteiner
7 Sebastian Lang (Ger) Gerolsteiner 0.56
8 Marcelino Garcia (Spa) CSC-Tiscali
9 Eric Baumann (Ger) German National Team 1 3.14
10 Bram De Groot (Ned) Rabobank
1 Ronny Scholz (Ger) Gerolsteiner 21.00.02
2 Christian Pfannberger (Aut) Nürnberger Versicherung 0.01
3 Christian Werner (Ger) Nürnberger Versicherung
4 Rolf Huser (Swi) Team Coast 0.09
5 Björnar Vestöl (Nor) Team EDS-fakta 0.10
6 Peter Wrolich (Aut) Gerolsteiner 1.24
7 Ralf Grabsch (Ger) Team Telekom 1.36
8 Allan Johansen (Den) Team EDS-fakta 3.49
9 Bram De Groot (Ned) Rabobank 4.57
10 Geert Van Bondt (Bel) CSC-Tiscali 5.59