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By VeloNews Interactive, Copyright AFP2003
Defending champion Sergio Barbero (Lampre) won a desperately close three-way battle in the final lap to capture his third Japan Cup cycling road race title in Utsunomiya, Japan, on Sunday.
The Italian, who also won the 151.3-kilometer (94.6 mile) race here in 1999, took charge with fellow Italian Guido Trentin and Patrik Sinkewitz of Germany in the final lap of the 14.1km course north of Tokyo.
Trentin, from the French Cofidis team, spurted to the lead in the last 500 meters, but Barbero went into overdrive to snatch a narrow victory for his second title of the season in four hours, three minutes and 56 seconds.
Sinkewitz (Quick Step-Davitamon) clocked the same time for second with Trentin coming in third, just two seconds further back.
“I’m as happy as when I won my first Japan Cup, because I got a cramp in my leg on the final lap and I felt couldn’t win it. I had to compete against so many strong rivals, it was tougher than my previous races,” said Barbero.
The Japanese trio of Koji Fukushima, Daisuke Hioki and Hidenori Nodera set the early pace and they built up a lead of four and a half minutes by the end of the fifth lap.
But they were caught on the seventh lap and more than 20 cyclists competed for the lead over the rest of the race.
Italian-based Australian Michael Rogers, one of the favorites, lay second at the end of the ninth lap but faded soon after.
Barbero, 34, said he was always confident of catching the Japanese riders by the eighth or ninth lap.
“I was not so sure of winning when he (Trentin) spurted at the last 500 metres, but I felt comfortable after getting past the last uphill.
This is my last race of the season. It’s been really a long season. I’m just tired,” added Barbero.
1. Sergio Barbero (I), 4:03:56 (37.22kph),
2. Patrik Sinkewitz (G), s.t.
3. Guido Trentin (I), at 0:02
4. Felix Garcia Casas (Sp), at 0:21
5. Daniel Atienza Urendez (Sp), s.t.
6. Damiano Cunego (I), at 0:41
7. Gerrit Glomser (A), at 1:02
8. Marek Rutkiewicz (POL), at 1:03
9. Alessandro Spezialetti (I), at 1;05
10. Yasutaka Tashiro (Jp), at 1:29