Thursday’s Euro-file: Belohvosciks nips Bortolami in La Panne; Museeuw to decide Friday

Raivis Belohvosciks put down an excellent final time trial in the Three Days of La Panne to score the biggest win of his career and for his upstart Marlux team after beating Italian veteran Gianluca Bortolami by just 1 second. Thursday's final stage was split, with a morning sprint sector and an afternoon time trial to decide the overall winner. Poor weather continued to plague the race and four riders decided not to start, including Michele Bartoli (Fassa Bortolo). More than 50 riders abandoned the three-day stage-race, leaving just 88 riders finishing the race. Rabobank's Steven

By Andrew Hood

Raivis Belohvosciks put down an excellent final time trial in the Three Days of La Panne to score the biggest win of his career and for his upstart Marlux team after beating Italian veteran Gianluca Bortolami by just 1 second.

Thursday’s final stage was split, with a morning sprint sector and an afternoon time trial to decide the overall winner. Poor weather continued to plague the race and four riders decided not to start, including Michele Bartoli (Fassa Bortolo). More than 50 riders abandoned the three-day stage-race, leaving just 88 riders finishing the race.

Rabobank’s Steven de Jongh won the morning stage in a two-up sprint against Jo Planckaert (Cofidis). A crash took out Bart Voskamp (BankGiroLoterij), who started the day just one second behind Bortolami and stood a good chance to take the overall victory. Another crash late in the race split the lead bunch, leaving GP E3-Harelbeke winner de Jongh and Planckaert to duel for the win.

Still, Bortolami started the afternoon 13.7km time trial with a 25-second lead on second-place Christophe Mengin and Belohvosciks was even further removed as a threat at 43 seconds back. But Bortolami suffered on the time trial, forfeiting more than 3 seconds per kilometer, while the Latvian Belohvosciks rode an inspired race against the clock to escape with the stage-win and the overall victory.

U.S. Postal’s Viatcheslav Ekimov finished fourth in the time trial at 17 seconds slower and ended fifth overall at 17 seconds off the winning time. Racers in Wednesday’s Stage 2 refused to ride over the treacherous Kemmelberg climb after rain and cold winds descended on the Belgian course. Riders said they wouldn’t ride the dangerous section if weather turned foul and when the main group arrived to the feared section, riders stopped. Last year, Andrei Tchmil crashed hard on the descent and was forced out of the northern classics.

Race organizers promised a better First Aid station at the bottom of the dangerous cobbled descent, but that wasn’t enough. The race plunged into confusion because three riders – Daniel Becke (Coast), James Vandlandschoot (Vlaanderen) and Kristof Trouve (Palmans) – were on the attack and had already ridden the section.

Race organizers were forced to succumb to the riders’ demands and the peloton squirted the climb. The break off the front was eventually reeled in and Italian Fabio Baldato (Alessio) won the stage.

Three Days of La Panne, Stage 3a, 110km
1 Steven de Jongh (Ned), Rabobank, 2 hours, 32 minutes; 2. Jo Planckaert (B), Cofidis, same time; 3. Fabio Baldato (I), Alessio, at 1 second; 4. Saulius Ruskys (Lit), Marlux; 5. Marco Zanotti (I), Fassa Bortolo – all same timeStage 3b, 13.7km individual time trial
1. Raivis Belohvosciks (Lat), Marlux, 16 minutes, 49 seconds; 2. Olaf Pollack (G), Gerolsteiner, at 14 seconds; 3. Fabian Cancellara (Swi), Fassa Bortolo, at 16 seconds; 4. Viatcheslav Ekimov (Rus), USPS, at 17 seconds; 5. Bradley Wiggins (GBr),, at 18 secondsFinal overall standings
1. Raivis Belohvosciks (Lat), Marlux; 2. Gianluca Bortolami (I), Sidermec, at 1 second; 3. Peter Van Petegem (B), Lotto, at 13 seconds; 4. Olaf Pollack (G), Gerolsteiner, at 14 seconds; 5. Viatcheslav Ekimov (Rus), USPS, at 17 seconds

Museeuw to decide Friday on Flanders start
Tour of Flanders favorite Johan Museeuw will decide Friday whether he’s well enough to race in Sunday’s race over the cobbles. Museeuw’s been sick all week and pulled out of Three Days of La Panne with a light cough. A planned team press conference for was postponed until Friday to check Museeuw’s condition. Paolo Bettini, Quick Step’s other top rider, is also reportedly under the weather and might not take the start Sunday despite leading the overall World Cup standings.

“Johan is pretty bad. Normally, he can recover quickly from these things, but this time it’s lingering,” Quick Step sport director Patrick Lefevere told AFP.

Quick Step dominated Het Volk, putting four riders in the top-five and delivering Museeuw a big win while Bettini won Milan-San Remo. Luca Paolini, third at Milan-San Remo,Tom Boonen and Frank Vandenbroucke could step up if Museeuw doesn’t take the start.

