By Andrew Hood
Paolo Bettini (Quick Step) scored a victory in the penultimate stage of the Tour de Suisse on a rainy day that saw Fabian Jeker (Saunier Duval) widen his lead going into Sunday’s time-trial finale.
Bettini was part an early break that chugged away from the main pack early in the hilly stage, which pushed south into Switzerland’s Italian-speaking region of Ticino. The break dwindled, and Bettini dropped compatriot Alessandro Cortinovis and Switzerland’s Patrick Calcagni with 5km to go to claim the stage win in the 191km stage from Buchs to Bellinzone.
“This is the first time in my career that I arrived alone to the finish line. I wanted to honor the Italian jersey for the last time,” said Bettini, who won’t start Sunday’s stage. “Since the first stage of this Tour de Suisse, I’ve been trying to win. The condition improved day by day. Next weekend I’ll take part in the Italian championship and then the Tour de France, where I would like to win a stage.”
Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile), who forfeited his overall lead to Jeker after Friday’s seventh stage, dropped another nine seconds after a crash disrupted his sprint to the line. But the 1997 Tour champion bounced into second overall after Georg Totschnig (Gerolsteiner) dropped to third at 50 seconds back after finishing 41st.
Jeker finished 12th and pulled away from Ullrich on the 4km descent into the finish, which was made even trickier with a downpour that hit the racers toward the end of the stage.
The Swiss tour concludes Sunday with a 25.6km time trial around Lugano. It will be an important test to see whether Ullrich can erase his 41-second gap on Jeker and snatch the victory.
American Bobby Julich (CSC) finished 19th at 3:32 back; Tom Danielson (Fassa Bortolo) did not finish.
68th Tour de Suisse (SWI 2.HC), Stage 8, Buchs to Bellinzone, 191km
1. Paolo Bettini (Ita), Quick Step 4:30:25
2. Patrick Calcagni (Swi), Vini Caldirola, at 1:04
3. Kim Kirchen (Lux), Fassa Bortolo, at 1:53
4. Santiago Perez Fernandez (Spa), Phonak, st.
5. Juan Fuentes Angullo (Spa), Saeco, at 2:27
19. Bobby Julich (USA), CSC, at 3:32
DNF – Tom Danielson (USA), Fassa Bortolo
Overall (after eight stages)
1. Fabian Jeker (Swi), Saunier Duval-Prodir, 29:13:24
2. Jan Ullrich (Ger), T-Mobile, at 0:41
3. Georg Totschnig (Aut), Gerolsteiner, at 0:50
4. Dario Cioni (Ita), Fassa Bortolo, at 0:51
5. Jose Maria Del Olmo (Spa) Milaneza Maia, at 0:53
16. Bobby Julich (USA), CSC, at 6:31
Max tops Davis in Cataluyna
Dutch rider Max Van Heeswijk (U.S. Postal Service) edged Aussie Alan Davis (Liberty Seguros) to win Saturday’s seventh stage at the 84th Volta a Cataluyna. Miguel Angel Martin Perdiguero (Saunier Duval) widened his lead by taking third place and a four-second time bonus.
The stage opened slowly until 20 riders slipped away at about 75km into the race. Among them was Alejandro Valverde (Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme), the Spanish rider who entered the race as a favorite but never was a presence this week.
The break never got more than two minutes away when U.S. Postal, Gerolsteiner and Saunier Duval collaborated to bring it back with 25km to go to set up the sprint.
With 1km remaining, Luis Perez (Cofidis) tried in vain to slip away, but Van Heeswijk held off the Aussie to score the win and take revenge for Friday’s lost opportunity when the Posties were misdirected in the final kilometers.
Martin Perdiguero, a winner of three stages, only must endure Sunday’s hilly 132km final stage from Olesa de Montserrat to Barcelona before securing the overall title.
84th Volta a Cataluyna (SPA 2.HC), Stage 6, Blanes to Vallirana, 148km
1. Max Van Heeswijk (Ned), U.S. Postal Service, 3:06:03
2. Allan Davis (Aus), Liberty Seguros, s.t.
3. Miguel Angel Martin Perdiguero (Spa), Saunier Duval-Prodir, at 0:01
4. Danilo Hondo (Ger), Gerolsteiner
5. David Herrero (Spa), Costa Almeria-Paternina, s.t.
30. Michael Barry (Can), U.S. Postal, s.t.
59. Christian Vande Velde (USA), Liberty Seguros, at 0:24
Overall (after six stages)
1. Miguel Angel Martin Perdiguero (Spa) Saunier Duval, at 14:35:55
2. Vladimir Karpets (Rus), Illes Balears-Banesto, at 0:28
3. Roberto Laiseka (Spa), Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 0:41
4. David Latasa (Spa), Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme, at 1:00
5. Eladio Jimenez (Spa), Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme, at 1:19
24. Michael Barry (Can), U.S. Postal, 6:44
46. Christan Vande Velde (USA), Liberty Seguros, at 12:03
Moreni takes Sud opener
Christian Moreni (Alessio) took a solo victory in the 228km opener of the Route du Sud, held over the next four days in the Pyrénées. Moreni chugged away from Sandar Casar (FDJeux.com) late to win the stage from Castres to Vielha, Spain.
Sunday’s 141km second stage starts in Spain, in Lès, and ends in St. Gaudens back in France; it should favor any sprinters hungry to test their legs. Monday’s third stage is a 23km individual time trial over a rolling course, while Tuesday’s finale should decide the winner, hitting several rated climbs including the Col du Peyresourde and the Col d’Aspin.
Americans have done well at the race, with Jonathan Vaughters winning in 1999 and Levi Leipheimer (Rabobank) winning in 2002.
Nuyens takes over in Holland
Nick Nuyens (Quick Step) snatched victory and the overall lead in Saturday’s third stage of the Ster Elektrotoer race in Holland.
Nuyens was part of a four-man break that slipped away from the main bunch in the hilly 200km stage from Coo to La Gileppe. Jakob Piil (CSC) was the best-placed rider in the break, but crashed twice to open the door for Nuyens.
Overnight leader Tom Boonen (Quick Step) saw his lead evaporate after the break stayed away. Michael Boogerd (Rabobank) moved into second at 19 seconds back.
“Jens Voigt and Kurt-Asle Arvesen were in the second group with Michael Boogerd, Tom Boonen and Laurent Brochard, but just as Boogerd launched another attack, Jens crashed, so you can safely say it wasn’t our day today,” Andersen concluded.
The good news was that despite the spills none of the riders were seriously injured.