By Andrew Hood
Brad McGee (Fdjeux.com) edged two-time world champion Oscar Freire (Rabobank) to claim the sixth and final stage of the 43rd Tour of Holland while U.S. Postal’s Viatcheslav Ekimov secured overall victory.
McGee, who won the prologue in the 2003 Tour de France and held the yellow jersey for three days, was part of a six-man break that peeled away late in the hilly, difficult conclusion to the five-day, six-stage Dutch tour.
Ekimov didn’t miss the move in the Limburg region of southern Holland and finished sixth in the sprint to secure the overall title, his first stage-race victory since winning the Three Days of De Panne in 2000.
Ekimov, 37, has had an impressive season. The veteran Russian finished third at Paris-Roubaix in April and helped Lance Armstrong win a record-tying fifth Tour.
The reigning Olympic time trial champion won Thursday’s time trial to claim the overall lead. Riders were on the attack in Saturday’s finale, and Ekimov was strong enough to follow the move. Ekimov has come close to winning the Dutch tour before, finishing second in 1995 and 1998 and third in 1996.
Six riders – McGee, Ekimov, Freire, Xavier Florencio (ONCE), Sergei Gontchar (De Nardi-Colpack) and Michael Boogerd (Rabobank) – shook free with about 15km to go. Ekimov easily followed the move to take the final victory. McGee moved into second overall and Gontchar into third, respectively.
43rd Tour of Holland (UCI 2.1), Stage 6, Sittard-Geleen to Landgraaf, 214km
1. Brad McGee (Aus), Fdjeux.com 5 hours, 19 minutes, 20 seconds (40.19 kph)
2. Oscar Freire (Sp), Rabobank
3. Xavier Florencio (Sp), ONCE
4. Sergei Gontchar (Ukr), De Nardi-Colpack
5. Michael Boogerd (Ned), Rabobank
6. Viatcheslav Ekimov (Rus), USPS — all same time
Overall final standings
1. Ekimov 20 hours, 41 minutes, 48 seconds
2. McGee, at 0:25
3. Gontchar, at 0:34
4. Fabian Cancellara (Swi), Fassa Bortolo, at 0:37
5. Florencio, at 0:44
Men take on Plouay on Sunday
Sunday brings the GP Ouest France Plouay, the pride of France’s cycling-crazed Brittany region, which draws tens of thousands of fans for a weekend of racing that includes a women’s World Cup, among other races.
Sunday’s men’s race will cover 14 laps of a 14km course for a 198km test over rolling hills, windy flats and potentially horrendous weather.
Last year’s winner Jeremy Hunt will be back, but with a new team (he raced last year with Big Mat, this year with MBK-Oktos). Other pre-race favorites include a who’s who of sprinters, including Baden Cooke (Fdjeux.com), Robbie McEwen (Lotto-Domo), Jean-Patrick Nazon (Jean Delatour), Julian Dean (CSC), Stuart O’Grady and Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole), Giovanni Lombardi (Domina Vacanze) and Stefano Zanini (Saeco).
The hilly course doesn’t necessarily guarantee a bunch sprint and the French-heavy peloton will be doing all it can to deliver the host-nation victory.
Moreni edges all-star cast
Alessio’s Cristian Moreni edged an all-star field in Saturday’s 75th Giro dello Veneto to win the one-day race in northern Italy.
Moreni, a winner of a stage in the Regio Tour earlier this month and second at the Coppa Agostoni earlier this week, edged compatriot Michele Bartoli (Fassa Bortolo) to claim the victory.
Moreni was part of an eight-man break that also include Danilo Di Luca (Saeco), former world champion Oscar Carmenzind (Phonak) and Bartoli and Ivan Basso (both of Fassa Bortolo).
75th Giro del Veneto (UCI 1.1), 199km
1. Cristian Moreni (I), Alessio 4 hours, 56 minutes, 56 seconds (40.47 kph)
2. Michele Bartoli (I), Fassa Bortolo
3. Danilo Di Luca (I), Saeco
4. Oscar Carmenzind (Swi), Phonak
5. Massimiliano Gentili (I), Domina Vacanze – all same time