HOT SPRINGS, Va. -- In the end, Motorola's Andy Bishop was done in by the gently rolling hills of Virginia.
But when Bishop reflected on Stage 7 of the Tour Du Pont cycling race last evening, he thought it could have been different.
"I thought the finish was going to be all downhill," Bishop said. "But it wasn't. It was up and down, little hills before the final turn, and those little hills finished me."
As it was, Bishop held the lead until he was caught with less than a mile to go, setting up an exciting sprint to the finish line.
Bishop's teammate Steve Bauer of Canada edged out American amateur Steve Larsen for the victory.
Atle Kvalsvoll of Team 'Z' retained the overall lead and the yellow jersey. He goes into Stage 8 tomorrow, an estimated 168-mile march to Winchester, Va., with a 48-second lead over PDM's Erik Breukink.
"We [the Motorola team] held the pack back the best we could for as long as we could," said Bauer, whose time on yesterday's 121.7-mile course was 5 hours, 11 minutes and 15 seconds. "But once we caught up, there was no way to help Andy, because at that point he was so tired. I felt bad for him. He deserved to win, but when it became apparent he couldn't do it, I went for it."
Many in the field felt for Bishop, especially "Z" rider Greg LeMond.
"Andy's wife is visiting my wife in Minnesota and I know they'll find out I led the attack that brought Andy back," said LeMond. "I was really hoping and trying to keep a distance, maybe get us within a minute by the finish, and he'd win.
"But then I saw him just around the next curve and he was barelmoving he was so tired. At that point, there was nothing to do. I feel bad for him."
Bishop placed 36th, but in the lead pack, so he kept his 32nd place in the standings, 5:51 behind overall leader Kvalsvoll.
"If the Spanish rider had helped, just a little, I could have made iand he might have had second," Bishop said.
The Spanish rider he referred to was Fernando Quevedo, a 26-year-old rider for Amaya. Quevedo had broken from the pack 5 miles from the start outside Charlottesville, and he had stayed in front for about 50 miles on his own before being joined by Bishop.
"I know he was tired from his work," said Bishop, 25, of Tucson, Ariz. "But he wasn't too tired to sit on my back wheel and he had no problem accelerating up the hills. So he could have done some of the work."
Bishop tried to cajole Quevedo, who finished 13th and is 35th overall, to help.
Using his best Spanish, Bishop said he pleaded: "If we work together, we can make it first to the finish. If you just take a turn or two in front, it will be all I need to get us there."
But Quevedo wasn't interested.
"All he kept saying to me was, 'I can't work. I can't work.' Then he tries a breakaway on me. Was I ticked off? Yes, I was ticked off."
Meanwhile, behind the pack, in the Motorola support van, team manager Jim Ochowitz was trying to convince Amaya's team manager Angel Barrado to tell his rider to help.
"But all I heard from Barrado was that he either didn't understand me or couldn't hear me," said Ochowitz.
Dragging Quevedo with him, Bishop built his lead over the pack to as much as 7 minutes, 17 seconds over 40 miles.
Shortly thereafter, Quevedo passed him on the final climb at Warm Springs, 11 miles from the finish. He took a 17-yard lead, but then Bishop, inspired by irritation passed him.
Unfortunately, it wasn't enough to get him to the finish.
"I gave it everything I had," said Bishop. "I really wanted to win. It's dissapointing, to be so close for so long...but it is easier to take and actually, a little sataisfyilng since Steve won."*
Spago rider Oliver Starr, who suffered severe heat exhaustion Tuesday, started yesterday's stage and finished 49th, 3:15 behind the leader . . . Nate Reiss of Subaru-Montgomery, who broke his arm in a fall Tuesday, could not continue.
Bart Bowen of Subaru-Montgomery finished third yesterday and the guy with the best name in the field, Bo Hamburger of Team Denmark, was fourth . . . LeMond, 22nd overall, finished 27th in the main pack.
Coors Light rider Davis Phinney retained his sprint leader's jersey for the seventh day . . . The race has covered approximately 671.85 miles at an average speed of 23.39 mph. Yesterday, Bishop hit speeds up to 55 mph on the downhills . . . The race field is now down to 96 riders from 104. The last man in the standings is Erwin Biets of Tonton-Tapis, who is 59:01 behind the leader.