Cycling: Baguet leaves exhausted Berzin on the rack: Valiant effort by Russian in vain during a cruel stage in Kellogg's Tour of Britain with Swansea's cobbled Constitution Hill proving too tough

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The Independent Online
THE Kellogg's Tour of Britain met cycling's equivalent of the rack yesterday. Swansea's cobbled Constitution Hill came close to rating a visit from the League against Cruel Sports but the Belgian winner Serge Baguet reckoned that it was worse coming down than going up.

There were many who would dispute that as the one-in-three slopes sapped and stopped several riders in their tracks. Some decided it was faster to walk, and coming after a day in the Brecon Beacons it was sadistic.

It spelt doom for the brave efforts of the Russian Evgeni Berzin. Four miles from the finish his solo effort ended as the third climb of the mile- long drag exhausted his reserves.

For 48 miles he had toiled alone, to arrive in Swansea almost five minutes in the clear, an impressive lead for a man who is used to winning track races by split seconds.

Baguet and the Dutchman Maarten Den Bakker were intent on stopping Berzin. As the bell sounded for the final five-mile lap they were within 10 seconds of him with theDane Jesper Skibby closing fast at 32 seconds, and Constitution Hill looming painfully.

Baguet needed a victory - it was to be his first of the year - to convince Eddy Merckx he was worth a place in Belgium's team for the world road race champion in Oslo later this month.

Merckx is now turning his skills to managing, and in Leeds on Sunday he will name his medal hopes after the World Cup race. 'Hopefully I've done enough to clear any doubts,' Baguet said.

As he and Den Bakker caught Berzin on the climb, Baguet had to ask the Dutchman if the rider ahead was the leader or someone they were about to lap.

For Phil Anderson, the race leader, the bad day was over without too much stress and his lead of four seconds over Wladimir Belli intact. The action up front was of little threat to the Australian as Baguet and company had trailed in more than 10 minutes behind him on Monday.

(Maps omitted)