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Italy’s Danilo Di Luca (Saeco) won the 169km fourth stage of the Tour of Murcia in Collado Bermejo on Saturday.
The stage finished with a climb up the Marco Pantani Hill, named in honor of the Italian cyclist who died last month, and as Di Luca crossed the line he pointed his finger towards the sky in memory of his compatriot to claim the stage in 4:25:34.
Di Luca overtook Alejandro Valverde (Kelme), Australia’s Cadel Evans (T-Mobile) and compatriot Leonardo Piepoli (Saunier Duval) to win the stage; for his part, Valverde stripped the leader’s jersey from compatriot Ivan Gutierrez (Illes Balears), who finished 52 seconds behind.
Five-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong (U.S. Postal) crossed in 36th position, 6:12 off the pace, and dropped from second overall to 24th overall. The man seen as his leading rival for a sixth Tour de France crown this summer, Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile), finished nearly 16 minutes back in 57th position.
The shaven-headed Piepoli had tried for a solitary break to pay homage to Pantani, attacking at the foot of the final climb some 9km from the line, but was joined by De Luca, Valverde and Evans with 2km to go leading to a sprint for the line.
Valverde leads Gutierrez by five seconds and Evans by nine going into Sunday’s 133km final stage around Murcia.
Stage 4 results
1. Danilo Di Luca (I), Saeco), 169km in 4:25:34 (38.1 km/h)
2. Alejandro Valverde (Sp), Kelme, s.t.
3. Cadel Evans (Aus), T-Mobile, s.t.
4. Leonardo Piepoli (I), Saunier Duval, s.t.
5. Antonio Martin Perdiguero (Sp), Saunier Duval, at 0:51
6. José Miguel Elias (Sp), Relax-Bodysol, at 0:52
7. José Angel Gomez (Sp), Costa Almeria-Paternina, s.t.
8. José Ivan Gutierrez (Sp), Illes Balears, s.t.
9. Ruben Plaza (Sp), Kelme, s.t.
10. Eugeni Petrov (Rus), Saeco, s.t.
36. Lance Armstrong (USA), (U.S. Postal), at 6:12
57. Jan Ullrich (G), T-Mobile, at 15:55
1. Alejandro Valverde (Sp), Kelme), 12:45:15
2. José Ivan Gutierrez (Sp), Illes Balears, at 0:05
3. Cadel Evans (Aus), T-Mobile, at 0:09
4. Ruben Plaza (Sp), Kelme, at 0:40
5. Eugeni Petrov (Rus), Saeco, at 0:57
6. Antonio Colom (Sp), Illes Balears, at 1:23
7. David Cañada (Sp), Saunier Duval, at 1:33
8. Javier Pascual Rodriguez (Sp), Kelme, at 1:39
9. José Miguel Elias (Sp), Relax-Bodysol, at 2:00
10. José Antonio Martin Perdiguero (Sp), Saunier Duval, at 2:01
24. Lance Armstrong (USA), U.S. Postal, at 5:54
72. Jan Ullrich (G), T-Mobile, at 24:18
Kirsipuu wins stage in Record Dreidaagse
Estonian Jaan Kirsipuu (AG2R) sprinted to victory Saturday in the 192.km second stage of the Record Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen, which began and ended in Handzame.
Kirsipuu, winner of last year’s race, outsped the Italian Fabrizio Guidi (Team CSC) and Switzerland’s Aurélien Clerc (Quick Step-Davitamon). The German Robert Bartko (Rabobank) retained his grip on the overall. Bartko, a double Olympic champion, won Friday’s 7.6km prologue in Bellegem.
On Sunday, the riders face a 182km stage that begins and ends in Ichtegem, covering Zwarteberg, Rodeberg, Monteberg and the Kemmel Mount.
Belgian Tom Steels (Landbouwkrediet) did not start Saturday’s stage because of health problems.
Stage 2 results
1. Jaan Kirsipuu (Est), AG2R, 179km in 4:32:22
2. Fabrizio Guidi (I), Team CSC, same time
3. Aurélien Clerc (Swi), Quick Step-Davitamon, s.t.
4. Roy Sentjens (Ned), Rabobank, s.t.
5. Jans Koerts (Ned), Chocolade Jacques, s.t.
1. Robert Bartko (G), Rabobank, 4:41:40
2. Kurt-Asle Arvesen (Nor), Team CSC, at 0:13
3. Servais Knaven (Ned), Quick Step-Davitamon, at 0:16
4. Frank Hoj (Den), Team CSC, at 0:19
5. Nico Mattan (B), Relax-Bodysol, at 0:22
Rapinski hospitalized with kidney injury
Navigators’ Viktor Rapinski, who suffered a blow to the kidneys during a crash in the Memorial Samyn-Fayt-le-Franc last Wednesday in Belgium, has been diagnosed with some internal bleeding and will remain hospitalized through the weekend, according to the team.
Once released from the hospital, Rapinsky will return to Belarus for recovery, but team spokesmen said it was too early to know how long he’ll be out of competition.
Museeuw to skip Paris-Nice
Belgium’s “Lion of Flanders,” Johan Museeuw, has decided not to race in Paris-Nice, the first major stage race of the season, it was announced on Saturday.
The 38-year-old 1996 world champion has a back problem, and his place in the Quick Step team will be taken by Dutchman Bram Tankink for the race, which gets under way on Sunday.
“It would not be fair to get him to race when the doctor has told him to take two days’ rest,” said the team’s sporting director, Wilfried Peeters. “Even if the Paris-Nice is a race we regard as very important.”
Peeters added that Museeuw, whose aim is to win a 12th World Cup race in what will be his final season, had suffered a relapse on Friday.
“Johan is disappointed,” he said. “(But) he does not want to risk compromising his schedule for the season.” –Copyright 2004/AFP