By Andrew Hood
A day after losing a stage by inches in the Tour of Aragon, Spanish rider Oscar Laguna (Relax-Bodysol) got it right in Saturday’s 192km fourth stage from Huesca to La Muela.
Laguna, who lost to compatriot Constantino Zaballa (Saunier Duval) in a photo-finish Friday into Sabiñanigo, nipped Colombian rider Ivan Parra (CV-Kelme) to take his team’s first win of the 2004 season.
Laguna and Parra were the only survivors out of a seven-man break that split away early in Saturday’s relatively flat stage. The hard-working main bunch slowly picked off the break, but the two stayed away. Parra started the sprint, but Laguna came around him to grab the victory.
Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo) thought he won the stage as he led the main bunch across the line 30 seconds back. Russian Denis Menchov (Illes Balears) retained the overall lead after coming in with the main group and only faces Sunday’s 149km final stage into Zaragoza before claiming the overall title.
49th Tour of Aragon (SPA 2.2), Stage 4, Huesca to La Muela, 192km
1. Oscar Laguna (Sp), Relax-Bodysol, 4:31:13
2. Ivan Parra (Col), CV-Kelme, same time
3. Alessandro Petacchi (I), Fassa Bortolo, at 0:30
4. Massimo Strazzer (I), Saunier Duval
5. Santi Perez (Sp), Phonak – all same time
Overall after four stages
1. Denis Menchov (Rus), Illes Balears, 12:25:09
2. Stefano Garzelli (I), Vini Caldirola, at 0:04
3. Leonardo Piepoli (I), Saunier Duval, at 0:06
4. Koldo Gil (Sp), Liberty Seguros, at 0:08
5. Francesco Mancebo (Sp), Illes Balears, at 0:45
Saeco publicly chastises Pieri
Dario Pieri, the big Italian classics rider who suffered through this year’s Paris-Roubaix after finishing second last year, got a public dressing down from his Saeco team.
Team officials were incensed that Pieri was making statements to the Italian press that his life was in danger following a cyst that became infected during this year’s classics. Saeco officials released a strong public statement calling the Italian unfit and unprofessional.
Here is a copy of the statement released by the team Friday:
“Regarding the news published in the press regarding the physical problems of rider Dario Pieri the day after Paris-Roubaix and of the declarations given by the rider, Team Saeco wants to precisely explain their position.
1.) The behavior of Dario Pieri has to be considered absolutely instrumental. Amplifying the size of the operation he has undergone, even speaking about a risk to his life, indicates that he intended to hide the real nature of the problem instead of assuming his responsibilities.
2.) From the beginning of the season during the first team training camps, the team has notified Dario Pieri that he was over weight due to the poor managing of his diet and of a general damaging lifestyle not suited to the needs of a professional cyclist. For this reason Pieri has been verbally warned several times and a sent a registered letter by team manager Claudio Corti on March 22.
3.) During the winter and the spring has been distracted by non-cycling events and has trained insufficiently and did not work to resolve a saddle sore problem that affected him in 2003. By not treating the problem correctly, the infection returned and was worsened by his extra weight.
4.) It is important to note that Dario Pieri first signaled the return of the problem during the Three Days of La Panne_ race and was immediately assisted by the medical staff of the team and advised to take a course of anti-inflammatory medicine with localized compresses.
5.) Team doctor Dr Pallini who was in Belgium with the team is able to confirm that Pieri only minimally followed the treatment even though he was repeatedly asked to work with the doctor.
6.) Even on the eve of the Tour of Flanders race, the rider noted that things had improved and that he would be able to race as planned without difficulty.
7.) With our doctors not having noticed an abnormal evolution of the inflammation or the rider having shown signs of worry, his participation at Paris-Roubaix was never questioned, even though the team staff knew that his precarious fitness would not have allowed Pieri to be competitive. It is also important to underline that a swollen saddle sore problem is normal for most riders in the 48/72 hours following the Paris-Roubaix race.
“The sensational declarations made by Dario Pieri seem mainly a strategy to distract attention away from the real problem of this rider: his incapacity to lead the life style of a true professional rider.
“The lack of an adequate level of fitness has previously made him create improbable excuses such as when he retired after 100km at the Gent-Wevelgem race claiming he had a bike problem that was later proved to be untrue.
“At this moment in time it is clear that Team Saeco ¬believing to have acted correctly, will demand that Pieri accept full responsibility for his affirmations, reserving every right to make decisions regarding his contractual position with the team.”
— Gaggio Montano, April 16, 2004
Jaksche crashes out before Amstel start
Paris-Nice champion Jörg Jaksche (CSC) will be out at least 10 days after cracking his left elbow in a training ride Saturday and won’t start Sunday’s Amstel Gold Race.
The German rider, who just returned to action following a three-week break after winning Paris-Nice, evidently ran into a Quick Step team rider near the team hotel and fell hard on his left arm after coming back from a training ride.
“I wasn’t going fast at all, but was totally unprepared and I landed directly on my arm. At first we didn’t think it was serious, but went to the hospital just in case,” Jaksche was quoted on Team CSC’s web page. “Even though it’s a minor fracture, it means I have to take a very badly timed involuntary break.”
Jaksche, who barnstormed to victory in Tour Mediterranean and Paris-Nice this spring, will also miss Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Tour of Romandie.
Bettini ready for Amstel
Two-time defending World Cup champion Paolo Bettini says he’s motivated for Sunday’s Amstel Gold Race. The Italian missed the Dutch classic after crashing in last year’s Gent-Wevelgem.
“This time last year I was at home with an arm and shoulder support after a fall during the Gent-Wevelgem,” Bettini said in a press release from his Quick Step team.
“During this week I’ve trained well with my teammates Paolini and Bramati who joined me in Tuscany for a brief training stage along with our team trainer Luca Guercilena and masseur Stefano Cerea. We did some intense training with sessions lasting even up to 7.5 hours. I am feeling good.
“We’ll have to watch out for the Dutch riders, especially those of the Rabobank team. The Amstel Gold Race is like the world championships for them. There are also lots of others to compete with, too. As always, this will be a very tough race that is hard to forecast the winner”
Quick Step for AGR: Paolo Bettini, Davide Bramati, Pedro Horrillo, Luca Paolini, Michael Rogers, Bram Tankink, Jurgen Van Goolen and Stefano Zanini
Van Dijk takes Scheldeboorden
Stefan van Dijk (Lotto-Domo) won Saturday’s 189km GP Scheldeboorden race in Belgium, taking a 13-up sprint against the lead group of escapees that dominated the finale. Van Dijk, a winner in 2002, edged Dennis Kraft (Action) to take the victory. Borut Bozic (Perutnina Ptuj) came through third.
GP Scheldeboorden (BEL 1.3), 189km
1. Stefan Van Dijk (Ned), Lotto-Domo, 4:18:00
2. Dennis Kraft (G), Action
3. Borut Bozic (Slo), Perutnina Ptuj
4. Kevin Van Der Slagmolen (B), Vlaanderen-T Interim
5. Anthony Geslin (F), Brioches la Boulangère – all same time
Forster repeats in Groningen
German rider Robert Forster (Gerolsteiner) won Saturday’s Groningen-Munster race in Holland. Forster also won the title last year.