By Andrew Hood
Former mountain bike world champion Michael Rasmussen shined inthe mountains of Spain on Thursday, winning the “etapa reina” or queen’sstage of the 2002 Vuelta a Burgos. iBanesto.com’s Francisco Mancebotakes the overall lead with just one day left in the key Vuelt a Españawarmup race.CSC-Tiscali’s Rasmussen, who skipped the 2002 Tour de France to be freshfor the second half of the season, made a big impression in the difficult165-km climbing stage to the Lagunas del Neila high in the Sierra de laDemanda mountains of northern Spain. He finished with a time of 4 hours,11 minutes, 4 seconds, finishing 20 seconds ahead of U.S. Postal’s RobertoHeras.The stage was active from the beginning and there were many attacksuntil Rasmussen, winner of the 1999 world mountain bike championships,attacked with four km to the summit.It was an important stage victory for the Dane in what’s been the yearof the mountain bikers on the road scene. Australian Cadel Evans,a winner of two mountain bike World Cups, wore the pink jersey in the 2002Giro d’Italia. Dario Cioni shined in the Giro and Olympic mountainbike champion Miguel Martinez made a big splash at his Tour debut.Behind Rasmussen there was a fight for the overall lead. Mikel Zarrabeitia,the rider who took the lead after ONCE’s victory in Wednesday’s team timetrial, forfeited too much time and Mancebo grabbed the race lead.Friday’s final stage is a rolling stage 172 km from Castrojeriz to Burgos.Moller takes Tour of Portugal
Another Dane, Claus Moller of the Milaneza-MSS team, capturedthe 64th Tour of Portugal after winning the final-day time trial aftertaking over the race lead from teammate Joan Horrach.Moller won the 23.9-km time trial in 34 minutes, 10 seconds and finishedfaster than Horrach, who came across the line in 35 minutes, 3 secondsand lost the race to Moller by just 5 seconds.“It’s very frustrating to lose a race like this, but that’s racing,you can lose a race that you were almost winning until the final momentsand then lose by a few seconds,” Horrach told the Spanish wires.Milaneza-MSS was the big winner of the most important race on the seasonin Portugal, taking the top-three positions in the overall and the mountainjersey.Homage to Tour greats at Burgos
Race organizers of the Tour of Burgos are making a special ceremonyFriday to pay homage to some of the cycling greats. Scheduled to appearat special ceremonies before and after the final stage of the race includeEddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain, each winnersof five Tours.Also appearing are Spain’s other Tour winners, Federico Bahamontesand Pedro Delgado. There will a special plaque awarded and a honorarydinner afterwards. Four-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrongdeclined an invitation to appear because he said he’s still an active racerand does not consider himself to be at the same level as Merckx, Hinaultor Indurain.Bessy leaving Crédit Agricole
Frederic Bessy is leaving Crédit Agricole at the end of thisseason with hopes of signing with another French team, perhaps Cofidis.Bessy, 31, wanted a two-year contract extension, but team manager RogerLegeay was only willing to offer a one-year deal, according to the Frenchwires.Bessy might be heading to Cofidis, which said it wants to sign fourother French riders to the team for the 2003 season.