By Andrew Hood
The Tour of Aragon seemed stuck on rewind for Sunday’s final stage. Leonardo Piepoli finished safely in the middle of the bunch sprint to wrap up his third overall title while Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo) finished at the front of the mass gallop to win his third stage of the week.
Piepoli won Wednesday’s opening stage up the Category 1 summit finish to Cerler and saluted to the heavens with three fingers held high. The rest of the week became nothing more than a defensive battle for iBanesto.com to keep a lid on things until everyone arrived to Zaragoza for the final stage.
Winds that normally break apart the peloton in the flats along the Rio Ebro near Zaragoza weren’t nearly as fierce this year as in year’s past, so Piepoli had an even easier go. Piepoli’s win sets a new record for the race and it also marks the first stage-race win of the season for Banesto.
Jan Ullrich (Coast) didn’t start Sunday’s final stage to travel to the Tour of Cologne in what will be the troubled German’s first race in his home country in more than a year. Ullrich rode steady throughout Aragon and feels so good he’ll also race in Wednesday’s Fleche Wallone as he continues to regain his form for July’s Tour de France.
Taking second was Saeco’s Gilberto Simoni, who looks strong going into May’s Giro d’Italia. Up next for the 2001 Giro winner is the Tour of Trentino starting Thursday in what’s his “hometown” race.
Marco Pantani (Mercatone Uno) was the other big name racing at Aragon and finished 32nd at more than two minutes in arrears. Pantani faded to Cerler but finished in the top-10 in some bunch sprints.
Sunday’s win for Petacchi is his third stage-win of the race. Petacchi had no trouble squirting ahead of David Fernandez (Relax) and Jan Svorada (Lampre), who came across to take third in the bunch sprint.
Stage 5, La Muela to Zaragoza
1. Alessandro Petacchi (I), Fassa Bortolo, 3:42:54
2. David Fernandez (Sp), Relax
3. Jan Svorada (Cz), Lampre
4. Alexandre Usov (Blr), Phonak
5. Angel Edo (Sp), Milaneza-MSS
6. Laurent Brochard (F), Ag2r
7. Ricardo Serrano (Sp), Labarca2
8. Isaac Galvez (Sp), Kelme
9. Alejandro Valverde (Sp), Kelme
10. Francisco Gutierrez (Sp), Labarca2 – all same timeFinal overall standings
1. Leonardo Piepoli (I), iBanesto.com, 20 hours, 2 minutes, 3 seconds
2. Gilberto Simoni (I), Saeco, at 24 seconds
3. Manuel Beltran (Sp), Coast, at 26 seconds
4. Jose Jufre (Sp), Relax, at 34 seconds
5. Carlos Garcia Quesada (Sp), Kelme, at 48 seconds
6. Juan Carlos Dominguez (Sp), Phonak, at 54 seconds
7. Fabian Jeker (Swi), Milaneza-MSS, at 55 seconds
8. Vladimir Karpets (Rus), iBanesto.com, at 56 seconds
9. Francisco Mancebo (Sp), iBanesto.com, at 58 seconds
10. Jorge Ferrio (Sp), Paternina, at 58 seconds