By Andrew Hood
Fassa Bortolo’s Alessandro Petacchi easily won Thursday’s second stage of the Tour of Aragon in Spain, scoring his fourth win of the season. Leonardo Piepoli (iBanesto.com) safely finished in the front group to retain the overall lead in the five-day stage-race in northern Spain.
Scores of riders tried to escape in the final 20km coming into Sabinanigo, but Banesto, Fassa and Euskaltel worked to keep things together. Petacchi had a nice set-up and bolted across the line with both arms in full victory salute a full bike length ahead of Angel Edo (Milaneza-MSS).
Petacchi safely negotiated the Category 1 climb with 48km to go that split the peloton and only 69 riders came in for the bunch gallop, including all the favorites for final victory. Pedro Lobato (Paternina) slipped away late and almost made it, but was sucked up by the peloton with just under 1km to go.
“I didn’t know if I could get over this col with the lead group. We worked hard because we didn’t have any riders in a break,” Petacchi said. “The final kilometers were difficult, but I believe I did OK despite feeling bad in the final kilometer.”
Three of Petacchi’s four wins this season have come in Spain. He also won Luis Puig and the final stage of the Tour of Valencia and a stage at Paris-Nice before getting the flu just before Milan-San Remo.
The overall standings remained unchanged following Monday’s climbing finish to Cerler and Piepoli remained comfortably in the lead. The Tour of Aragon continues with Friday’s third stage on a circuit course in Illueca with a Category 1 with 45km to go.
Vuelta a Aragon, Stage 2, Benasque to Sabinanigo
1. Alessandro Petacchi (I), Fassa Bortolo, 185km in 4 hours, 17 minutes, 20 seconds
2. Angel Edo (Sp), Milaneza
3. Fabiano Fontanelli (I), Mercatone Uno
4. Mikel Artetxe (Sp), Euskaltel
5. Marco Pantani (I), Mercatone Uno
6. Josu Silloniz (Sp), Euskaltel
7. Ricardo Serrano (Sp), Labarca 2
8. Unai Elorriaga (Sp), Labarca 2
9. Francisco Mancebo (Sp), iBanesto.com
10. Laurent Brochard (F), Ag2r – all same timeOverall standings after Stage 21. Leonardo Piepoli (I), iBanesto.com, 8:17:56
2. Gilberto Simoni (I), Saeco, at 24 seconds
3. Manuel Beltran (Sp), Coast, at 26 seconds
4. Jose Jufre (Sp), Relax), at 39 seconds
5. Carlos Garcia (Sp), Kelme, at 48 seconds
6. Vladimir Karpets (Rus), iBanesto.com, at 56 seconds
7. Fabian Jeker (Swi), Milaneza-MSS, 57.
8. Francisco Mancebo (Sp), iBanesto.com, at 58 seconds
9. Juan Carlos Dominguez (Sp), Phonak, s.t.
10. Klaus Moller (Dk), Milaneza
Van Heeswijk ready to help Armstrong
Max Van Heeswijk has stepped up nicely throughout the classics for the U.S. Postal Service with George Hincapie sidelined with health problems, finishing second at Het Volk among other strong results.
A late crash took him out of contention at Sunday’s Paris-Roubaix. Despite a banged-up elbow and shoulder, he says he’s ready to help Lance Armstrong in this weekend’s Amstel Gold.
“I hope to help Lance a lot but I also heard Johan Bruyneel say, ‘No, you also can do your race because you can do well,’” Van Heeswijk told Eurosport. “But it’s a little bit hard for me, 38 climbs is a lot.”
Armstrong makes his classics debut Sunday and course changes for Amstel Gold favor the four-time Tour de France champion. Instead of finishing on the flats in Maastricht, this year’s race finishes atop the short, but steep Cauberg climb with ramps as steep as eight percent.
Armstrong, however, pulled out sick during last week’s Circuit de la Sarthe with a stomach bug. Armstrong’s twice finished second at Amstel Gold and has finished in the lead group three out of the past four years, so the Texan will be among the favorites for Sunday’s fourth stop of the World Cup series.
“I don’t know what his condition is but the race is perfect for him,” Van Heeswijk said. “My goal is to help Lance get as close as possible. The other years I was always helping Johan Museeuw and Michele Bartoli with Mapei. Now I’m a leader who has to do the race. That’s a big difference. Before, I’d be putting somebody out of the wind, bringing some water bottles. Now they’re doing it for me.”
Doping news from UCI
Russian rider Faat Zakirov, who was suspended from last year’s Giro d’Italia for doping, has been handed a one-year ban plus a one-year suspended ban by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), the UCI announced Thursday.
Italian rider Stefano Zanini, who had been suspected of doping at the Giro the previous year (2001), has been acquitted by CAS.
Zakirov, 29, will be suspended until 22 October, 2003. He was one of the first cyclists to test positive for Aranesp – a banned substance, otherwise known as darbepoietin, which mimics the effects of banned endurance enhancer EPO (erythropoietin).
Darbepoietin was the drug which brought the Salt Lake City winter Olympics into disrepute last year when two Russian and one Spanish cross country skier tested positive.
Zakirov, formerly of the Panaria team, tested positive prior to the start of the Giro prologue when an anti-doping blitz was launched on the peloton in Groningen (Netherlands).
Meanwhile Zanini, 34, was one of the riders snared in 2001 when Italy’s anti-drugs brigade raided team hotels in San Remo looking for proof of doping. The anti-doping commission of the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) had requested a one-year ban for Zanini last May.
Two other riders were also sanctioned by CAS: German Markus Koob, 25, who tested positive at the Tour of Hesse and was banned for nine months (until October 31), and Lithuanian Arnoldas Saprikynias, 29, who is suspended for two years until September 27, 2004 after his positive test at the Tour d’Alentejo last July.-Copyright AFP2003