Bergmann gets two-year ban
The Swiss association of Olympic sport has handed a two-year suspension to Reto Bergmann, a Phonak rider who admitted he was carrying banned substances. Bergmann, 27, admitted having Andriol, an anabolic steroid, when he traveled to Spain in the beginning of 2003 for training. Bergmann was also fined 2000 Swiss francs ($1,400).

Pozzato, Bartoli lead Fassa Bortolo
Michele Bartoli will be at the start-line for Sunday’s Tour of Flanders despite pulling out of Thursday’s final stage of the Three Days of La Panne, his Fassa Bortolo team reported.

Bartoli injured his hip earlier this year, but returned to racing at Milan-San Remo. Bartoli won Tour of Flanders in 1996, but it remains to be seen if he’s still in top shape to challenge the Belgians.

Filippo Pozzato is also expected to start Flanders. Pozzato crashed in Milan-San Remo and was uncertain for Flanders. The winner of Tirreno-Adriatico said he felt good enough during training rides this week to take the start.

Fassa Bortolo for Flanders: Michele Bartoli, Fabian Cancellara, Serguei Ivanov, Roberto Petito, Filippo Pozzato, Matteo Tosatto, Guido Trenti and Marco Zanotti.

Dauphine course revealed
Race organizers for June’s Criterium de Dauphine Libere revealed the parcours this week for the 55th edition of the race. With the June 8 start in Villard de Lans and the June 15 finish in Grenoble, the Dauphine is the final race for many favorites for July’s Tour de France.

Lance Armstrong has already confirmed he will be back to defend his title. The Dauphine will be Armstrong’s final race as he prepares for a record-tying fifth Tour de France victory.

The seven-stage race features an opening prologue two stages in the high mountains (stages 6-7), one individual time trial (stage 3), two challenging road stages (stages 4-5) and two rolling stages well-suited for the sprinters (stages 1-2).

The stages
June 8, Prologue: Villard de Lans to Balcon de Villard, 5.1km
June 9, Stage 1: Meaudre to Vaison la Romaine, 198km
June 10, Stage 2: Ballene to Vienne, 195km
June 11, Stage 3: Saint Paul en Jarez to Saint Heand, 33km (ITT)
June 12, Stage 4: Vienne to Morzine, 237km
June 13, Stage 5: Morzine to Chambery, 192km
June 14, Stage 6: Challes les Eaux to Briancon, 153km (with Col du Telegraphe and Col du Galibier)
June 15, Stage 7: Briancon to Grenoble, 174km (with Col du Lauteret, Col du Coq and Col de Porte)
The 15 teams
U.S. Postal Service (Armstrong)
Cofidis (Moncoutie)
Credit Agricole (Moreau)
Jean Delatour
Brioches la Boulangere (Chavanel)
Quick Step (Virenque)
Rabobank (Leipheimer) (Mancebo)
Euskaltel (Mayo)
Team CSC (Hamilton)
Alessio and Phonak.

Star-studded start list for Pais Vasco
While all eyes are on the northern classics next week, some of racing’s biggest guns will be sharpening their form at the five-day, six-stage Vuelta al Pais Vasco, April 7-11. The tentative start list includes the top protagonists for the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France.

Riders starting in Legazpi looking to the Tour de France include Levi Leipheimer (Rabobank), Tyler Hamilton (CSC), Cadel Evans (Telekom), Joseba Beloki (ONCE) and Ivan Basso (Fassa Bortolo) while just about every top rider hoping to shine at the Giro will be hitting the difficult Pais Vasco course, including Aitor Gonzalez (Fassa Bortolo), Gilberto Simoni (Saeco), Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) and Francesco Casagrande (Lampre).

