By Andrew Hood
Iban Mayo ended Euskaltel’s drought after he won the opening stage of the 43rd Vuelta al Pais Vasco in northern Spain on Monday while CSC’s Tyler Hamilton finished third.
It’s the first win of the season for Mayo and the first for his Euskaltel-Euskadi team, still hoping to earn a wild-card bid to race in the 2003 Tour de France. The usually high-flying Euskaltel team has been quiet this spring, out-classed by other teams hoping for a Tour bid such as Domina Vacanze, Ag2r, Milaneza-MSS and Brioches La Boulangere.
One win won’t get the orange-clad Basques into the Tour, but a solid week at its home-town race will help.
Mayo shot free from the peloton just 300 meters from the finish line while Angel Vicioso (ONCE) claimed second and Hamilton came across to finish third. Francisco Cabello (Kelme) rode solo over the hilly course in northern Spain until the nervous bunch brought him back.
Alexandre Vinokourov (Telekom), showing the same form that earned him victory at Paris-Nice, shot ahead at the final climb. Fassa Bortolo’s Dario Frigo, another fave for final victory after coming off wins at the Tour of Valencia and Setmana Catalana, wouldn’t let the Kazakh go away on the attack.
Samuel Sanchez tried chasing Euskaltel glory with 5km to go, but it came back together for what looked like was going to be a mass trot to the line. Mayo slipped away with just about 300 meters to go to steal the win.
Hamilton’s result is his third top-3 finish of the spring. Team CSC’s Johnny Weltz said Hamilton is feeling good and has eyes on winning Friday’s final time trial.
“Hamilton was going for it today. He was suffering a little at the beginning of the race, but he was feeling stronger toward the end,” Weltz said. “It was a dangerous stage. If you had a bad day, you’re out of the race before it started.”
The five-day, six-stage Basque Country race continues Tuesday with the 158km second stage from Legazpi to Plencia. There are four Category 2 and Category 3 climbs over the course, but ends on the flats – if that’s possibly in the mountainous Basque Country.1. Iban Mayo (Sp), Euskaltel-Euskadi, 3:20:06
2. Angel Vicioso (Sp), ONCE-Eroski, s.t.
3. Tyler Hamilton (USA), CSC, s.t.
4. Kim Kirchen (LUX-Fassa Bortolo, s.t.
5. Igor Astarloa (Sp), Saeco, s.t.
6. Alejandro Valverde (Sp), Kelme-Costa Blanca, s.t.
7. David Etxebarria (Sp), Euskaltel-Euskadi, s.t.
8. Davide Rebellin (I), Gerolsteiner, s.t.
9. Francesco Casagrande (I), Lampre, s.t.
10. Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz),Telekom, s.t.
Ullrich set to ride
Former Tour de France winner Jan Ullrich has been granted a license to make his official return to competition in the Circuit de la Sarthe which starts Tuesday.
The UCI announced Monday that the 29-year-old German who moved recently from the Telekom team to Team Coast could saddle up for the four-day stage race.
His team chief Marcel Wüst confirmed that Ullrich would be at the race.
“Jan will be at the start line on Tuesday, Wüst said. “The UCI have given the go-ahead.”
Uncertainty had surrounded Ullrich’s return to competition due to the UCI’s investigation into his contract with Coast – which was suspended briefly last month after financial irregularities were discovered in their salaries payments to team riders.
But Ullrich’s own deal with the German outfit seems to be in order, according to the International Cycling Union (UCI).
Ullrich, who won the Tour de France in 1997 and has been runner-up four times, last competed at the Tour of Qatar in February 2002.
He then underwent two knee operations and, during his recovery period when he was not racing, tested positive for amphetamines that he apparently took at a nightclub. Ullrich was then suspended for six months and that ban ended on March 23.
Camenzind’s injuries not major
Swiss rider Oscar Carmenzind said his injuries from his fall in Sunday’s Tour of Flanders aren’t as serious as previously thought.
The 1998 world champion fell just after the feed zone and was transferred to a local hospital for observation. Carmenzind suffered a compression of the eighth dorsal vertebra and will likely miss three weeks of racing, L’Equipe reported Monday.
