American Antonio Cruz (U.S. Postal Service-Berry Floor) won the second stage of the Tour de l’Ain on Wednesday, outsprinting Théo Eltink and Jerome Pineau (Brioches la Boulangère). Pineau remains the overall leader. The undulating 141.7km stage from Lagnieu to Oyonnax was marked by an 80km break that included David Moncoutié (Cofidis), Didier Rous (Brioches la Boulangere), Sylvain Calzati (RAGT Semances-MG Rove) and Pablo Lastras (Illes Balears). Once the break was caught with 20km to go, Cédric Vasseur (Cofidis) and Franck Renier (Brioches la Boulangere) tried to escape, but the

By Andrew Hood

American Antonio Cruz (U.S. Postal Service-Berry Floor) won the second stage of the Tour de l’Ain on Wednesday, outsprinting Théo Eltink and Jerome Pineau (Brioches la Boulangère).

Pineau remains the overall leader.

The undulating 141.7km stage from Lagnieu to Oyonnax was marked by an 80km break that included David Moncoutié (Cofidis), Didier Rous (Brioches la Boulangere), Sylvain Calzati (RAGT Semances-MG Rove) and Pablo Lastras (Illes Balears).

Once the break was caught with 20km to go, Cédric Vasseur (Cofidis) and Franck Renier (Brioches la Boulangere) tried to escape, but the sprinters’ teams would not be denied. –Agence France Presse

Tour de l’Ain
Stage results

1. Antonio Cruz (USA), U.S. Postal Service-Berry Floor, 141.7km in 3:22:51 (41.913 km/h)
2. Théo Eltink (Ned), Rabobank
3. Jérôme Pineau (F), Brioches la Boulangere
4. Serge Baguet (B), Lotto-Domo
5. Christophe Edaleine (F), Cofidis – all same time

Overall>
1. Jérôme Pineau (F), Brioches la Boulangère), 6:44:19
2. Leif Hoste (B), Lotto-Domo, at 0:08
3. Jurgen Van Goolen (B), Quick Step-Davitamon, at 0:10
4. Franck Renier (F), Brioches la Boulangere, at 0:22
5. Thierry Marichal (B), Lotto-Domo, at 0:55

Basso hopes for good end to season
Ivan Basso (CSC) said his third-place finish and stage victory in the 2004 Tour de France was more than expected. The Italian sensation said he was expecting a top-five performance, but things went well for him in the Pyrénées when he won atop La Mongie and stayed with winner Lance Armstrong at Plateau de Beille.

“It was a fantastic Tour for me,” Basso said before the start of last weekend´s Clasica San Sebastian. “One stage victory, two times second behind Armstrong, and the podium. I made nice time trials, it’s a perfect Tour. It gives us a lot of hope.

“I talked with Bjarne [Riis, Team CSC manager] about next year and we’re already thinking about the Tour. I was thinking about top five, but when I had the good results in the Pyrénées, we then realized more was possible. The Tour was better than I had hoped, but we worked hard and we had confidence we could do well.”

Basso said he won´t race the Vuelta a España, but hopes to rebound late in the season with hopes of earning a spot on the Italian world championship team.

“I want to do a good end of the season,” he said. “This is a crossroad in the season for me now. The form is a little bit down, I’ll take a short break and build back up for the end of the season. I have nothing to lose.

“I’ll do three criteriums in Germany and Holland, take a 12-day break and come back in the end of August with some small races with no pressure. I’ll do some more racing in September with the idea of being very good for the Lombardia.”

Beltrán continues with Discovery
Manuel Beltrán , the veteran Spanish climber who has been part of Lance Armstrong´s winning efforts since 2003, has signed with Discovery Channel for the 2005 season.

According to a report in the Spanish sports daily MARCA, Beltrán will be back by Armstrong´s side for the upcoming season, though Armstrong has yet to reveal his racing plans for 2005.

“We count on a great potential and demonstrated it during the Tour, where the team reached a high level,” Beltrán said. “Lance was superior to the other riders, and his triumph was uncontested and worthy. I hope to continue bringing positive things to the team during the course of the next season.”

Beltrán , who crashed hard during the first week and wasn´t at his best during the Pyrénées, is already preparing for the Vuelta, where he said he hopes for a position among the top 10.

Bruylandts draws 18-month suspension
Belgian cyclist Dave Bruylandts has been suspended for 18 months after testing positive in April for the blood-boosting drug erythropoietin (EPO), the Belgian Cycling Union said Wednesday in Brussels.

The 28-year-old’s suspension starts on October 1 and continues until March 31, 2006. He has also been fined almost 6500 euros.

Chocolat Jacques sacked Bruylandts after the positive EPO test. He had previously been sacked in March 2000 by Dutch team Farm-Frites for an abnormal hematocrit reading, which is an indicator, but not a definitive sign, of EPO use. –Agence France Presse

Race ejects Venezuelans, Colombian over EPO find
The Venezuelan cycling team and a Colombian rider have been banned from the Tour of Guadeloupe after the banned drug erythropoietin (EPO) was found in the bags of two riders.

The French Cycling Federation’s regional committee banned the riders from the amateur race on Wednesday after a crisis meeting the night before.

EPO was found in the bags of Venezuelan cyclist Paul Linares and Colombian rider Luis Castaneda by customs officers when they arrived on August 5 and July 29, respectively. On Friday night further quantities of EPO were found in the hotel room of one of the riders, the local police prosecutor said Tuesday, without giving the rider’s identity.

Venezuelan rider Paul Torres won the fourth stage of the race on Tuesday and was overall leader before his team’s exclusion from the race, which ends on Sunday.–Agence France Presse