By Andrew Hood
Germany’s Steffen Wesemann won the Peace Race for the fifth time of his career after finishing safely in the lead bunch in Saturday’s final stage.
Wesemann won one stage and broke apart the race when he attacked with defending Ondrej Sosenka in stage 4. Sosenka won the stage, but Wesemann grabbed the lead. He never let go and even widened his gap in Friday’s difficult climbing stage.
Saturday’s 160km flat stage from Bad Elster to Erfurt offered little chance to shake up the overall standings. Italian rider Enrico Degano (Mercatone Uno) won ahead of Rene Hasselbacher (Gerolsteiner) while Canadian Charles Dionne took fifth for Saturn.
Peace Race (UCI 2.2), Stage 9, Bad Elster to Erfurt:
1. Enrico Degano, Mercatone Uno, 160km in 4 hours, 5 minutes, 59 seconds
2. Rene Haselbacher, Gerolsteiner
3. Danilo Hondo, Telekom
4. Marcin Lewandowski, Mroz
5. Charles Dionne, Saturn – all same time
Final overall standings:
1. Steffen Wesemann, Telekom ,39 hours, 21 minutes, 43 seconds
2. Ondrej Sosenka, CCC-Polsat, at 0:49
3. Tomas Konecny, Ed ‘System-Zvvz, at 6:29
4. Jakob Piil, Team CSC, at 7:21
5. Enrico Poitschke, Wiesenhof, at 7:30
Ullrich still likely for Tour
Former Tour de France winner Jan Ullrich is lining up a return to the world’s biggest bike race as the sport’s top brass make last-minute maneuvers to include the talented German’s new Bianchi team before Monday.
The last four wild cards will be handed out by the Tour de France organization on Monday and, following the recent suspension of Ullrich’s former team, Coast, by the UCI, the 29-year-old rider is hoping to race under a new venture sponsored mainly by bike manufacturer Bianchi.
Speaking on his internet site Ullrich said the signs of Bianchi picking up the place liberated by the suspension of Coast – who were already qualified for July’s centenary Tour – were good.
“I’m happy we’ve found a solution, which means that most of the (former Coast) team will be taken on,” said the 1997 Tour winner, who has finished second in four Tours de France.
“The signs of us making it to the Tour look good, and I want to thank (Tour officials) Jean-Marie Leblanc and Daniel Baal.”
Baal, the director of cycling for the Tour, said the race, which has been dominated by Lance Armstrong for the past four years, would be happy to have Ullrich on board – as long as all the necessary paperwork is in place.
“The situation is clear. As things stand the Coast team is suspended and has lost its license,” Baal told AFP when contacted by telephone on Saturday.
“That means we have an extra place on the Tour and on Monday, when we hand out the remaining wild cards for the race, then we will know if Bianchi is included are not.
“Ullrich’s team interests us, of course, and he’s a big draw. However, his team still has to successfully complete their registration with the UCI in time, and the UCI still has to give their go-ahead once the team’s finances are presented,” added Baal.
“But yes, we’re very favorable to the inclusion of Jan Ullrich in the Tour.”
Bianchi stepped into the fold after Coast began to face financial difficulties only weeks after luring Ullrich from the mighty Telekom team.
Ullrich, who on March 23 returned from a ban for taking recreational drugs while he was out with a knee injury, is considered one of the few riders who, when fit, could threaten Armstrong.
The U.S. Postal team leader is aiming for a record-equaling fifth consecutive Tour victory this year. Spaniard Miguel Indurain is the only rider to have done so.
Asturias: Jekker clinches it
Swiss rider Fabian Jekker (Milaneza-MSS) wrapped up the overall title of the Tour of Asturias in northern Spain while teammate Angel Edo was awarded the final stage victory following the relegation of Euskaltel’s Samuel Sanchez.
Jekker attacked in Friday’s “queen’s stage” to grab the win and give Milaneza-MSS another overall title in what’s been a very strong spring season for the Portuguese team.
Meanwhile, Sanchez had already gone on the winner’s podium to receive kisses from the pretty podium girls before race judges ruled he barged Edo on the approach to the line. Edo gets the win, but didn’t get any kisses.
Tour of Asturias (UCI 2.2), stage 5, Cangas del Narcea to Oviedo:
1. Angel Edo, Milaneza-MSS, 164km in 3 hours, 59 minutes, 13 seconds
2. Alexandre Moos, Phonak
3. Pedro Lopes, L.A.-Pecol
4. Igor Pugaci, Saeco
5. Marek Rutkiewicz, Cofidis – all same time
Final overall standings:
1. Fabian Jekker (Swi), Milaneza-MSS, 20 hours, 45 minutes, 8 seconds
2. Juan Miguel Mercado (Sp), iBanesto.com, at 27 seconds
3. Hernan Buenahora (Col), O5 Orbitel, at 0:46
4. Santiago Botero (Col), Telekom, at 1:25
5. David Arroyo (Sp), ONCE at 1:33
Picardie: Hunt wins second stage
British sprinter Jeremy Hunt (MBK-Oktos) took Saturday’s 189km second stage and bounced into the overall lead over the Tour of Picardie.
The race concludes with two stages Sunday, a morning road race and an afternoon time trial. With the time differences in the overall so small and the likelihood of another sprint in the morning road stage, the afternoon time trial is expected to decide the winner.
Tour of Picardie (UCI 2.2), Stage 2, Amiens to Laon:
1. Jeremy Hunt, MBK-Oktos, 189km in 4 hours, 21 minutes, 24 seconds
2. Stefan Van Dijk, Lotto-Domo
3. Julian Dean, Team CSC
4. Baden Cook, Fdjeux.com
5. Robert Hunter, Rabobank – all same time
Overall standings after two stages:
1. Jeremy Hunt, MBK-Oktos, 7 hours, 37 minutes, 4 seconds
2. Aurelien Clerc, Quick.Step-Davitamon, at 0:01
3. Robert Hunter, Rabobank, at 0:05
4. Stefan Van Dijk, Lotto-Domo, at 0:07
5. Julian Dean, Team CSC, at 0:08