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Giro della Provincia di Lucca - Stage 3
 
By Podofdonny
Date: 10/3/2002
Giro della Provincia di Lucca - Stage 3
 

Giro della Provincia di Lucca

Stage 3: Stazzema - Forte dei Marmi 162 km

Race organiser Fabrizio Conforti must have always realised that his race, first run in 1999 and won by Bettini, would always live in the shadows of the World Championships. It is a mixed blessing, for sure. It ensures the race gets maximum publicity - but the journalists of the different nations see the race from different angles.

The Spanish press naturally homed in on the fact that defending world champion Oscar Freire did not finish the stage. Todociclismo, the excellent Spanish website, opened tonight with - “Oscar Freire, the champion of the world, has abandoned during the third stage of Giro della Provincia di Lucca...he finished second to the Italian Michele Bartoli on the second stage, but still has knee problems and has abandoned as a precaution...although we are still waiting for an official announcement."

In France the retirement of Laurent Jalabert was expected as was Ludo Dierckxsens in Belgium. In the USA Fast Freddy Rodriguez' third place was the centre of attention.

However the main focus has been on the sheer talent of Bettini and the role he will play in the big race in Zolder. For once that master of publicity and showmanship Mario Cipollini found himself out staged by a “cricket“ - which is surely something that no Lion likes.

After the rigours of yesterday's stage the parcours today always seem to favour a mass sprint. Ten men who tried to defy the odds got away after 16 kilometres; Nikacevic, Zinetti, Amorison, Ljungblad, Cerezo, Kranjec, Knaven, Belohvosciks, and De Groot. Sadly for those escaped birds, cycling in Italy is a passionate affair, and they were never allowed the luxury of an advantage of over 2 minutes.

The climb of Castelnuovo Garlagnana after 106 kilometres proved to be the great equaliser and the escapees were caught on the foothills of the climb.

From that moment on the well organised Acqua e Sapone team and, of course Mercatone Uno, riding for the blue jersey of race leader Fabiano Fontanelli, controlled the race. Max Sciandri launched a typical brave attack as the Flamme Rouge approached but was inevitably pulled back as the Zebra men seemed fully in control.

As the Zebra men gave the lion king a perfect lead out, Bettini, a true master, ghosted in on Cipollini's left hand side to surprise everyone (indeed it did appear that he surprised himself) to take a great stage victory.

More questions than answers then for Ballerini, as both Cipollini and Bettini seem to be in great shape.

Meanwhile the race organisers must be prepared for yet another abandonment tomorrow. Bettini is off to prepare for the worlds...

Not in the headlines today - but who will soon get his full credit is Fabiano Fontanelli. Still in the leader's blue jersey and working hard to keep hold of it - few would deny him the honour of this race.

Results Stage 3

1 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Mapei-Quick Step 3.24.37 (44.277 km/h)

2 Mario Cipollini (Ita) Acqua e Sapone

3 Fred Rodriguez (USA) Domo-Farm Frites

4 Serge Baguet (Bel) Lotto-Adecco

5 Dmitri Konyshev (Rus) Fassa Bortolo

6 Luca Paolini (Ita) Mapei-Quick Step

7 Gianluca Bortolami (Ita) Tacconi Sport-Emmegi

8 Elio Aggiano (Ita) Mapei-Quick Step

9 Ruggero Marzoli (Ita) Formaggi Trentini P>10 Mauro Gerosa (Ita) Tacconi Sport-Emmegi

General classification

1 Fabiano Fontanelli (Ita) Mercatone Uno 12.49.04

2 Markus Zberg (Swi) Rabobank 0.04

3 Richard Virenque (Fra) Domo-Farm Frites 0.07

4 Elio Aggiano (Ita) Mapei-Quick Step 0.11

5 Andrea Peron (Ita) CSC-Tiscali 0.13

6 Rubens Bertogliati (Swi) Lampre-Daikin

7 Matteo Carrara (Ita) Team Colpack-Astro 0.16

8 Luca Scinto (Ita) Mapei-Quick Step

9 Andris Reiss (Lat) Index-Alexia 0.32

10 Marcelino Garcia Alonso (Spa) CSC-Tiscali 0.43

Stage 2: Capannori - Altopascio 235 km

Today's stage was not for the fainthearted, or those riders unable to keep the wheel of the "grimper punch." Not a day for the true climbers, like, for instance Julio Alberto Perez Cuapio, but those men able to attack the smaller climbs with gusto.

The stage between Capannori-Altopascio (235 kilometers) was characterized by a course of nine circuits, (first 4 large circuits of 30,7 km and then 5 small circuits of 20,1 km). At the heart of the parcours was with the difficult ascent of Montecarlo di Lucca (2,5 km. - average gradient 5%, max. gradient going up to 10%) which was to be tackled nine times.

