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Great win for T-Mobile’s tireless veteran Guerini

This time Giuseppe Guerini saw the people who wanted to take his photo. En route to winning Friday's stage 19, a hilly 153km from Issoire to Le Puy-en-Velay, Guerini enjoyed a clean run to the finish line. That’s something he didn’t get on his way to winning at L'Alpe d'Huez in 1999. Back then, a fan - the now infamous "Erik the Photographer" - capturing Guerini’s victorious pedal strokes about a kilometer from the line forced the Italian to fall before finishing. “Yes, L’Alpe d'Huez is more dangerous,” said a smiling Guerini, 35, when reminded at his post-stage press

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By Rupert Guinness, Special to VeloNews

Guerini collects a second career Tour stage win

Guerini collects a second career Tour stage win

Photo: AFP

This time Giuseppe Guerini saw the people who wanted to take his photo.

En route to winning Friday’s stage 19, a hilly 153km from Issoire to Le Puy-en-Velay, Guerini enjoyed a clean run to the finish line. That’s something he didn’t get on his way to winning at L’Alpe d’Huez in 1999.

Back then, a fan – the now infamous “Erik the Photographer” – capturing Guerini’s victorious pedal strokes about a kilometer from the line forced the Italian to fall before finishing. “Yes, L’Alpe d’Huez is more dangerous,” said a smiling Guerini, 35, when reminded at his post-stage press conference of the dramatic 1999 incident.

No, Guerini had no trouble placing his 1999 win in perspective with Friday’s through the hot and muggy Massif Central of France. “It means more really. L’Alpe d’Huez is a very special. It was a special win,” he said. “This is still special for a rider like me but everyone knows L’Alpe d’Huez.”

Guerini won at Le Puy by 10 seconds from the three breakaway companion he left 1.5km from the finish. Also in his wake was a chase group of five riders, 2:48 back, followed by two other chasers and then, at 4:31, came the peloton of 124 riders led by Australian Robbie McEwen (Davitamon-Lotto) who took the sprint for 14th place.

Pelizzotti joins in to add some horsepower

Pelizzotti joins in to add some horsepower

Photo: Graham Watson

McEwen’s bunch sprint win over Norwegian Thor Hushovd (Crédit Agricole) and Australian Stuart O’Grady (Cofidis) gave him two more points for the green jersey competition that Hushovd leads.

However, Hushovd is still in the box seat for the Tour’s second most prestigious jersey after the yellow, as he will no doubt head toward Paris with 175 points against O’Grady’s 160 and McEwen’s 154.

Guerini gets the green light from T-Mobile

Guerini gets the green light from T-Mobile

Photo: Graham Watson

With the trio unlikely to accrue any points in Saturday’s stage 20 time trial at St Etienne, their battle will come down to Sunday’s final stage 21from Corbeil-Essonnes to the Champs-Elysées in Paris — although it would take a disaster for Hushovd to lose the green.

It would also take a calamity for American six-time champion Lance Armstrong, who finished in the bunch Friday in 56th place, to lose his yellow jersey of Tour leader.

The Discovery Channel team leader will go into Saturday’s race against the clock with an unchanged lead of 2:46 on Italian Van Basso (CSC), 3:46 on Danish King of the Mountains leader Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank) and 5:58 on German Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile).

“I realize these are my last days. There will be one hour (of racing) tomorrow and maybe four on Sunday. I am not sad yet though,” said Armstrong after the stage in Le Puy.

“It is difficult to really enjoy yourself because it is the Tour de France. No one is throwing me a retirement party just yet. Tomorrow I will give it everything I have. It will be a special day.”

While Friday was special for Guerini, for those he beat, it was anything but – especially for the French who still have only one stage win (by David Moncoutié at Digne-les-Bains).

EARLY BREAK
The origins of Friday’s four-man break came 30km into the 153.5km stage when Guerini and Sandy Casar (Française des Jeux) sped clear of the pack. They were soon caught by the stage 16 winner, Spaniard Oscar Pereiro (Phonak). Then, on the second of five climbs, the Cat. 3 Côte St Eloy-La Glacière, Italian rider Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas-Bianchi) bridged across.

The four united on the decent, while behind them, waves of chasers began to form a 10-strong group. From there the battle lines were pretty much formed for the rest of the day.

At the top of the biggest climb of the day, the 11.4km Cat.2 Col de Pradeaux, Guerini’s attack had a minute on the chasers and 3:35 on the peloton — a gap that increased to six minutes at 85km, nearing Elisolles.

FAST FINALE
Credit is due to the riders in the break. Knowing that the chasers were within striking distance, they all shared their turns at the front right into Le Puy, when Pereiro was pushing hard in a bid to move into the top 10 overall.

Pereiro started to slow, beckoning in vain for one of the others to take over. Casar wouldn’t budge, nor would Pellizotti. Then suddenly as the latter two enjoyed the stare down, Guerini bolted away on their right and got 100 meters clear before they could even turn their heads back to take a look.

Guerini’s attack was lethal. Like a bullet to the head he killed the winning hopes of Casar, Pellizotti and the weary Pereiro. And there was no fan in the road taking photos.

The Italian veteran didn’t look behind until about 200 meters from the finish. But when he did, and saw clear space, he didn’t waste the chance to celebrate with arms aloft.

Nicely timed, Giuseppe,

Nicely timed, Giuseppe,

Photo: Graham Watson

The sprint for second place was a bitter pill for whoever won it. For they would go home knowing that it was a mere consolation for stuffing up and not marking Guerini who everyone knew would not wait for the sprint.

Still, for what it’s worth second place went to Casar, followed by Pellizotti and Pereiro. At least Pereiro’s hard work lifted him into 10th place overall, 36 seconds above the top Frenchman, Christophe Moreau (Crédit Agricole).

As for Friday’s top home rider, Casar lamented, “I am very disappointed. I knew I was the fastest in the sprint. But I didn’t see Guerini attack. It’s the victory that counts at the Tour.”

With Guerini having put his win in the bag, for once, T-Mobile can rest easy. Well, that is all of them except Ullrich, who knows that his hopes of a podium finish are still in the air and hinge on him having a superb ride in Saturday’s 55km time trial.

Stage results
1. Giuseppe Guerini (I), T-Mobile
2. Sandy Casar (F), Française des Jeux, at 0:10
3. Franco Pellizotti (I), Liquigas-Bianchi, same time
4. Oscar Pereiro Sio (Sp), Phonak, at 0:12
5. Salvatore Commesso (I), Lampre, at 2:43
6. Kurt-Asle Arvesen (Nor), CSC, at 2:48
7. Nicolas Portal (F), Ag2r Prevoyance, s.t.
8. Bert Grabsch (G), Phonak, s.t.
9. Sylvain Chavanel (F), Cofidis, s.t.
10. Pieter Weening (Nl), Rabobank, at 3:50

Full Results

Photo: Graham Watson

Overall
1. Lance Armstrong (USA), Discovery Channel
2. Ivan Basso (I), CSC, at 2:46
3. Mickael Rasmussen (Dk), Rabobank, at 3:46
4. Jan Ullrich (G), T-Mobile, at 5:58
5. Francisco Mancebo (Sp), Illes Balears, at 7:08
6. Levi Leipheimer (USA), Gerolsteiner, at 8:12
7. Cadel Evans (Aus), Davitamon-Lotto, at 9:49
8. Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz), T-Mobile, at 10:11
9. Floyd Landis (USA), Phonak, at 10:42
10. Oscar Pereiro Sio (Sp), Phonak, at 12:39
Full Results


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