Armstrong makes third start this season
Four-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong won’t be hammering the cobbles this week. Instead, Armstrong will make his third start of the season at Tuesday’s Circuit de la Sarthe, a four-day stage-race in France.
The Texan rode well and without any problems at the Tour of Murcia (March 5-9), where he just missed a stage-win in the final-day ITT, and at the Setmana Catalana (March 24-28).
Armstrong is scheduled to race in the next two World Cup events, Amstel Gold on April 20 and Liege-Bastogne-Liege on April 27. Armstrong performed well in both races, finishing second twice at Liege (in 1994 and 1996) and second twice at Amstel (in 1999 and 2001).
Somarriba finds team
Spain’s top stage-racer Joane Somarriba has finally found a team for the 2003 season. The two-time winner of the Tour Feminine and the women’s Giro d’Italia has been without a team since the start of the season.
Somarriba unveiled her new team last week in Spain. The Bizkaia-Sabeco team will allow Spain’s most successful women’s racer continue at the elite level, at least through the 2003 season.
Somarriba said her top goals this season are in the major stage-races, the World Cup and the world championships in Canada on a course she called “hard and demanding.” Her top goal will be the 2004 Summer Games at Athens.
“Athens motivates me a lot. To be Olympic champion isn’t something that isn’t out of reach,” Somarriba said. “I have the maturity and experience to be among the favorites. I will prepare for the time trial even though there are chances in the road race, but that’s more like a lottery.”
Somarriba is more known for her explosive climbing abilities and is often called the Miguel Indurain of Spanish women’s racing, but has improved greatly in the race against the clock. At last year’s world championships at Zolder she finished fourth in the time trial.
Joining Somarriba on the new team will be Agurtzane Elorriaga, Aranzazu Azpiroz, Leticia Gil, Genma Pascual, Josune Murillo, Naiara y Maitane Telletxe, and Ziortza Jauregi.
Big weekend for Navs’
The Navigators capped an excellent weekend in their second European trip of the season with a win in Sunday’s GP Rennes, where the team was returning as defending champion.
Here’s how the team recounted the action in Sunday’s race: “Ciaran Power fought to keep Henk Vogels and Oleg Grishkine at the front and out of danger. Fighting in the wind, he protected the two Navigators sprinters until the final 1-½ km where he ran out of steam. Vogels kept Grishkine in tow and with 600 meters wound up the coil and exploded towards the line. Grishkine charged past at 100 meters with CCC Polstat’s Andris Naudusz and Oktos’ Jeremy Hunt on his wheel. Vogels had one quick look as they shot by and immediately threw his hands in the air, already celebrating what he knew to be obvious. Grishkine hit the line unchallenged, and joined in the celebratory salute as Naudusz took 2nd and Hunt 3rd, while Vogels coasted in for 7th.”
In Friday’s GP Adelie, Vogels finished just two seconds behind winner Sebastien Joly (Jean Delatour). Joly attacked with just 2km to go and held a narrow gap on the chasing peloton to come across the line in 4 hours, 34 minutes, 38 seconds. Vogels won the bunch sprint ahead of such names as Laurent Brochard (Ag2r), winner of the Criterium International last weekend. Cedric Vasseur (Cofidis) and Jens Voigt (Credit Agricole) came across the line fourth and fifth, respectively.
Navigators next race at Gent-Wevelgem on Wednesday and then at GP Cerami on Thursday, where the team enters that race as defending champions as well.
Results, GP Rennes (UCI 1.3)
1. Oleg Grishkine (Rus), Navigators, 157.5km 4:12:33, (44.9 kph)
2. Andris Naudzus (Lat), CCC Polsat
3. Jeremy Hunt (GBr), Oktos
4. Angelo Furlan (I), Alessio
5. Aurélien Clerc (Swi), QuickStep-Davitamon
6. Sébastien Hinault (F), Crédit Agricole
7. Henk Vogels (Aus), Navigators
8. Bradley McGee (Aus), Fdjeux.com
9. Emmanuel Magnien (F), La Boulangère
10. Jan Kirsipuu (Est), Ag2r – all same time