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Wednesday’s EuroFile: Young stars in control at Asturias; Scarponi leads Peace Race; Barry aims for Tour

By Andrew Hood

Luis León Sanchez (Liberty Seguros) surprised the big guns forthe second time in a week after taking victory in the opening stage ofthe 48th Vuelta a Asturias in northern Spain.

Less than a week after winning the final time trial of the ClasicaAlcobendas last weekend in Madrid, the 20-year-old shot clear with DavidNavas (Illes Balears) with 3km to go to take the stage between Oviedo andLlanes along Spain’s northern coast.

Despite the victory, León Sanchez said he’s racing to help teamcaptains Isidro Nozal and Roberto Heras in the five-day stage race thatconcludes Sunday.

León Sanchez says his recent wins are “something unthinkable.”

“Now things are going well and I am content to have achieved something,now I hope that the leaders of the team can do something positive,” hesaid. “I am still learning, but with a little bit of luck I am beginningto race.”

The team got a fright early when Alberto Contador (Liberty Seguros) crashed hard at 20km, landing on his chest and head and suffered convulsions as medics rushed to aid the second-year pro. Contador briefly lost consciousnessand couldn’t breathe, but was later transported to a local hospital where he’s reported to be in stable condition.

Pre-race favorites Iban Mayo (Euskaltel), winner of the recent ClasicaAlcobendas and the Subida al Naranco on Tuesday, and Heras (Liberty Seguros)both finished more than 1 minute behind the leaders. Christian Vande Velde(Liberty Seguros) came through 73rd at 2:19 back while Tim Johnson was101st at 9:08 back.

The race continues Thursday with the 153km second stage from Llanesto Gijón, with the difficult Alto de San Martin de Huerces as themain obstacle in the stage.

Scarponi holds lead at Peace Race
Italian Michele Scarponi (Domina Vacanze) held the lead in Wednesday’s193km fifth stage of the 57th Peace Race from Gorlitz to Wroclaw as therace plowed into Poland. Martin Hvastija (Alessio-Bianchi) won the stage,finishing ahead of Piort Zaradny (Knauf-Mikomax) and Bjorn Schroder (Wiesenhof), who came through third.

Barry’s road to the Tour may start in Belgium
Michael Barry is deep into his third season with U.S. Postal Service and the popular Canadian is gearing up for more racing after taking a short break following the spring classics.

The 28-year-old is expected to race at the Tour of Belgium (May 19-23) with hopes of earning a slot on Postal’s Tour de France team. Barry admits it’s going to be difficult, but he says he’s on a short list of 12 or 13 riders with less than two months to go before July.

“I have an outside shot,” Barry told VeloNews. “A lot depends on what happens in the next little bit. I understand it’s hard to make the team because of the success they’ve had in the past. Obviously, the other guys have done a good job.”

Barry raced with five-time Tour winner Lance Armstrong at Algarve and Murcia earlier this season and said he’s more motivated than ever to show he’s worthy of one of the eight support roles as the Texan makes a run for an historic sixth Tour title.

“It would be incredible to do it, to support Lance. If that happens, it would be a dream to do it,” he said. “I’ve had good opportunities to race with Lance this year. At the races, he’s just like one of the guys on the team, but with the big engine. He was doing the lead-outs for Max at Murcia, helping Floyd at Algarve, that’s cool to see – he’s giving a little back to the other guys. If not, there are a lot of others I can focus on, the Vuelta, the late-season classics.”

Like most of the other North Americans, Barry lives in Girona in northwest Spain. Barry says he enjoys the European lifestyle, particularly the fresh produce, and won’t return to his home in Colorado until after the racing season.

Barry says he feels more comfortable than ever in the peloton and enjoyed racing in the spring classics for the first time.

“I want to keep progressing and see where that takes me. There are certain events I’d like to do well in, but more than anything else, I want to do my job for the team,” he said. “I really enjoyed the classics, the courses, the races are all awesome. It’s pretty inspiring.”

Barry said his top 10 finish in last year’s road world championships (seventh) has helped bolster his confidence and motivation coming into the 2004 season.

“It made me realize I have the capacity to do it and to aim for other results like that in the season,” Barry said. “For sure, it was incredible, racing in front of Canadian crowd, just one hour from hometown, with my family and friends there. It gave me a lot of confidence to attack and try to get a good result.”

