By Andrew Hood
Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo) was the easy winner in Thursday’s 167kmsecond stage in the Tour of Aragon in Spain. Russian Denis Menchov (IllesBalears), winner of Wednesday’s climbing stage, easily retained the leader’sjersey in the sunny day in the saddle.Petacchi won by two bike lengths ahead of Massimo Strazzer (SaunierDuval) in the Italian’s first victory since his dramatic breakdown in lastmonth’s Milan-San Remo.“I’m very happy to win today,” Petacchi said. “Illes Balears helpedus control the stage and my team worked perfectly for me in the sprint.The team said this was a stage for me and I’m glad I could earn the victory.It’s important for my morale going into the Giro.”Following Wednesday’s difficult climbing stage to the summit finishat Valdelinares ski area, Thursday’s rolling stage was tailored for Petacchi.Three riders peeled away at 45km, built up an five-minute lead at 80kmbut were reeled in with just over 10km to go.Illes Balears helped reel in a breakaway to set up the sprint to conserveMenchov’s hold on the leader’s jersey. Stefano Garzelli (Vini Caldirola),second overall at four seconds back, tried his luck in the sprint to takefifth after making a run to earn back some finish-line time bonuses.“Tranquil? It’s never tranquil when you’re in the leader’s jersey. There’salways pressure,” said Menchov, a winner last week at the Tour of the BasqueCountry. “I’ve progressed a lot this year. I worked hard over the winterand my experience and sacrifice my first years as a pro are starting topay off.”Friday’s 169km third stage starts and ends in Sabiñinago andfeatures two Category 1 climbs in the first half of the stage. The pelotonhits the Cat. 3 Alto de Navasa at 23km from the finish.41st Tour of Aragon (SPA 2.2)
Stage 2, Calanda to Barbastro,
1. Alessandro Petacchi (I), Fassa Bortolo, 167km in 3:58:41
2. Massimo Strazzer (I), Saunier Duval
3. Angel Edo (Sp), Milaneza
4. Giosue Bonomi (I), Saeco
5. Stefano Garzelli (I), Vini Caldirola, all same timeOverall after two stages
1. Denis Menchov (Rus), Illes Balears 4 hours, 19 minutes, 42 seconds
2. Stefano Garzelli (I), Vini Caldirola +0:04
3. Leonardo Piepoli (I), Saunier Duval +0:06
4. Koldo Gil (Sp), Liberty Seguros +0:08
5. Josef Jufre (Sp), Relax-Bodysol +0:45
Hushovd takes Denain
Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole) held off Mark Scanlon (ag2r) to winthe GP de Denain in France. With the victory, Hushovd pads his overalllead in the French Cup race series.
GP de Denain
1. Thor Hushovd (N) Crédit Agricole, les 201,4 km en 4 h 29:33.
2. Mark Scanlon (Irl), Ag2r, s.t.
3. Nico Sijmens (B) at 0:46.
4. Ludovic Auger (F) s.t.
5. Borut Bozic (SLO) s.t.
6. Erwin Thijs (B) s.t.
7. Franck Pencolé (F) s.t.
8. Eelke Van Der Wal (Nl) s.t.
9. Jurgen Van De Walle (B) at 0:59.
10. Jean-Michel Tessier (F) at 1:48.
Overall standings Coupe de France (After 7 of 17 events):
1. Thor Hushovd (N) 125 pts
2. Anthony Geslin (F) 60
3. Franck Bouyer (F) 59
4. Pierrick Fédrigo (F) 47
5. Franck Pencolé (F) 40
Cipo’s got Georgia on his mind
Next week’s Dodge Tour of Georgia got a huge boost Thursday when Domina Vacanze announced cycling superstar Mario Cipollini will take the start.
The 2002 world champion will add a dose of European star power to the race that already counts five-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong and Bobby Julich (CSC) on its start list.
Cipollini was zapped with the flu just before Milan-San Remo last month and skipped the cobbled classics to retreat to Tuscany to fully recover for the Giro d’Italia (May 8-30), where the Lion King hopes to add to his booty of 42 record stage wins.
“The Tour de Georgia will provide good preparation for me,” Cipollini said. “The course is challenging and the race finishes ten days before the start of the Giro (which is) very good timing.”
The Lion King will be joined in Georgia by David Clinger (2003 stage winner and top 10 finisher), Alessio Galletti, Giovanni Lombardi, Sergio Marinangeli, Massimiliano Mori, Mario Scirea and Francesco Secchiari.
Vande Velde still waiting for papers
Christian Vande Velde (Liberty Seguros) – whose start to the 2004 racing season was stymied when he discovered he needed a working permit to race in Europe – is still waiting for his working papers to begin racing.
