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By VeloNews Interactive wire services, Copyright 2001 AFP
Festina’s Florent Brard retained the overall lead at the Tour de l’Avenir as Italian Graziano Gasparre won the second-to-last stage, 175.5km from Belfort to Montbenoit, France. Brard leads the race for the second straight day, eight seconds ahead of another Frenchman, Sylvain Chavanel (Bonjour), in the overall standings. Mercury’s Baden Cooke, already a stage winner earlier in the week, took second on the day.
Another French rider, Big Mat’s Guillaume Auger, set off on the first serious attack of the day, 55km into the race, and was joined by Kevin Hulsmans (Mapei-Quick Step) and Eddy Lembo (Jean Delatour) at the 81km mark.
That trio gained a maximum of 3:40, but Lembo was dropped just after the feed zone, at 95km. Auger and Hulsmans continued on, and were joined by Sergei Kruszhevskiy (Saint Quentin-Oktos) and former race leader Laszlo Bodrogi (Mapei-Quick Step). Seeking to climb back up in the overall standings, Bodrogi went off on a late solo attack, but was caught by the time the peloton reached the Cat. 1 finishing climb to Montbenoit.
Gasparre attacked with 6km remaining and the race blew apart on the final climb. The Italian held on to win by six seconds over Cooke, who has shown off his climbing throughout the 10-day tour. Chavanel took eighth on the day, but picked up only two seconds on Brard, who finished 12th, and will take the yellow jersey into Saturday’s final stage, a 135km circuit race in Morteau that will feature five trips up the Cat. 1 Côte du Chauffaud.
1. Graziano Gasparre (I), Mapei-Quick Step, 175.5km in 4:41:15; 2. Baden Cooke (Aus), Mercury, at 0:06; 3. Inaki Flores (Sp), Euskaltel-Euskadi, s.t.; 4. Jesus Manzano (Sp), Kelme-Costa Blanca, at 0:09; 5. Denis Menchov (Rus), iBanesto.com, s.t.; 6. Gorka Gonzalez (Sp), Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 0:11; 7. Juan-Miguel Cuenca (Sp), Kelme-Costa Blanca, s.t.; 8. Sylvain Chavanel (F), Bonjour, at 0:13; 9. Pablo Lastras Garcia (Sp), Banesto, s.t.; 10. Evgeni Petrov (Rus), Mapei-Quick Step, at 0:15;
12. Florent Brard (F), Festina, at 0:15; 23. Eladio Jimenez (Sp), iBanesto.com, at 1:12; 26. Laszlo Bodrogi (Hun), at 1:41; 68. Matthew Wilson (Aus), Mercury, at 16:29;
Phil Zajicek (USA), Mercury; Ernesto Lechuga (Mex), Mercury;
1. Brard; 2. Chavanel, at 0:08; 3. Cuenca, at 0:27; 4. Manzano, at 0:32; 5. Menchov, at 0:52; 6. Petrov, at 0:59; 7. Booke, at 1:38; 8. Flores, at 2:02; 9. Lastras Garcia, at 2:03; 10. Bodrogi, at 2:17.