By Andrew Hood
The weekend before the Tour de France is the traditional time on theracing schedule for the Europeans to hold their respective national championshipraces. It’s the last major racing before the Tour, which kicks off thiscoming Saturday in Luxembourg. The races are typically held this weekendso the winners can show off their new colors at cycling’s biggest race,at least for those from teams that will be racing at the Grande Boucle.Here are the winners in the men’s road races from Europe’s top cycling powers:
Nicolas Vogondy won out of a five-up sprint to earn his first majorvictory of his career. Vogondy, 24, (fdjeux.com), edged Nicolas Jalabert(CSC-Tiscali) as he jumped across the line first after covering the 225-kmcourse in 4 hours, 53 minutes, 48 seconds. Patrice Halgand (Jean Delatour),Franck Bouyer (Bonjour) and Cedric Vasseur (Cofidis) rounded out the topfinishers.
Tom Steels won his third national championships after beating LudovicCapelle and Geert Vanderaerden in a sprint. Steels (Mapei) was part ofa 12-man breakaway that went early, but was caught and the field came downto a bunch sprint. Steels finished ahead of Capelle (AG2R), last year’swinner, and Vanderaerden of the Palmans-Collstrop team.
Michael Sandstod won the road race Sunday to match his victory in theindividual time trial on Friday. Sandstod (CSC-Tiscali) finished aheadof teammate Michael Blaudzun and Bo Hamburger (Index-Alexia), who cameacross the line third.
Team Telekom won yet another Germany national time, this time withsprinter Danilo Hondo taking the victory ahead of Uwe Peschel (Gerolsteiner)and pre-race favorite Erik Zabel (Telekom). Telekom dominated the race,placing four riders in the top-10.
Stefan Van Dijk (Lotto) won ahead of Rudie Kemna (BBT) and Max VanHeeswijk (Domo) to take the Dutch national time. The Lotto rider coveredthe 213-km course in 5 hours, 2 minutes, 40 seconds.
Salvatore Commesso won his second career Italian national road title,spoiling the hopes for Dario Frigo and Francesco Casagrande. The trio finishedjust 5 seconds ahead of the main pack and Commesso, a strong sprinter onthe Saeco team, was stronger coming into the finish, relegating Frigo tosecond and Casagrande to third.
Oleg Grichkine, a former national track champion now racing on theU.S.-based Navigators team, won the road title Sunday.
Little-known Juan Carlos Guillamon upset the favorites to take theSpanish national title in Salamanca. Guillamon (Jazztel-Costa Almeria),who nearly gave up the sport last year with problems in his iliac artery,finished ahead of Abraham Olano (ONCE) while Miguel Angel Martin Perdiguero(Acqua & Sapone) came across the line third at 3 seconds back. A groupof eight riders escaped early in the race but were neutralized with 30km to go. It was nervous in the bunch as several riders tried to escapein the closing kilometers, which caused an accident involving SantiagoBlanco (ibanesto.com), who was taken to a local hospital for head injuries.Pre-race favorite Oscar Freire, the world champion on the Mapei team, didn’tfigure in the final sprint. ONCE’s Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano won the individualtime trial title.