By VeloNews Interactive wire services, Copyright AFP2001
Iban Mayo ( Euskaltel Euskadi) achieved his first career win by taking the final overall victory of the Grand Prix Midi Libre, following the end of the sixth and final stage as the race concluded in Sete Sunday.
The 23-year-old, who only turned professional last year, had an overall 35 second advantage on stage winner and former champion here Benoit Salmon of France following the final run between Florac and Sete.
Mayo, a virtual unknown, set a cracking pace under the blazing sun and was in second position following the double climb of 12 percent incline of Mont Saint-Clair.
But French veteran Laurent Jalabert, who won here in 1996, led a long break away leading by more than three minutes at one time and along with compatriot Salmon ensured a stunning race finish.
Salmon covered the 208.5km in 4hr 51min 15sec, coming in six seconds ahead of Mayo with Alexandre Vinokurov of Kazakhstan in third at 21sec. “I was horrified when I saw Jalabert take such a lead,” said Mayo.
“But I was sure I had the thing in the bag when I caught Salmon and Jalabert on the descent, even when with 400m to go and I was shattered I could see the final victory,” added Mayo, voted best young Spanish cyclist in 1999.
Salmon felt he could have won but for a stomach complaint. “I was sick on Friday night and hardly slept, otherwise I might have had a greater impact in the overall standings,” he said, and considering he ended second it’s safe to presume he meant he would have won.
But Salmon had kind words for Mayo. “He’s a great racer, I’ve never heard of him but the lad has a certain panache.”
The 32-year-old Jalabert ended eighth on the day and fourth overall but was feeling the pinch of old father time Sunday.
“I just didn’t have the strength, my only chance was to break from way back. I don’t regret that at all. I didn’t exactly make a fool of myself,” explained the veteran.
1. Be.noit Salmon (F), AG2R 4:51:15; 2. Iban Mayo (Sp), at 06sec; 3. Alexandre Vinokurov (Kaz), at 0:21; 4. Christophe Moreau (F), at 0:21; 5. Christophe Rinero (F), at 0:30; 6. Laurent Lefevre (F), at 0:32; 7. Didier Rous (F), at 0:32; 8. Laurent Jalabert (F), at 0:42; 9. Francisco Mancebo (Sp), at 0:42; 10. Francois Simon (F), at 0:44; 11. Aitor Osa (Sp), at 0:44; 12. Sylvain Chavanel (F), at 0:53; 13. Andrei Teteriouk (Kaz), at 1:11; 14. Volodymir Gustov (Ukr), at 1:14; 15. Stephane Goubert (F), at 1:14; 16. Xavier Jan (F), at 1:18; 17. Thorwald Veneberg (Ned), at 1:27; 18. Patrice Halgand (F), at 1:43; 19. Benoit Poilvet(F), at 2:00; 20. Paolo Tiralongo(I), at 2:19.
Retired: Erik Dekker (Ned); Angel Casero (Sp).
Did not start: Frank Vandenbroucke (Bel); Stephane Heulot (F).
1. Iban Mayo (Sp), Euskaltel-Euskadi 24hr 06min 35sec; 2. Benoit Salmon (F), at 35sec; 3. Christophe Moreau (F), at 1:02; 4. Laurent Jalabert (F), at 1:34; 5. Andrei Teteriouk (Kaz), at 1:55; 6. Alexandre Vinokurov (Kaz), at 2:17; 7. Didier Rous (F), at 2:39; 8. Laurent Lefevre (F), at 2:45; 9. Francisco Mancebo (F), at 3:05; 10. Francois Simon (F), at 3:10; 11. Andrei Kivilev (Kaz), at 3:24; 12. Sylvain Chavanel (F), at 3:56; 13. Benoit Poilvet (F), at 4:28; 14. Aitor Osa (Sp), at 4:31; 15. Thorwald Veneberg (Ned), at 4:49; 16. Jonathan Vaughters (USA), at 5:01; 17. Xavier Jan (F), at 5:13; 18. Loic Lamouller (F), at 5:25; 19. Christophe Rinero (F), at 5:38; 20. Udo Bolts (G), at 5:49.