Barry is also hopeful to earn a spot on the three-man Canadian Olympic team. Barry competed in the 1996 Olympics when he was just 21, but he’d like to get back for another shot.

Guerini injured in training spill
Giuseppe Guerini (T-Mobile) was injured in a training accident Tuesday in Italy after a car ran into him and then sped away, his team reported. The 34-year-old Italian fell heavily and was taken to a local hospital, where he was diagnosed with a possible broken nose. It’s not sure how long Guerini will be off the bike, but his next scheduled race is the Tour de Suisse in mid-June. A winner at Alpe d’Huez in the 1999 Tour de France, Guerini almost didn’t win the stage when an errant photographer accidentally bumped and knocked him over in the final kilometer. Rebellin wants stages, not GC
Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) was unable to match the pace in Tuesday’s climbing stage in the Giro d’Italia, finishing 17th at 59 seconds back.

Fresh off his spring hat-trick with victories at Amstel Gold Race, Flèche Wallone and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Rebellin now sits in 12th at 1:19 back just four days into the Giro.

Rebellin shrugged off the performance, saying he doesn’t consider himself a candidate for the final podium in Milan.

“I want to win stages. This is a beautiful Giro and there are plenty of opportunities to try to win a stage or two,” said Rebellin, who held the maglia rosa for six days in 1996.

“I’m not in the shape I was in during the classics,” Rebellin said. “I was hoping to be stronger today. I didn’t have the possibility to win and I couldn’t stay in step with the strongest.” McGee can feel Italian passion
Although he lost ground – and the maglia rosa – in Tuesday’s climbing stage, Brad McGee (FDJeux.com) says his Giro d’Italia will be a positive experience.

The Aussie won the prologue, but lost the leader’s jersey in the first stage on time bonuses, only to get it back Monday despite just missing victory against Damiano Cunego (Saeco).

McGee forfeited 2:21 on Tuesday and plummeted from first to 22nd at 1:54 back, but the former trackie has already delivered what he promised. With the Tour de France and the Sydney Olympics as his season’s top goals, McGee will remain in the hunt for stage victories.

McGee told Eurosport he’s impressed with Italian fan’s acumen for cycling.

“It’s pretty incredible. I’ve taken the yellow jersey in the Tour de France and other big races, but in Italy it seems that there’s a real, real deep passion for the Giro d’Italia,” he said. “The average spectator on the side of the road knows the speed and excitement of cycling. They understand cycling and it goes really deep.”

McGee also told Eurosport he’s touched by the many reminders to Marco Pantani, the Giro star who died in February of an apparent drug overdose.

“On the few climbs we’ve gone up, they still yell ‘Vai Marco.’ They’re just remembering and there’s signs on the side of the road,” McGee said. “I rode the Giro in 2000 when Marco was still riding and I knew what sort of following he had. It just shows how passionate the Italians are.”

Millar adds Languedoc to schedule
Reigning world time trial champion David Millar (Cofidis) has added the Tour du Languedoc-Rousillon race to his racing calendar.

After missing nearly a month of competition after his Cofidis team pulled the plug on racing to try to get a handle on a doping scandal that threatened to overwhelm the team, Millar is looking to make up for lost time.

Millar raced at the Four Days of Dunkirk last week, his first competition since the GP Miguel Indurain in early April. Millar is also scheduled to race Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré in June as a final warm-up for the Tour de France.

Schumacher tops Armstrong in sports ‘Oscars’
Formula One world champion Michael Schumacher was named Laureus World Sportsman of The Year for the second time on Monday.

Swedish golfer Annika Sorenstam was named World Sportswoman of The Year, and England’s World Cup-winning rugby squad scooped the Team of The Year prize.

Schumacher beat five-times Tour de France cycling winner Lance Armstrong, Wimbledon tennis champion Roger Federer, American swimmer Michael Phelps, world motorcycling champion Valentino Rossi and England rugby player Jonny Wilkinson to the award. The award for Comeback of The Year went to Austrian skier Hermann Maier, who returned from a horrific motorcycle accident to win a fourth World Cup title. The Newcomer of The Year award went to Michelle Wie, the 14-year-old Hawaiian golfer, while Canadian athlete Earle Connor, who broke four world records in 2003, won the award for Disabled Sportsperson of The Year.

A panel of more than 400 sports journalists from around the world came up with the shortlist and 41 sports personalities, including former cyclist Miguel Indurain, tennis player John McEnroe and athlete Ed Moses, selected the winners.
by Reuters

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