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Saturday’s Euro-file: Usov at Alcobendas, Moreau leads Dunkirk, Hondo rules Peace Race

Belorussian Alexander Usov (Phonak) won the opening stage of the Clasica de Alcobendas in Spain, taking the 148km stage ahead of Saeco’s Igor Astarloa and Telekom’s Gian Matteo Fagnini, who came across third. The two-day, three-stage race outside of Madrid has increased in importance the past few years, especially since many of the Spanish teams not racing at the Giro d’Italia are starting because the Giro isn’t broadcast in Spain. Kelme’s Oscar Sevilla did not start Saturday’s stage. Sevilla underwent surgery in March to remove a cyst in his groin area and said he continues to have health

By Andrew Hood

Belorussian Alexander Usov (Phonak) won the opening stage of the Clasica de Alcobendas in Spain, taking the 148km stage ahead of Saeco’s Igor Astarloa and Telekom’s Gian Matteo Fagnini, who came across third.

The two-day, three-stage race outside of Madrid has increased in importance the past few years, especially since many of the Spanish teams not racing at the Giro d’Italia are starting because the Giro isn’t broadcast in Spain.

Kelme’s Oscar Sevilla did not start Saturday’s stage. Sevilla underwent surgery in March to remove a cyst in his groin area and said he continues to have health problems.

“Sevilla is still recovering from the injury and needs a little more time off the bike,” said Kelme sport director Vicente Belda. “There’s still plenty of time to the Tour, so it’s not time to cry in the milk yet.”

Clasica de Alcobendas, stage 1
1. Alexander Usov (Blr), Phonak, 148km in 3:14:04
2. Igor Astarloa (I), Saeco
3. Gian Matteo Fagnini (I), Telekom
4. Antonio Bucciero (I), Saeco
5. Pedro Lopes (Por), La Pecol – all same time

Dunkirk: Moreau wins stage, takes lead
Animators in Saturday’s fourth stage of the Four Days of Dunkirk read like a start list from the old Festina team: Moreau, Brochard, Virenque, Halgand and Rous.

Christophe Moreau (Credit Agricole) won the 180km stage and bounced into the overall lead in the difficult stage. Moreau and second-place Didier Rous (Brioches) and Patrice Halgand (Jean Delatour) attacked with 10km to go, finishing clear of a chase group. U.S. Postal’s David Zabriskie figured in the chase and jumped into fifth overall.

The Four Days of Dunkirk finishes Sunday with a morning time trial and an afternoon road stage. “Four Days” held over five days with six stages? Don’t ask. It’s in France.

49th Four Days of Dunkirk, stage 4
1. Christophe Moreau, Credit Agricole, 180km in 4:35:27
2. Didier Rous, Brioches La Boulangère, same time
3. Patrice Halgand, Jean Delatour, at 0:09
4. Laurent Brochard, AG2R, at 0:29
5. David Zabriskie, U.S. Postal Service, at 1.29

Overall after four stages:
1. Moreau, 18:00:28
2. Rous, at 0:03
3. Halgand, at 0:17
4. Brochard, at 0:41
5. Zabriskie, at 1:41

Peace Race: Hondo wins again
German rider Danilo Hondo (Telekom) won the second stage of the nine-day Peace Race on Saturday, which ended in another mass gallop. Hondo has won the first two stages and holds the overall lead going into Sunday’s 189km third stage from Knov to Polanica Zdroj.

Peace Race, Stage 2, 155km:
1. Danilo Hondo, Telekom (time not immediately available)
2. René Haselbacher, Gerolsteiner
3. Marcin Lewandowski, Mroz
4. David Kopp, Telekom
5. Eric Baumann, Wiesenhof – all same time

Overall after two stages:
1. Hondo, 6:36:40
2. Kazimierz Stafiej, Mroz, at 0:13
3. Haselbacher, at 0:18
4. Enrico Poitschke, Wiesenhof, s.t.
5. Fabian Wegmann, Gerolsteiner, at 0:19

Coast: Ullrich optimistic about Tour
Former Tour de France winner Jan Ullrich says he is confident his banned cash-strapped team will get their finances back on track in time for him to compete in this summer’s Tour de France.

“I don’t have any worries regarding the Tour participation,” Ullrich told his fans on his personal website. Ullrich’s Team Coast was suspended from competition this week for failing to pay their riders’ April salaries.

The German outfit was only granted a license by cycling’s governingbody, the International Cycling Union, at the start of the year after agreeing to monthly checks on their accounts.

Ullrich launched a scathing attack on his Team Coast boss, Gunther Dahms, over his handling of the affair.

“I’m very disappointed by Gunther Dahms as he didn’t stop this latest retraction of Coast’s license. The line of what passes as acceptable hasbeen crossed.”

The 29-year-old who has made a successful return from injury and a drugs ban added: “All the parties concerned are trying, with the help of the UCI, to find a solution as quickly as possible so that we can all get back once again to our jobs.”

Dahms is remaining silent on the matter, stuck in talks with his lawyers, but has promised to make an announcement Monday about his team’s future.

“I hope I’ll have better news next week,” said Ullrich, who as the situation stands will have to forgo his intended next prep race for the Tour next week.

The rider’s agent, Wolfgang Strohband has claimed that “Gunther Dahms has let us down all the way along.” Strohband was referring to an offer by co-sponsor Bianchi to help the cash-strapped clothes manufacture Coast. “We can’t understand why he doesn’t accept help,” he added.

Strohband stressed that whatever happened Ullrich’s career, back on track after a drugs ban, would continue.

“We’re not going to be stuck in a corner without doing anything,” hesaid. Ullrich’s sports director Rudi Pevenage warned that if the situationdidn’t improve then his man would be looking for a new team.

The UCI’s latest ban followed a similar suspension lifted on the eve of Spain’s Tour of Aragon in mid-April when Coast narrowly met a deadline to deposit a bank guarantee to cover outstanding wages.

“This whole situation is a real shame,” noted Ullrich.

Meanwhile the Telekom team, which let Ullrich go after his ban for taking Ecstasy at a nightclub, said it might consider taking the German ace back. Telekom boss Walter Godefroot told the Kolner Stadt-Anzeiger newspaper: “Jan back with us? That could work, but I’d have to clarify the situation with our sponsor.”

But he ruled out ever working with Ullrich’s sports director. “I’ll never cooperate with Rudi Pevenage again. That’s for sure!” – AFP2003