Others coming with ambitions of winning the race include defending champion Aitor Osa (, Paris-Nice winner Alexandre Vinokourov (Telekom), Setmana Catalana winner Dario Frigo (Fassa Bortolo) and any one of the Basque riders on Euskaltel. Pais Vasco is also penciled in as the second race for Marco Pantani (Mercatone Uno), who made a big splash with the fans at last week’s Coppi & Bartali race in Italy, his first back since serving a six-month doping sanction and abandoning the 2002 Giro.U.S. Postal Service is skipping the difficult Basque Country tour. Instead, four-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong will compete at the Circuit de la Sarthe in France from April 8-11 as he continues his preparations for July.Provisional start list: 43rd Vuelta al Pais
Sport director: Unzue, Eusebio
1. Osa, Aitor
2. Odriozola, Jon
3. Petrov, Eugeni
4. Pascual, Javier
5. Gutiérrez, José Iván
6. Arrieta, José Luis
7. Jiménez, Eladio
8. Zandio, XabierLotto-Domo
Sport director: Sergeant, Marc
11. Verbrugghe, Rik
12. Merckx, Axel
13. Baguet, Serge
14. Brandt, Christophe
15. Marichal, Thierry
16. Verbrugghe, Lef
17. Moerenhout, Koos
18. Detilloux, ChristopheTeam CSC
Sport director: Weltz, Johnny
21. Hamilton, Tyler
22. Sastre, Carlos
23. Peron, Andrea
24. Sorensen, Nicki
25. Blaudzun, Michael
26. Kristensen, Lennie
27. Calvente, Manuel
28. Piil, JacobONCE
Sport director: Manolo Saiz
31. Beloki, Joseba
32. González de Galdeano, Igor
33. Zarrabeitia, Mikel
34. Jaksche, Jorg
35. Azevedo, José
36. Arrollo, David
37. Serrano, Marcos
38. Rodríguez, JoaquínRabobank
Sport director: Adri Van Houwelingen
41. Boogerd, Michael
42. Zberg, Beat
43. Leipheimer, Levi
44. De Groot, Bram
45. Rasmussen, Michael
46. Wielinga, Remmert
47. Lotz, Marc
48. Niermann, GrischaFassa Bortolo
Sport director: Stefano Zanatta
51. Gonzalez, Aitor
52. Frigo, Darío
53. Basso, Ivan
54. Gustov, Volodymir
55. Kirchen, Kim
56. Montgomery, Sven
57. Stangelj, Gorazd
58. Valjavec, Tadej

Sport director: Reimund Dietzen
61. Rebellin, Davide
62. Bölds, Udo
63. Totschnig, Georg
64. Fareesin, Gianni
65. Scholz, Ronny
66. Rastelli, Ellis
67. Trampusch, Gerhard
68. Wegmann, FabianTelekom
Sport director: Frans Van Looy
71. Vinokourov, Alexandre
72. Kloden, Andreas
73. Julich, Bobby
74. Evans, Cadel
75. Guerini, Giuseppe
76. Aerts, Mario
77. Hiekmann, Torsten
78. Werner, ChristianLampre
Sport director: Maurizio Piovani
81. Casagrande, Francesco
82. Rumsas, Raimondas
83. Gárate, Juan Manuel
84. Belli, Wladimir
85. Vila, Patxi
86. Barbero, Sergio
87. Bertoletti, Simone
88. Kadlec, MilanSaeco
Sport director: Giuseppe Martinelli
91. Simoni, Gilberto
92. Astarloa, Igor
93. Celestino, Mirko
94. Shefer, Alexandre
95. Bertagnolli, Leonardi
96. Fuentes, Juan
97. Glomser, Gerrit
98. Sabaliauskas, MariusPhonak
Sport director: Alvaro Pino
101. Camenzind, Oscar
102. Domínguez, Juan Carlos
103. Bayarri, Gonzalo
104. Camaño, Iker
105. Martínez, Miguel
106. Moos, Alexandre
107. Pereiro, Oscar
108. Pérez, SantiagoKelme
Sport director: Vicente Belda
111. Caballo, Francisco
112. Valverde, Alejandro
113. Zabala, Constantino
114. García, Adolfo
115. Manzano, Jesús María
116. Riera, Jordi
117. Rodríguez, Alexis
118. Usano, JuliánCofidis
Sport director: Francis Van Londersele
121. Cuesta, Iñigo
122. Fernandez, Bingen
123. Fofonov, Dimitry
124. Atienza, Daniel
125. Bessy, Fréderic
126. Lopeboselli, Angelo
127. Rutkiewicz, Marek
128. Trentin, GuidoMercatone Uno
Sport director: Marino Amadori
131. Pantani, Marco
132. Albizu, Joseba
133. Clavero, Daniel
134. Conti, Roberto
135. Codol, Massimo
136. Gasperoni, Cristian
137. Fontanelli, Fabiano
138. Bellotti, FrancescoEuskaltel-Euskadi
Sport director: Julian Gorospe
141. Etxebarria, David
142. Martínez, Alberto
143. Mayo, Iban
144. Zubeldia, Haimer
145. López de Munain, Alberto
146. Etxebarria, Unai
147. Flores, Iker
148. Sánchez, SamuelColchon Relax-Fuenlabrada
Jose Maria Pérez, José María
151. Colom, Antonio
152. Guerra, Héctor
153. Laguna, Oscar
154. Navas, David
155. Nieto, German
156. Noval, Benjamín
157. Pasamontes, Luis
158. Pérez, SergioPaternina-Costa Almeria
Sport director: Miguel Moreno
161. Casero, Rafael
162. Toledo, Gustavo
163. Torrent, Carlos
164. Guillamon, Juan Carlos
165. Segado, Domingo
166. Ferrio, Jorge
167. Gadeo, Darío
168. Garrido, José AntonioLabarca 2- Café Baqué
Sport director: Jon Cengotitabengoa
171. Kintana, Aitor
172. Gutiérrez, Francisco
173. Garcia, Marcelino
174. Gómez, José Javier
175. López, David
176. Elorriaga, Unai
177. Serrano, Ricardo
178. Cerezo, Francisco Javier