By Andrew Hood
Two Italians and an American were the main protagonists Sunday in the eighth round of the 2002 World Cup disputed on a hilly course under warm sunny skies in Zurich, Switzerland.
Winning the 236km Meisterschaft von Zurich was Dario Frigo (Tacconi Sport), the Italian who’s been on a hot streak this season. Frigo attacked on the final ascent of the hardest climb in the 41km circuit up the Pfannenstiel with 18km to go.
Frigo’s form has been excellent since May, when he won the Tour of Romandie. That carried into the Tour de France, where he won a stage, and into the Clasica San Sebastian last weekend when he finished fifth. Frigo also won the Subida Urkiola last weekend in Basque Country.
“I’ve had good legs for the past three weeks and I wanted to do well in the World Cups after the Tour,” said Frigo, who finished in 5 hours, 56 minutes, 54 seconds with an average speed of 39.775 kph.
Frigo attacked going up the Pfannenstiel to reel in the remnants of a four-man break that included Fassa Bortolo’s Michele Bartoli. Frigo worked alone to quickly build up a gap and held a 45-second margin coming into the flats 8km back to Zurich.
“The rivals were all very strong today. I attacked at just the right moment and took a gap,” Frigo said. “I was very strong last week in San Sebastian but it’s easier to finish alone instead of in a group.”
U.S. Postal’s Lance Armstrong showed that he wasn’t ready for vacation just yet by posting his best World Cup result of the season. Armstrong made the selection over the final hump up the Pfannenstiel, the decisive climb on the challenging circuit in the hills outside Zurich over narrow farming roads.
Armstrong has raced in more World Cup races this season than any since his comeback from cancer. He rode in support of teammate George Hincapie at Milan-San Remo, Tour of Flanders and Liege-Bastogne-Liege; and he finished fourth at the Amstel Gold in April.
Hincapie was sidelined for the Swiss race following a harrowing crash in last weekend’s Clasica San Sebastian, so Armstrong stepped up to deliver U.S. Postal’s second World Cup podium this season to go along with Tom Boonen’s third-place finish at Paris-Roubaix.
Paolo Bettini was the real winner Sunday. The Mapei Italian shot ahead of the lead group to claim second-place and the 70 points that go with it to grab the overall World Cup lead with two races to go.
Johan Museeuw (Domo) came to Zurich with a narrow 68-point lead over his Italian rival, but Museeuw abandoned earlier in the race, opening the door for Bettini.
Bettini needed to win or finish second to have a chance to snatch the white series leader’s jersey. With Frigo off the front for the win, Bettini scored the points he needed and finished second, 1:20 back.
Bettini now takes a narrow two-point lead into the final two World Cup races. The World Cup is on hold again until October, with Paris-Tours up next (October 9) and the series conclusion at Tour of Lombardy (October 19).
Championship of Zurich;
Switzerland. August 18.
1. Dario Frigo (I), Tacconi, 236.6km in 5:56:54; 2. Paolo Bettini (I), Mapei, at 1:06; 3. Lance Armstrong (USA), U.S. Postal Service; 4. Massimiliano Gentili (I), Acqua & Sapone; 5. Carlos Sastre Candil (Sp), CSC-Tiscali; 6. Michele Bartoli (I), Fassa Bortolo; 7. Davide Rebellin (I), Gerolsteiner; 8. Oscar Camenzind (Swi), Phonak; 9. Ivan Basso (I), Fassa Bortolo; 10. Laurent Dufaux (Swi), Alessio, all s.t.;;
World Cup standings;;
1. Paolo Bettini (I), Mapei-Quick Step, 272; 2. Johan Museeuw (B), Domo, 270; 3. Igor Astarloa (Sp), Saeco, 152; 4. Michele Bartoli (I), Fassa Bortolo, 142; 5. Dario Frigo (I),Tacconi, 136.