February 24, 2006 – Stage Four at the Tour of California played out over 210.7K between Monterrey and San Luis Obispo yesterday, proving to be a rough day for all but one of the Quebecois in the pack. Surviving the stage was Dominique Perras (Kodak Gallery/Sierra Nevada) who spend the majority of the day in the lead pack and finishing 82nd, while Charles Dionne (Saunier-Duval-Prodir) finished 16th, but was caught up in a crash. Martin Gilbert (Kodak Gallery/Sierra Nevada) finished 42 minutes 36 seconds behind Stage winner, Juan JosÃ© Haedo (Toyota-United Pro) from Argentina, and was cut from the race due to missing the time cut-off. On GC Perras is in 54th, at 10:25 while Dionne is in 105th, 21:52 behind.
Haedo was atop the podium for a second time in the race with his Stage Four victory, while Floyd Landis (Phonak) remains the overall leader. “After 40K, we were a group of 30 in a break-away and I certainly happy to be there,” Perras, explained. “When the rest of the pack caught up, it was Michael Barry (Discovery) and I who attacked again with a group of about twelve riders, but there were some heavy hitters in the pack. We only got away by about a dozen kilometres. At the end of the stage, I set up teammate Jackson Stewart for a solid eighth place finish. Friday I’m going to be in the break away; the sprinters will be less able to control the pack.”
“A group crashed right in front of me and I went down too.” Dionne continued. “I got a little scratched up – my ankle, my hip, my left palm – it was kind of ugly. After the crash my derailleur was bent and I realized that some spokes had come out of the wheel. I had to stop in order to make sure my foot didn’t get stabbed by the spokes.” A second crash took place forty kilometres from the finish, but Dionne was able to avoid the melee. “I had to get back to the pack once again, which sapped my energy. In a stage that long, one really can’t afford to be playing catch-up constantly.”
After the stage things seemed to improve for Dionne as he met up with Canadian cycling legend, Steve Bauer. “I told him not to shake my hand too hard – my palm was still pretty scratched up,” Dionne joked.
Unfortunately, Martin Gilbert had his own tale of woe to tell. Still suffering from a cold, he commented, “This morning I felt terrible. The stage was rough right off the bat. At the first King of the Mountain prime I was dropped. I was with a small group of guys and most of them ended up abandoning. I decided to keep going and complete the stage on the outside chance that they’d extend the cut-off to 15% of the winner’s time (due to the crashes) but they kept it at 10%.” Gilbert in effect ended up doing a 100K time-trial in the company of Australian rider Matthew Rice, who was also eliminated from the stage.