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Wednesday Euro-File: Armstrong wins; All-star Vuelta

There's no rest for the weary Lance Armstrong. Two days after wrapping up a record-tying fifth straight Tour de France victory, cycling's top star won a 37-mile race in Graz, Austria. Armstrong finished the Altstad-Kriterium -- 55 laps on a course through the city -- in 1 hour, 34 minutes, 40 seconds. The 31-year- old Texan pulled away from the field on the 50th lap and edged Berhard Eisel for the victory. Copyright (c) 2003 Bell & Howell Information and Learning Company. All rights reserved. All-star Vuelta shaping upAn all-star roster is shaping up for September's Vuelta a

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By Andrew Hood

There’s no rest for the weary Lance Armstrong.

Two days after wrapping up a record-tying fifth straight Tour de France victory, cycling’s top star won a 37-mile race in Graz, Austria.

Armstrong finished the Altstad-Kriterium — 55 laps on a course through the city — in 1 hour, 34 minutes, 40 seconds. The 31-year- old Texan pulled away from the field on the 50th lap and edged Berhard Eisel for the victory.

Copyright (c) 2003 Bell & Howell Information and Learning Company. All rights reserved.

All-star Vuelta shaping up
An all-star roster is shaping up for September’s Vuelta a España.

Jan Ullrich (Bianchi) is among the last four Vuelta winners who have committed to be at the start line in Gijon in northern Spain on Sept. 6 for the debut of the season’s last major grand tour.

Ullrich won the 1999 Vuelta and will share leadership duties with Bianchi teammate Angel Casero, winner of the 2001 Vuelta. Roberto Heras, a winner in 2000, will be back for U.S. Postal Service while defending champion Aitor Gonzalez (Fassa Bortolo) will start his third grand tour of the season to try to salvage something from what’s been an illness-marred season.

Other major Spanish names expected to start at the 58th Vuelta will be 2001 runner-up Oscar Sevilla (Kelme), who missed the Tour de France with a lingering injury, as well as ONCE’s Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano, back from a broken collarbone. iBanesto.com will come with Juan Miguel Mercado and Francisco Mancebo while Euskaltel will line up with Haimar Zubeldia, fresh off his fifth place at the Tour. Iban Mayo, however, isn’t expected to start for the boys in orange.

All eyes will be on Jose Antonio Pecharromán, who upset Heras at June’s Volta a Catalunya, to see if he can follow-up with a solid performance in a major three-week tour.

Other names include Cadel Evans (Telekom) and Levi Leipheimer (Rabobank), both of whom are coming back from injuries that kept them out of the Tour. There’s no word yet on whether Team CSC’s Tyler Hamilton will start the Vuelta.

Mercado signs with Quick Step
Spanish climber Juan Miguel Mercado has penned a deal with Quick Step for the 2004 season. Mercado, 25, is the first of the gems of Jose Maria Echavarri to flee the iBanesto.com team.

Echavarri is still hoping to find a sponsor to keep the team afloat into the 2004 season, but Mercado was unwilling to risk waiting and decided to take the Quick Step offer.

Mercado — winner of key mountain stages in the 2001 Vuelta, 2002 Setmana Catalana and the 2003 Dauphiné Libéré – reportedly turned down offers from U.S. Postal Service, Cofidis and CSC to join the Belgium-based Quick Step.

Millar re-signs with CofidisDavid Millar signed a two-year contract extension with Cofidis, the only team he’s ever known in his professional cycling career. Despite run-ins with team management over several issues on how the team is organized, Millar decided to renew with the French team into the 2005 season.

Team CSC was reportedly interested in signing the Briton, but didn’t have a full offer on the table before Millar extended with Cofidis. Millar won the Tour’s final time trial and lost the opening prologue after his chain fell off in the few hundred meters of the race.

Post-Tour UCI rankings
The UCI released its latest rankings following the Tour de France and most of the major players at the grande boucle got a nice boost. Lance Armstrong, however, actually slipped from fifth to eighth despite winning his fifth consecutive Tour. Armstrong won one stage and lost some points going back to last year, when he won four stages en route to his fourth Tour victory.

Quick Step’s Paolo Bettini retained his top spot in the rankings, which he took away from Telekom’s Erik Zabel in the rankings released just before the Tour. Giro d’Italia winner Gilberto Simoni (Saeco) slipped into second overall thanks to his stage-win at the Tour while Iban Mayo (Euskaltel) nudged into the top 5.

Simoni leads the rankings based on points earned so far in the 2003 season while Fassa Bortolo continues to lead the Division 1 team rankings. Euskatel and U.S. Postal both enjoyed new and improved rankings, with Euskaltel moving up from 16th to sixth and the Posties from 21st to ninth.

UCI rankings, July 28 (previous ranking June 30):
1. (1) Paolo Bettini, I, Quick Step 2,191 points
2. (3) Gilberto Simoni, I, Saeco 2,082
3. (2) Erik Zabel, G, Telekom 1,941
4. (4) David Rebellin, I, Gerolsteiner 1,887
5. (11) Iban Mayo, Sp, Euskaltel 1,724
6. (13 ) A. Vinokourov, Kaz, Telekom 1,701
7. (9) Alessandro Petacchi, I, Fassa Bortolo 1,682
8. (5) Lance Armstrong, USA, USPS 1,701
9. (6) Dario Frigo, I, Fassa Bortolo 1,541
10. (18) Tyler Hamilton, USA, CSC 1,474

Rankings so far in 2003
1. Simoni 1,715
2. Vinokourov 1,613
3. Armstrong 1,507
4. Mayo 1,414
5. Hamilton 1,358
6. Petacchi 1,235
7. Bettini 1,084
8. Zabel 1,048
9. Stefano Garzelli, I, Caldirola 957
10. Jan Ullrich, G, Bianchi 940

Team rankings for Division 1 (previous ranking)
1. (1) Fassa Bortolo 6,013
2. (2) Saeco 5,717
3. (3) Telekom 5,674
4. (4) Quick Step 5,501
5. (8) Team CSC 4,199
6. (16) Euskatel 3,940
7. (6) Gerolsteiner 3,890
8. (5) Rabobank 3,856
9. (21) U.S. Postal Service 3,808
10. (7) iBanesto.com 3,808