Breukink gets off on right track

May 10, 1991|By Ron Reid | Ron Reid,Knight-Ridder

WILMINGTON, Del. -- With an opening victory that slavishly followed the form chart, Erik Breukink, the world's best cyclist at a time-trial distance, won yesterday's prologue in the 1991 Tour Du Pont.

Breukink, 27, who competes for the PDM team of his native Netherlands, shot through the 3.1-mile tour of downtown Wilmington in 6 minutes, 20.82 seconds to earn the tour leader's yellow jersey he will wear in today's first stage of the road race.

Starting and finishing in Wilmington's Rodney Square, Breukink took a risk at every turn and survived the disruptive bumpiness of the Monkey Hill cobblestone pavement midway through the course to win the second prologue of his six-year career.

It remains to be seen whether Breukink's triumph was an omen. The other time he won a prologue, in the 1989 Tour de France, he was forced to drop out of the race in its final week because of an illness. It also may be noted that the Tour Du Pont winds up in Wilmington on May 19, with a 16.1-mile time trial, and that Raul Alcala, a PDM teammate who won last season's prologue, was the overall winner.

"It's hard to control a race for 10 days," Breukink said. "There are a lot of hard stages left. But when you can win, you have to win. For me, the [finishing stage] is good. Is my specialty."

Steve Bauer, a 31-year-old Canadian who rides for the Motorola USA team, was the runner-up, 1.53 seconds behind the leader, while Stephen Swart, a New Zealander who rides for the Coors Light team, was third, 2:36 seconds behind Breukink.

Swart may have provided the one mildly surprising note of the competition, posting a fast time even though he was the eighth rider to leave the start house.

That rule, however, didn't apply to Greg LeMond, the last man in the riding order. The United States' best-known cyclist and a three-time winner of the Tour de France, LeMond held 35th place when the prologue ended, 19.43 seconds behind the leader.

The small amateur contingent was led by two young cyclists.

Dmitri Nelubin, 20, a Soviet team cyclist from Leningrad, was in fourth place, 5.09 seconds out of first, while Team USA's Bobby Julich, a 19-year-old triathlete from Glenwood, Colo., finished sixth.

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