By Andrew Hood
Young German rider Patrick Sinkewitz’s edged Spanish mountain goat Francisco Mancebo (Illes Balears) to win Wednesday’s tough climbing stage and move into the overall lead at the Tour of Germany.
The 170km stage Wangen to St. Anton hit the 1793-meter Arlberg pass, which shattered the lead group and spelled the end of Michael Rich’s hold on the leader’s jersey. Sinkewitz broke with about 50km to go and counted on support from Paolo Bettini who was also part of the breakaway.
“The team was fantastic and Bettini was along side me in the more difficult moments,” said Sinkewitz after taking his second win in four years as a pro. “Paolo fantastically guided me up until 5km from the top of the Arlberg pass. He really made me feel quite tranquil and he kept saying to me, ‘just take things steadily and don’t be too anxious.’ I have a great feeling with him, something that came about during our winter training sessions.” Mancebo followed Sinkewitz as they dropped the remainder of the leading break and collaborated together on the final sections of the climb and then on the downhill run into St. Anton.
“It’s a dream wearing the leader’s jersey in my own country,” he said. “Now I’m even known in Germany. My objective now will be that of trying to keep it right up until the end.”
Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile) rode surprisingly well and sits third overall at 18 seconds back while Jens Voigt (Team CSC) lost contact on the final ramps but climbed to fifth overall. “I was really close to being able to keep up and that would’ve meant a place among the top three. I’m a little bit disappointed, but that last climb was just too long for me,” said Voigt, who came in 47 seconds back. “It will be a hard battle for the bonus seconds now and we’ll have to wait and see what happens in the final mountain stage on Saturday.”
The Deutschland Tour continues Thursday with the 190-kilometer fourth stage from Bad Tölz to Landshut.
Tour of Germany(GER 2.2)
Stage 3, Wangen im Allgäu to St. Anton am Arlberg, 170km
1. Patrik Sinkewitz (Ger), Quick Step 4 hours, 31 minutes, 6 seconds
2. Francisco Mancebo (Sp), Illes Balears Banesto same time
3. Pieter Weening (Ned), Rabobank +0:34
4. Andreas Klöden (Ger), T-Mobile
5. Igor Galdeano (Sp), Liberty Seguros s.t.
73. Christian Vandevelde (USA), Liberty Seguros +23:41
116. David Clinger (USA), Domina Vacanze +24:08
Overall standings after three stages
1. Patrik Sinkewitz (Ger), Quick Step 9 hours, 34 seconds
2. Jan Hruska (Cze), Liberty Seguros +0:11
3. Jan Ullrich (Ger), T-Mobile +0:18
4. Igor Galdeano (Sp), Liberty Seguros st
5. Jens Voigt (Ger), Team CSC +0:23
67. Christian Vandevelde (USA), Liberty Seguros +25:00
113 David Clinger (USA), Domina Vacanze +26:47
Perdiguero takes Vasca opener
Miguel Angel Martín Perdiguero (Saunier Duval) won the opening stage of the Euskal Bizikleta-Bicicleta Vasca, a race in northern Spain that’s seeing many of the Spanish Tour de France contenders stretching their legs.
Martín Perdiguero held off compatriot Angel Vicioso (Liberty Seguros) in a 12-up sprint to take his first victory since winning the final stage at the Vuelta a Asturias two weeks ago.
The hilly course trimmed the lead group down to a dozen that included pre-race favorites Roberto Heras (Liberty Seguros) and Haimar Zubeldia (Euskaltel). Joseba Beloki (Boulangere), racing for the first time since early May, fell off the pace over the Cat. 1 Alto de Ubal and finished 79th at 7:17 back.
Tom Danielson (Fassa Bortolo), back in competition following his 18th place overall at the Tour de Romandie last month, finished 47th at 3:47 back.
The race continues Thursday with the 155km second stage from Carranza to Agurain and features two Cat. 3 climbs.
Euskal Bizikleta (SPA 2.1)
Stage 1, Eibar to Karrantza, 164km
1. Miguel Angel Martin Perdiguero (Sp), Saunier Duval 4h15:13
2. Angel Vicioso (Sp), Liberty Seguros
3. Samuel Sanchez (Sp), Euskaltel-Euskadi
4. Alberto Martinez (Sp), Relax
5. Marcos Serrano (Sp), Liberty Seguros – all same time
47. Tom Danielson (USA), Fassa Bortolo +3:47
Three test high at Bicicleta Vasca
Three riders, including Tour de France stage-winner David Etxebarria (Euskaltel-Euskadi), weren’t allowed to start Wednesday’s opening stage of the Bicicleta Vasca after testing above 50 percent in hematocrit tests. Alberto Hierro and Unai Elorriaga, both from Cafés Baqué, also tested high in the blood tests.
Under UCI rules, a rider with hematocrit counts higher than 50 percent are considered “unfit” to race and are sanctioned with a 15-day racing ban. High hematocrit levels are an indication, but not proof, of the use of the blood-booster EPO.
Etxebarria said he has a UCI medical certificate demonstrating a natural hematocrit level of 52 percent, but his test came back with a level of 52.8, enough to warrant a 15-day “rest period.” Euskaltel team manager Julian Gorospe said Etxebarria has been suffering from stomach problems since the GP de Llodio last Sunday and said he expects Etxebarria to start next month’s Tour.
Team officials at Cafés Baqué blamed the high hematocrit levels on an overnight bout of diarrhea, which also affected teammates Hernán Buenahora and Ricardo Serrano.
Valverde threatens to leave Kelme
Alejandro Valverde says he’ll leave Kelme-Comunidad Valenciana by the end of the month if his back wages are not paid in full, the Spanish daily MARCA reported.
“I haven’t been paid in two months and if they don’t pay me for the third, then it’s obvious I will not continue with Kelme,” said Valverde, confirming reports he has offers from Liberty Seguros, Saeco and Phonak.
“I would like to finish the season with Kelme, something that remains to be seen, but what’s sure is that next season I want to be on a team registered with the UCI so I can race in the 2005 Tour de France,” he said.
Gonzalez confident on rebound
Aitor Gonzalez (Fassa Bortolo) was one of last season’s major disappointments and he’s hoping to erase those bad memories with a strong Tour de France performance in July.
Following his breakout 2002 season that saw him win two stages at the Giro d’Italia and take the overall at the Vuelta a España, Gonzalez penned a big-money contract at Fassa Bortolo only to promptly disappear from the top of the results sheet.
The Spanish rider managed a time trial victory at the Giro, but abandoned both the Tour de France and Vuelta without much fanfare.
“This year my only goal is the Tour. I don’t know if I will be able to finish on the podium, but I will try,” Gonzalez told the Spanish daily MARCA. “Armstrong is the favorite, but this year there are more challengers than ever before.”
Gonzalez is racing this week at the Bicicleta Vasca, but says he’s not likely to win.
“I haven’t raced since Romandie, but I’ve been training hard and I feel good. While you can have good sensations in training, racing is another matter,” he said. “I’m still not at my best. This race is a test, maybe I can win at Cataluyna (later this month).”