By Andrew Hood
Leonardo Piepoli won his first race of the 2003 season, attacking with 1km to go to drop Saeco’s Gilberto Simoni and take the lead of the Tour of Aragon in Wednesday’s first stage.
Piepoli jumped with 3km to go in Wednesday’s 154km stage from Huesca to the Category 1 summit finish at Cerler, a ski station high in the Spanish Pyrenees. Simoni and Coast’s Manuel Beltran followed, but the defending champion was too strong. Simoni hung on until the final kilometer when Piepoli put on the after-burners to roll across the line with his finger pointing to the skies.
Simoni isn’t the only big name starting Aragon, a five-day race in and around the Spanish Pyrenees. Marco Pantani looked motivated (and funny in a weird hat) as his Mercatone Uno team drove him to the base of the 5km climb, but the Pirate faded once Piepoli made his move.
Oscar Sevilla (Kelme) made his season debut just as he promised
nothing special. He finished more than seven minutes back as he struggled to find his racing legs after undergoing surgery to remove a cyst in a “sensitive area” last month and missed 20 days of training.
Jan Ullrich (Coast) got a last-minute reprieve and was allowed to start despite wrangling between the UCI and Team Coast over salary guarantees. Ullrich said he’s racing at Aragon to continue to build his form.
“During the Tour of Sarthe, I did very well. This time the race is more demanding and the mountains are more exacting,” Ullrich said before the start. “The team is top-level, but I don’t expect great results. It’s important me to race without being under pressure.”
The race continues Thursday with the 185km second stage from Benasque to Sabinanigo hits a Category 1 climb with 48km to go.Teams at the Tour of Aragon
Stage 1, April 16, Huesca to Cerler, 152km
Stage 2, April 17, Benasque to Sabinanigo, 185km
Stage 3, April 18, Illueca-Illueca, 157km
Stage 4, April 19, La Muela to Borja, 168km
Stage 5, April 20, La Muela to Zaragoza, 149kmOverall standings after Stage 1
1. Leonardo Piepoli (I), iBanesto.com, 4 hours, 36 seconds
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 58 seconds
7. Fabian Jeker (Swi), Milaneza-MSS, s.t.
8. Juan Carlos Dominguez (Sp), Phonak, s.t.
9. Dario Gadeo (Sp), Almeria, s.t.
10. Klaus Moller (Den), Milaneza-MSS, s.t.
Capelle wins Grote Scheldeprijs; McEwen crash results in minor injuries
Belgian Ludovic Capelle (Landbouwkrediet) won Wednesday’s 91st Grote Scheldeprijs on the cobbles in western Belgium. Capelle was in a break with former Ag2r teammate Jaan Kirsipuu, Servais Knaven (Quick Step) and Steffen Radocchla (Coast).
The four broke with less than 20km to go and Capelle made a move in the final kilometer and hung on for the win. Kirsipuu came across one second back to finish second ahead of Radocchla and Knaven. Defending champion Robbie McEwen (Lotto-Domo) was involved in a spill and left the race in an ambulance, while Erik Zabel (Telekom) led the main bunch across at three seconds back.
McEwen, who fell in the company of South African Robert Hunter (Rabobank) and Belgian Tom Boonen (Quick Step), later left a local clinic with scrapes and bruises.
Results, Scheldeprijs (UCI 1.1)
1.Ludovic Capelle (B), Landbouwkrediet, 200km 4 hours, 39 minutes, 17 seconds
2. Jaan Kirsipuu (Est), Ag2r, at 1 second
3. Steffen Radocchla (G), Coast
4. Servais Knaven (Ned), Quick.Step, same time
5. Erik Zabel (G), Telekom, at 3 seconds
6. Jo Planckaert (B), Cofidis
7. Allan Bo Andresen (Den), fakta
8. Franck Pencole (F), MBK-Oktos
9. Frank Hoj (Den), fakta
10. Jens Heppner (G), Wiesenhof – all same time.
Italian rider Enrico Cassani (Alessio) tested “non-negative” for a banned substance while racing in the Tirreno-Adriatico race in March. Cassini’s lawyers have asked for a second “B” analysis to be carried out, but in the meantime, he has been suspended by Alessio.
If the second test confirms the positive, Alessio said it will fire Cassani.