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By VeloNews Interactive , Copyright AFP 2001
Italian Danilo Di Luca of the Cantina Tollo team dominated a sprint finish to win the 95th edition of the Tour of Lombardy, the final event in the 2001 UCI World Cup road series. On-form Dutchman Erik Dekker lifted the World Cup trophy after finishing 13th in the 10th and final event. The 25-year-old Di Luca, an up-and-coming professional who was beaten by a whisker here two years ago, made sure of victory this time as he completed the rain-soaked 258km ride from Varese to Bergamo. He held off fellow escapees Giuliano Figueras (Panaria) and Michael Boogerd (Rabobank), who finished second and third respectively. “Today I was cruising,” Di Luca said. “Even this morning I was itching to go. In the sprint I just tried to stay disciplined, and kept my head down to stop from looking at the finish line.” The race was hampered by poor weather conditions, which even prevented a local television station from transmitting live pictures for part of the race. But it didn’t stop a select few from going all out, including Paris-Tours winner Richard Virenque, who finished fourth after struggling in the last climb of the day. The weather-beaten Virenque, who is back in the cycling limelight after recently concluding his nine-month ban for doping, said he’s already thinking about next year’s main event. “If it had been a few degrees warmer it wouldn’t have done any harm,” Virenque joked. “My legs felt fine out there but I was also suffering from the cold. Now I’m already thinking towards the Tour de France in 2002.”
The first four riders over the line escaped from the main bunch with 30km to go on the Berbenno climb. They were initially joined by Swede Niklas Axelsson, who was later dropped after a fall. Di Luca attempted to go it alone as Bergamo approached, but the young Italian was reeled back in with only a kilometer to the line. Dekker, who more than four minutes off the pace, lifted his first World Cup of a long career as a professional which began after he finished second in the 1992 Olympic road race in Barcelona. The 31-year-old Belgium-based Dutchman has completed in the Tour de France eight times, but it was only last year that he was propelled into the limelight when he won three stages.
This year the maturing Dekker won the Amstel Gold race in the Netherlands, the fifth event in the World Cup, before returning gloriously to the Tour with a stage win at Pontarlier. Dekker’s Amstel Gold win on home soil, he said, was the turning point. “After winning the Amstel I decided to place all my bets on winning the World Cup,” said Dekker after collecting his winner’s jersey. “The World Cup is a whole mix of different races. To win it you have to be prepared to spend a lot of energy and be able to concentrate. “Next year I’m not so sure if it will be an objective — I’ll first have to win a race then take it from there.”
TOUR OF LOMBARDY, Italy. October 20.;;
1. Danilo Di Luca (I) Cantina Tollo, 6:38:29; 2. Giuliano Figueras (I), Panaria, s.t.;3. Michael Boogerd (Nl), Rabobank, at 0:01; 4. Richard
Virenque (F), Festina, at 0:04; 5. Michele Bartoli (I), Mapei-Quick Step, at 1:25; 6. Beat Zberg (Swi), Rabobank, s.t.; 7. Max Sciandri (GB), Lampre-Daikin, at 1:26; 8. Wladimir Belli (I), Fassa Bortolo, at 1:27; 9. Niklas Axelsson (Swe), at 1:32; 10. Francisco Mancebo (Sp), Banesto, at 2:25; 11. Matthias Kessler (G), Deutsche Telekom, at 2:59; 12. Jorg Jaksche (G), ONCE, s.t.; 13. Erik Dekker (Nl), Rabobank, at 4:39; 14. Vladimir Duma (Ukr), Panaria, at 5:19; 15. Mirko Celestino (I), Saeco, at 5:20; 16. Tomas Konecny (Cz), at 6:24; 17. Mauro Gianetti, (Swi), at Coast, at 6:25; 18. Peter Luttenberger (Aut), Tacconi-Vini Caldirola, at 7:35; 19. Cristian Gasperoni (I), Cantina Tollo, at 7:58; 20. Paolo Bettini (I), Mapei, at 8:35.;;
Final World Cup standings;;
1. Dekker, 331 pts; 2. Erik Zabel (G), Deutsche Telekom, 250; 3. Romans Vainsteins (Lat), Domo-Farm Frites, 229; 4. Bettini, 201; 5. Davide Rebellin (I), Liquigas, 170; 6. Francesco Casagrande (I), Fassa Bortolo, 156; 7. Oscar Camenzind (Swi), Lampre-Daikin, 141; 8. Gianluca Bortolami (I), Tacconi-Vini Caldirola, 130; 9. Johan Museeuw (B), Domo-Farm Frites, 116; 10. Bartoli, 101;;
12. George Hincapie (USA), U.S. Postal Service, 89