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Mathias Frank is looking to build on his good results this year at the Tour de l'Ain (foto Tim de Waele)
Mathias Frank is looking to build on his good results this year at the Tour de l'Ain (foto Tim de Waele)

Mathias Frank sprints to 5th place in l'Ain stage two; ready for GC assault

10. August 2009

Oyonnax

Monday's stage two at the Tour de l'Ain effectively offered a parcours which would invite the riders to stretch their climbing legs before the big-stage showdowns to come on Tuesday and Wednesday. 

Though the stage started out with pleasantly rolling countryside, it topped out with a stiff climb four kilometers before the finish line.  Several of the strongest climbers attacked on the short ascent, perhaps exposing their race form and intentions a little too early.  Though a small selection did result at the back of the pack, the majority of the riders came to the line together with Caisse d'Epargne's Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil winning the stage.  By virtue of climbing the final with ease, Mathias Frank found himself in an excellent position at the finish, taking 5th place for the day.

Staying in good position

"The stage unfolded very well for us as the plan was to keep Mathias Frank, Thomas Frei and our wild card Florian Stalder well protected," Directeur Sportif John Lelangue explained.  "There was no need to work for any of the breaks, though Martin Kohler did a very god job covering many of them."  The stage started very fast with a lot of rapid-fire breakaway attempts shooting off the front.  "The beginning was very fast and difficult with small narrow roads," Mathias Frank said.  "It's hard covering the moves with only five riders, but Martin did a great job jumping in all the big groups."  A two man break did eventually get away for the middle part of the stage, but it was easily roped back on the final five kilometer climb.  "The climb was hard enough that a selection from behind was made and around 20 or 30 riders were tailed off the back," Lelangue said.  "A lot of attacks happened on the climb, even with Vinokourov trying his luck, though he was caught again one kilometer from the finish." 

Good climbing legs

"The race got really fast once we hit the climb since a lot of guys were attacking at that point," Frank explained.  "I tried a little myself since the idea was to be up front for Danilo in case he was able to be in for the sprint."  Wyss took the climb well but was a little too far back in the pack to get into position in time for the sprint.  "I stayed up front in case Danilo was able to work his way back up, so when it came to the sprint, I was still in a very good position on a good wheel," Frank said.  "I was feeling strong all day, especially on the climb, so to get 6th or 7th is a bonus."  Though no time gaps emerged among the top general classification candidates, the climb near the end of the stage did manage to unmask some of the pretenders to victory. 

Looking for the edge

"From tomorrow, it will be a different race since the morning stage is so tough and then we'll have the Colombier on Tuesday," Frank said.  "Vino looked strong and certainly made an impression when he attacked," Frank revealed.  "But there are a lot of good climbers here so there is still a certain amount of narrowing down we'll need to do; after tomorrow we'll know much more."  Though the morning stage on Tuesday is only 100 kilometers long, there is hardly a flat meter in the whole race.  Starting with a gradual 15 kilometer climb, the riders will make their jagged way to the final two climbs of the stage which will certainly see the first major selection of the entire event.  "The final two climbs are the most dangerous and certainly where any rider with a hope of winning will need to be on top form," Lelangue said.  "The first thing to do will be to protect our three main climbers, Frank, Frei and Stalder, so that they will be able to challenge for a top place."