Vande Velde’s start to the 2004 racing season was stymied when he discovered he needed a working permit to race in Europe (see “VandeVelde sidelined by paperwork” – VeloNews.com, March 15, 2004). Vande Velde was caught up in new European Union rules that require working papers for non-European racers on European teams.
Before, riders could get by with a tourist visa. Tom Danielson (Fassa Bortolo) had to make a similar trek back to the United States in earlier this year to sort out his papers.
Vande Velde, however, has been caught up in the slow bureaucratic maze in Spain. Last week’s Semana Santa holiday didn’t speed up the process.
In an e-mail to VeloNews, Vande Velde said he was hopeful for some good news this week.
“I’ve been training like it’s the end of days,” Vande Velde said. “The team has been talking to the right people. I’m hoping to start racing in Alcobendas-Asturias (in May). We’ll see.”
Vande Velde is hoping to earn a trip back to the Tour de France, where he would be supporting Liberty Seguros captain Roberto Heras take on their former boss, Lance Armstrong.
Museeuw ready for next chapter
Johan Museeuw (Quick Step) got a hero’s farewell in Wednesday’s Scheldeprijs Vlaanderen as the Lion of Flanders bowed out as a professional racer.
Museeuw made a solo attack in the final 10km, but the race came down to a mass gallop won by his ordained successor, Tom Boonen. Museeuw seemed satisfied he rode his last race on his beloved cobbles of western Belgium.
“It has been an amazing day. There were parts of the race where I was happy and others where I wasn’t but anyway I tried to win,” Museeuw said. “I would have loved to win my last race. It isn’t easy leaving after many years in professional cycling. However, there’s a time in one’s life where we have to make difficult decisions. My decision was made quite calmly.”
Museeuw scored more than 100 victories, including 11 wins in the classics, two overall World Cup titles and one world title to make him one the most successful riders of his generation.
Museeuw tipped his hat to Boonen, who won Gent-Wevelgem last week and made a dramatic breakaway Sunday in Paris-Roubaix with George Hincapie (USPS) and Juan Antonion Flecha (Fassa Bortolo).
“I have always tried to practice my profession to my very best, respecting my fellow athletes. I think I’ve been successful at this,” Museeuw continued in a statement released by his team. “There are lots of young riders that are very good around, for example, Tom Boonen. In Belgium, Tom is my successor for this type of race with today’s result being a perfect example of what he is capable of.”
Museeuw said he’s ready for the next chapter in his life. On Sunday, he will be in the Quick Step team car acting as assistant sport director.
“Life carries on,” he said. “From now on my objectives will just be different, that’s all. I’ll be remaining with the team working along with the technical staff.”
Cofidis will let Astarloa ride away
The troubled Cofidis team opened the door for reigning world champion Igor Astarloa to sign with another team.
Cofidis officials indefinitely suspended racing team following a recent string of doping controversies involving current and former staff and riders.
“If he wants to race for another team, we won’t oppose it from our part,” said Alain Bondue in Europa Press. “He’s the reigning world champion who just came to our team, there’s no reason he has to pay for the broken plates of previous seasons.”
Astarloa signed with Cofidis before winning the world title in Hamilton after riding for several years with the Italian Saeco team.
Somarriba convinced she can win in Athens
Spanish cycling star Joanne Somarriba has growing confidence she can shine in the Summer Olympic Games in Athens. The three-time women’s Tour de France winner is putting everything on winning a gold medal.
“I’m not trying to say I will win for sure, but I am aiming for the victory,” she told Meta Dos Mil. “There are a lot of favorites but I see there are possibilities that I can win and that’s what’s motivating me.”
Somarriba – the reigning world time trial champion – says she likes the course, but wishes it was more selective.
“The circuit is hard, but I believe it could come down to a group of 15 to 20 riders. I am aware I am not the greatest sprinter, but you never know and I am going to go for it,” she said. “
Yet another Beloki comeback
There’s yet another comeback on tap for Joseba Beloki (La Boulangere), who’s been plagued with knee trouble and crashes that have impaired his return to racing his since his dramatic crash in last year’s Tour de France.
Beloki, who pulled out of last week’s Tour of the Basque Country, is now eyeing the Tour de Vendée on Sunday.
“He didn’t realize how difficult the Basque Country race is,” team manager Jean-René Bernaudeau told L’Equipe. “He might have made it to the second stage, but right off the start he faced five cols in 130km. It was simply too much.”
Bernaudeau said the 2002 Tour runner-up is anxious to race in France for the team and regain his form to be fit to start the 2004 Tour on July 3.
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