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Mathias Frank proving he has the legs to ride with the big guns (foto by Tim de Waele)
Mathias Frank proving he has the legs to ride with the big guns (foto by Tim de Waele)

Mathias Frank finishes 8th in Queen Stage at Romandie

2. May 2009

Sainte-Croix

The expected fireworks certainly erupted during the 4th stage at the Tour de Romandie.  Since the team time trial from the day before effectively thinned out the number of potential claimants to the leader's jersey, the heavily mountainous race from Estavayer-le-Lac to Sainte-Croix would lay bare any rider's weakness. 

BMC's Mathias Frank lived up to his team's expectations by remaining in the elite group of riders at the pointy end of the race.  Though Liquigas' Roman Kreuziger won the stage and the race lead with a bold attack about 12km from the finish, Frank helped power the lead chasers to the line snagging 8th place on the stage.

Final climb puts the heat on

"Today was another satisfying day for the team," Directeur Sportif John Lelangue said.  "Our objective is always to finish top 10 and to be able to do so in the toughest day with one of our youngest riders is very positive for us."  The weather took a slight turn for the worse as the riders had to fight their way through rainy conditions early on, and cool conditions throughout the stage.  On the final first category climb about 20 kilometers from the finish the main peloton began seriously to thin down in hot pursuit of an escape group of six riders.  "On the second to last climb Alex asked me how I felt and since I felt well he told me to stay calm," Mathias Frank revealed.  "Alex did a perfect job and took me to the base of the last climb in a great position which helped me save a lot of energy."  As the early breakaway began to disintegrate on the final climb, a reshuffling took place which found Kreuziger jumping off the front with three other riders, and a small, important lead chase group containing Frank along with Valverde and Evans forming behind.  

Riding smart, gaining places

"When Kreuziger and Karpets jumped they looked to be the strongest and were going very fast," Frank said.  "The group I was in had Menchov, Evans, Valverde and another team mate of Valverde's, so no one worked too hard in the chase since Valverde would be the one to profit."  Frank took a few pulls in the chase, but also made certain to keep some energy in reserve.  "Everyone in my group was still ahead of me on the GC, so that limited any advantage I would have gained by pulling harder," Frank realized.   Frank has proved in the past that in spite of his youth, he is very adept at reading a race and knowing where to push and where to save energy.  "Already last year I wanted to sign Mathias so when the opportunity came up to get him for this year, I was jumped at it.  I certainly have no regrets!" Lelangue said.  "I believed then that in two years he would be able to challenge seriously for the top 10 in these prestigious week-long events, but he has already reached that level, which is a very good indicator for the future."  Frank's fantastic ride lifts him from 30th to 12 place overall, just 1.25 out of the race lead with one stage remaining.

Enough road left to crack top 10?

Though Sunday's final stage into Geneva has a mean succession of a Cat 2 followed closely by a Cat 1 climb, the long descent into a flat finish may complicate Frank's efforts to move into the top 10 of the GC.   "Tomorrow is a tricky stage which should normally end in a mass sprint, but you never know," Frank said.  "If there is a chance to gain back some seconds, I will surely take it."  "Mathias is just about 6 seconds out of the top 10 for the GC, so we will of course look to gain as much time as possible," Lelangue said.  "But even though there is a difficult category 1 climb in the middle of the stage, the finale will make any GC movement more difficult."  The flat run into the finish, however, should play well to the strengths of BMC's two sprinters.  "The course is perfect for someone like Markus Zberg or Danilo Wyss, so priority number one for tomorrow will be to put one of those two into a position to sprint for the stage win."  With Frank well established in his GC bid, the team will also be looking to send some fire power into the day's breakaways.  "We will be protecting Mathias and then our two sprinters, but that still leaves us five guys to send into the breaks, so we expect to be on the offensive all day," Lelangue concluded.