By Andrew Hood
A two-man breakaway slipped away from the grip of the peloton in the Tour of Germany and ended up with the stage-win and the race leader’s jersey in the 183km second stage.
Gerben Löwik (Bankgiroloterij) won the stage, finishing just one second ahead of Gregory Rast (Phonak). Rast jumped into the overall lead, moving more than two minutes ahead of Erik Zabel (Telekom), the winner of Tuesday’s first stage.
The German tour continues Thursday with the 188km third stage from Coburg to Ansbach.
Tour of Germany (UCI 2.2)
Stage 2, Altenburg to Kronach, 183km1. Gerben Löwik (Ned), Bankgiroloterij, 4 hours, 49 minutes, 40 seconds
2. Gregory Rast (Swi), Phonak, at 1 second
3. Fabian Wegmann (G), Gerolsteiner, at 2:20
4. Kurt-Asle Arvesen (N), Team fakta
5. Steffen Wesemann (G), Telekom – all same timeOverall standings after two stages
1. Rast, 9 hours, 33 minutes, 23 seconds
2. Löwik, at 24 seconds
3. Erik Zabel (G), Telekom, at 2:01
4. Stuart O’Grady (Aus), Credit Agricole, at 2:09
5. Wesemann, at 2:11
Bicicleta Vasco: Etxebarria takes opener
Euskaltel’s David Etxebarria grabbed the opening stage Wednesday and the overall lead of the Bicicleta Vasco. Etxebarria was fastest in a group of 10 riders that jumped with 3km to go to come across in front of a badly split peloton in the146km hilly course from Eibar to Ispaster.
Lampre’s Francisco Vila, Jose Luis Arrieta (iBanesto.com) and Iñigo Cuesta (Cofidis) attacked at 98km, forcing the favorites to chase hard to get back. They were brought back with just 3km to go when Extebarria was among the attacking riders.
The race continues Thursday with the 167km second stage from Ispaster to Aizarnazabal, featuring four Category 3 climbs and one Category 2 climb.
Bicicleta Vasco (UCI 2.1)
Stage 1, Eibar to Ispaster, 146km
1. David Etxebarria (Sp), Euskaltel, 3 hours, 39 minutes, 39 seconds; 2. David De La Fuente (Sp), Vini Caldirola; 3. Francesco Casagrande (I), Lampre; 4. Francisco Vila (Sp), Lampre; 5. Iñigo Cuesta (Sp), Cofidis – all same time
No Tour for Dekker
Rabobank’s Erik Dekker announced on Wednesday that he will have to skip the Tour de France after failing to shake off a knee injury, the Dutch press agency ANP reported.
“I have spoken to the team doctor and I have decided not to take part in the Tour de France,” said the 32-year-old Dutch rider, who won three stages on the 2000 Tour and who was World Cup champion in 2001. “My knee is still bad and I haven’t been able to do the kilometers necessary for my preparation.”
This year’s Tour begins on July 5 and ends on July 27.
Beloki feeling better than ever
Three-time Tour de France podium finisher Joseba Beloki says he’s feeling better than last year as he enters Wednesday’s Bicicleta Vasca race in Spain with eyes toward France.
Beloki said the Bicicleta Vasca race will be his last competition before the Tour.
“I am better this year than last year because I could take advantage of February and March and put in some kilometers that the last years I couldn’t,” Beloki told MARCA. “Knock wood, but this is the first year that everything’s gone as planned. Every year with ONCE, something’s happened and even though I’ve been able to arrive strong to the Tour, there’s always been a doubt about how I would be.”
Beloki came out of nowhere to finish third in his Tour debut in 2000 and confirmed his consistency by taking third in 2001 and moved up to second overall last year with the absence of German Jan Ullrich.
When asked if he’ll give Lance Armstrong a tougher challenge, Beloki replied: “Possibly, but even if I arrive strong I’m still far from this guy. I am calm because I know that in all these Tours I’ve done all that I could. Perhaps tactically I could have improved, but I am satisfied with what I have done.”
Beloki insists he’ll try to attack Armstrong in the mountains to try to derail the dominant Texan.
“Last year I said I would have liked to have been the Riis to Armstrong,” he said. “The one that beats Lance will be most consistent and if someone else does it other than us it would be a failure.”
Aitor G: No races before Tour
Aitor Gonzalez, fresh off his disappointing Giro d’Italia, said he won’t race before the Tour de France, but that hasn’t stopped him from thinking big things.
Gonzalez won the Giro’s first time trial, but faded out of contention in the first mountain stages. The 2002 Vuelta a España champion said he’s learned some lessons that he hopes pays off in time for July’s Tour.
“The Giro lets me learn from my errors. Last year I made an error at the Giro and then I won the Vuelta. This year I’ve realized that I have to arrive better prepared for the major stage races,” he told AS.
Gonzalez said he won’t race other than perhaps the Spanish national time trial race at the end of June, but instead will train at altitude in Spain, either at Sierra Nevada or Navacerrada.
“It’s clear after winning one Vuelta, I have to go to all major stage races thinking about the overall title. (Giancarlo) Ferretti also says one cannot win their first Tour. It’s obvious there are other riders such as Armstrong, Beloki and Ullrich who have already demonstrated things in the Tour, while for me it remains to be seen,” he said. “I will go to learn the race, but thinking about the overall. I am 28 and I want to know how far I can go in the world’s most important cycling race.”
Galdeano still hoping for Tour chance
ONCE’s Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano is holding out hope he’ll be able to start the Tour de France despite a racing ban handed down by the French anti-doping agency.
Galdeano held the yellow jersey and finished fifth overall in last year’s Tour, but tested with high levels of Salbutamol (1360 nanograms per milliliter). While the UCI said Galdeano had certificates to use the asthma drug, levels considered higher than 1000 nanograms per milliliter are considered a positive for anabolic steroids by WADA and CPLD, the French anti-doping agency.
Galdeano is racing in the Tour of Germany this week and hopes for a last-minute reprieve that will allow him to start the Tour. ONCE is threatening legal action to get their man into the Tour.
“To not be in the Tour would be a terrible blow for me,” Galdeano told MARCA. “But I am confident I will be there because I confide in the Spanish cycling federation and in ONCE, who have told me to keep working and prepare myself well, and that’s what I am doing.”
Watt announces comeback
Australia’s former Olympic champion Kathy Watt will come out of a three-year retirement to begin her comeback bid for the Athens 2004 Games, Reuters reported.
“I really want to achieve another gold medal in cycling,” Watt told reporters Tuesday. “I’ve had a good break from racing and I’m really enthused about racing again. With age, I’ve also become a lot smarter in the way I train and I think that will help me as well.” The 38-year-old professional sports photographer and personal trainer retired after failing in a legal challenge against her non-selection in Australia’s team for the Sydney 2000 Olympics.
Watt became the first Australian woman to take an Olympic cycling gold medal when she won the women’s road race at Barcelona in 1992.
Remembered for her bottle-blonde hair and aggressive style, Watt was often in the headlines for her regular personality clashes with officials, particularly former national coach Charlie Walsh. Watt said Walsh’s departure from his coaching role in the Australia team was a factor in her comeback.
“I never got a fair go under that system. I just hope things have changed and I’ll know in a few months’ time,” Watt said. — Reuters