HAGERSTOWN -- Motorola rider Phil Anderson leaned into the last turn at about 40 mph. His goggles were dusty, his legs pounding, his long blond pigtail trailing behind him.
The finish was in sight, just up the next hill and if he could shake Davis Phinney, he knew he could catch Chevrolet/LA Sheriff's rider Steve Hegg, who was just ahead.
It was then he heard the noise and looked back. There on the hot asphalt were Phinney and his bike, and there, too, was the rest of the field, scrambling to avoid crashing into him.
Now Anderson had only one rider to beat. Moments later, Hegg was behind him and Anderson threw his arms in the air in exaltation as he crossed the finish line in Stage 5 of the Tour Du Pont.
"It was just a matter of circumstances for me," said Anderson, the only Australian in the 133-mile road race. "My team had gotten me out in front and I was not involved in the crash."
Anderson, who edged Spago rider Scott McKinley in 5 hours, 52 minutes, 30 seconds with Hegg third, won for several reasons. One was a two-way radio device used only by his team and the U.S. Amateur team here. The in-race conversation enabled team manager Jim Ochowicz to determine that Anderson was his strongest rider coming into the city.
"When I decided Phil was our guy, I told the rest of the team to work for him," said Ochowicz. "The only way Phil could win was with teamwork."
The other reason was Phinney's misfortune.
"Davis tried to follow me through the corner, and I guess it was too fast," said Anderson. "It's easier if you're first, because you can see what's happening. Davis had his tire on the outside of my rear wheel. I don't know exactly what happened, but the curb could have come up too fast, there could have been a bump on the road, a bit of oil, a puff of dirt. The road is built for cars, not for bikes traveling 40 miles an hour."
Phinney, cut and scratched all along his right side, later said he had simply entered the turn too fast and lost control.
Coors Light rider David Mann held onto the overall leader's yellow jersey for the fourth day, but said he will probably lose the lead today.
Stage 6 began in Sharpsburg this morning and headed for South Mountain, and the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, before finishing 151 miles later in Massanutten Resort.
"I'll be surprised if I'm sitting here [today]," he said. "I'm not a climber, and we're heading into the mountains. I have felt better each day, but it is going to be very difficult for me. If somehow I manage to hold on, a second day of that or Wintergreen [Mountain] will be the end of me Thursday."
The next three days are supposed to determine this race, as three-time Tour de France winner Greg LeMond, two-time winner Laurent Fignon and the world's No. 1 rider Gianni Bugno, all poised within 1:48 of the overall lead, are expected to flex their muscles.
Yesterday's race came to a fast and furious ending, but no one expected it. Certainly Anderson didn't anticipate victory as he lounged among the pack over most of the course.
For most of this day, the race belonged to Amaya Seguros rider Eladio Ambite.
A year ago, Ambite broke away on what seemed to be a suicide mission in Stage 9 from Winchester, Va., to Harrisburg, Pa. No one chased him that day, because no one thought he could maintain his lead over the 138-mile course. But Ambite did maintain it and was in front so long that second-place finisher Falk Boden of PDM forgot Ambite was ahead of him and threw up his arms in victory when he crossed the finish line, nearly six minutes behind.
So yesterday, when Ambite broke away 59 miles into the race, the pack let him go again. This time they didn't care if he won, because Ambite began the day 45:55 behind the leaders in 91st place.
He built an 11-minute lead, but the Catoctin Mountains sapped his strength and by the time he arrived in Hagerstown for the final three laps, his endurance was just about gone.
"If it had been just one lap in the city, I think I could have made myself hold on," he said. "But three . . . I went out purposely, thinking I could win and it would be like an anniversary of my win last year. But in the end, the mountain and the distance caught me."
NOTES: Hegg's third-place finish is the best of the year, and was important to the Chevrolet rider. "It's time for me to put out or get out," he said. "It has been a long time since the Olympics." Hegg won an Olympic gold medal in 1984. . . . LeMond finished sixth and remained in third place overall, 12 seconds behind Coors Light riders Mann and Stephen Swart. . . . Motorola rider Michel Zanoli learned he has become the father of a baby girl named Joan.