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Nietlispach cruises to fifth men's wheelchair title

By Bob Monahan, Globe Staff 4/18/00

Franz took the fifth.

No, it wasn't a McCarthy hearing.

Franz Nietlispach, the 42-year-old defending champion from Rheinfelden, Switzerland, was as well-tuned as the watches made in his native land yesterday, laughing his way to the finish line in 1:33:32, a spectacular 5:12 better than countryman Heinz Frei in second place and 6:05 better than third-place Saul Mendoza of Snellville, Ga. It was virtually no contest.

Despite a 26-mile-per-hour headwind, Nietlispach was in command from the get-go, posting his fifth Boston triumph overall _ tied for most in his division with Jim Knaub _ and his fourth in a row, breaking the record he shared with Knaub.

``I feel great,'' said Nietlispach, who first won Boston in 1995. ``The wind was a factor as far as times go, but I think it was an advantage to me because of my physical makeup.''

Nietlispach is a broad-shouldered gent, much stronger than his competitors.

He used the same game plan that has worked for for four straight years.

``My plan was to get a good start and get in front,'' he said. ``Once I get in front, I want to stay there for the duration of the race. I felt I was in good position after some 3 miles, and when I don't see anyone near me, I know I'm doing well.

``I felt strong at the beginning, and then I make Heartbreak Hill my finish line. Really _ I feel that if I'm alone at the top of the course at Heartbreak, I'll be in great position.

``My opponents are better than I am going uphill and I'm stronger going downhill. It's basically downhill from Heartbreak Hill to the finish line, and that's my strength.

``The only thing that would stop me fron winning from that point on would be a blown tire or something like that.''

Said Frei, ``Franz does better on the downhills than I because I'm about 25 pounds lighter. His extra weight is an advantage. I thought I had a terrific race.''

Mendoza said, ``With the headwind and all, I thought it was a very hard race.''

Nietlispach trained pretty much the same as in recent years.

``There was too much snow at home,'' he said, ``so I practiced in Florida for a few weeks in St. Petersburg in February. The sun was nice. Then I went to the Canary Islands for a while and practiced there. Then I went back to Florida.

``Florida was fun because I had my two children with me. My son Roman is 9 and my daughter Celina in 5. I liked that.

``Boston is my major goal every year. This is an excellent race and very well run. I'll be back next year.''

The champion doesn't spend much time in the Hub. He arrived last Friday and drove the course but did not take a practice run. He'll fly home today.

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