By Andrew Hood
Backstedt carries Gasparotto to win in Cataluyna
There’s no better wheel to be on than one belonging to the big Swede with speed, Magnus Backstedt.
The 2004 Paris-Roubaix winner blocked the wind and a lot more in the perfect set-up for young Liquigas-Bianchi teammate Enrico Gasparotto, who shot to victory in Tuesday’s second stage of the Volta a Cataluyna.
“Backstedt was decisive in my victory today,” said the 23-year-old after scoring his first win in the pro ranks. “He brought me to the front in the last kilometer and accelerated very fast. It was like following a race horse.”
Thanks to Backstedt’s big push, Gasparotto relegated Claudio Corioni to second while fellow Scandanavian Thor Hushovd, from neighboring Norway, was third. American Fred Rodriguez (Davitamon-Lotto) came through fourth.
Overnight leader Miguel Martín Perdiguero (Phonak) maintained the leader’s jersey in the 186km circuit stage in Cambrils in Spain’s Catalan region. His teammate Floyd Landis remained fifth overall as the leading positions didn’t see any major changes in the sprint finish following Monday’s team time trial opener.
The week-long Volta a Cataluyna continues Wednesday with the 157.8km stage from the seaside town of Salou to La Granada.
Volta a Cataluyna, Stage 2, Cambrils-Cambrils, 186km
1. Enrico Gasparotto (Ita), Liquigas-Bianchi, 4:48:39
2. Claudio Corioni (Ita), Fassa Bortolo, same time
3. Thor Hushovd (Nor), Credit Agricole, s.t.
4. Fred Rodriguez (USA), Davitamon-Lotto, s.t.
5. Mickael Delage (Fra), Francaise Des Jeux, s.t.
Overall standings after two stages
1. Miguel Martin Perdiguero (Spa), Phonak 5:10:22
2. Nicolas Jalabert (Fra), Phonak
3. Robert Hunter (RSA), Phonak
4. Santos Gonzalez (Spa), Phonak
5. Floyd Landis (USA), Phonak
Ullrich ready for more
Jan Ullrich quietly made his ProTour debut in Monday’s opener at the Volta a Cataluyna and the 31-year-old German says he’s on track for his season’s major goal, the 2005 Tour de France.
“I am already at 60 to 70 percent of my Tour form,” Ullrich said on the team’s web page.
After competing in the Vuelta a Aragon and Circuit de la Sarthe in April, Ullrich spent much of the past month training in Tuscany and from his home base in Switzerland. The 1997 Tour champ says he’s feeling stronger now than he did a year ago.
“I was in terrible shape then, and at the beginning of May I had to start again from scratch,” he said.
After racing in Cataluyna, Ullrich is slated to defend his title at the Tour de Suisse next month. He also announced he’ll race at the GP Schwarzwald (June 4) and the GP Aargau (June 5) in Switzerland.
“Both races fit well into my program, which is designed for me to be at the top of my game in July,” he said.
Agritubel fails in Tour bid
The modest continental team Agritubel is one of two French teams not going to the 2005 Tour de France, the other being RAGT Semences.
“I accept the decision, but I am disappointed,” sport director Denis Leproux told L’Equipe. “I don’t want to make any hot-headed comments. We’ll wait to see the ramifications.”
The Tour decided to stick with the 20 ProTour teams and a lone wildcard with Ag2r, which had already been assured by Tour officials last fall it had a ticket to July’s big dance.
Agritubel was hoping Tour officials would add another French team to the five currently scheduled to line up in Fromentine on July 2. The team boasts the presence of Florent Brard (seventh in Paris-Roubaix) and Alberto Martinez, a former Criterium International winner.
21 teams for the 2005 Tour de France:
French: Ag2r, Bouygues Telecom, Cofidis, Crédit Agricole and Française des Jeux
Italian: Domina Vacanze, Fassa Bortolo, Lampre and Liquigas
Spanish: Illes Baléares, Euskaltel-Euskadi, Liberty Seguros and Saunier Duval
German: Gerolsteiner, T-Mobile
Belgian: Davitamon-Lotto, Quick Step
Danish: Team CSC
USA: Discovery Channel