So it was with some trepidation that the giants of the road assembled in Capannori this morning at 10.30 to be waved off by the mayor of the town Michele Martinelli and, of course, the usual assembly of tifosi, the curious and the indifferent who had been caught up in affairs. Only one rider missed the colourful scene, Mateos Perez, and so 139 riders set off.

The action soon started; after only 10 kilometres a very useful bunch of 22 riders had broken away from the main peloton: Giunti, Simeoni, Casagranda, Casarotto, Hvastija, Nikacevic, Carlstrom, Gronquist, Laurent Jalabert, Miorin, Michele Bartoli, Basso, Petito, Cortinovis, Bettini, Freire, Mazzanti, Mori, De Groot, Gavazzi, Pepoli and Lunghi. By the time these men passed under the finishing banner for the first time in Altopascio (11.7 km), the 22 men had built a lead of 33 seconds.

“Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” is an old expression which could equally apply to Italian cyclists. It was noticeable that only Bettini from the Italian World Championship squad had made it to this select group - and the likes of Bartoli clearly had a point to prove. As the “fuyards” upped the pace on the first circuit they managed to shed Nikacevic, increase their lead to 4.03’’ and cause a split in the chasing peloton.

The second circuit saw a Domo-led peloton - working hard for Virenque, who was well classified on General classification in the morning, pull back the gap to 2.51’’ while the average speed for the first two hours of racing was a leg sapping 46.20kmph.

On each climb of the Montecarlo di Lucca a little more of the drama of the race unfurled - on the third circuit it was Casagranda, Casarotto, Hvastija and Gavazzi who found the pace too high and drifted back to the peloton, which in turn had also lost ground on the leaders with the gap again on the increase to 4.03.

It was the turn of the small Italian team Formaggi Trentini to lead the peloton in an attempt to bring the race back together on the fourth and final “large lap” - they nearly succeed and the gap drops to 1.47’’ - while the average speed is 45.10 km/h with still 100 kilometres of racing to go around the five “small circuits”.

Responding to the closing peloton, Bettini attacked on the first climb of the Montecarlo di Lucca on the first of the small circuits. Only Bartoli and Oscar Freire can respond and while Mori and Gronquist hang on. These five soon gain a minute on the rest of the escapees with the exception of Massimo Giunti and Devis Miorin who don’t lose heart and chase the 5 men at the front of the race.

The second small circuit saw an incredible attack from the main peloton by Massimo Donati, who soon finds himself up amongst the splintered front group while the head of affairs the leaders have regrouped to seven men: Giunti, Miorin, Bartoli, Bettini, Freire, Mori and Gronqvist. The peloton, always lead by the Mercatone Uno boys, is 4'48 behind.

The third small lap Bettini found himself unable to cope with Bartoli, clearly out to prove a point, and a very aggressive Oscar Freire - who once again seems to be coming into form at exactly the right, moment for the worlds. His attack towards the top of the climb, succeeding in dropping Giunti which left 5 men standing.

Bartoli, Freire, Mori, Miorin and Gronqvist used the fourth lap to consolidate their lead.

So the final lap and the final climb saw Devis Miorin make the expected attack on the Montecarlo di Lucca. Bartoli was clearly in no mood to be outdone at this late stage of the game and pulled the errant De Nardi rider back on the descent. Mori (Mercatone Uno), realising he would have no chance in the sprint tried a brave attack from 3kms out. It was a good move, but unfortunately if you are up against Bartoli and Freire in fighting form the odds are somewhat stacked against you!

Only Oscar and Michele could respond but it was a close run thing. They caught Mori and instantly the two champions engaged in a sprint for the finish. Bartoli proved the strongest man and the World Champion, who had had a great race himself, had to be content with the second step of the podium.

Bartoli will consider it a point well made to the Italian Selectors, but will regard this great victory as little consolation when he watches the Zolder race on the television.

Needless to say, Cipollini won the mass sprint of the peloton (albeit 5.40 behind) but no doubt USA fans will find it encouraging that fast Freddy Rodriguez came in just behind him. Meanwhile French sprinter extraordinaire - Richard Virenque(?) - was third in the bunch and will no doubt be the great "message board" subject in France tonight.

As for Fabiano Fontanelli - don’t worry - the Mercatone boys looked well in control today - with a man in the break and the Uno ruling the peloton as they did in the olden days when Cipo used to ride for them. Good ol’ Fontanelli keeps the leader's jersey - and well deserved too!

So a hard man's race in which the double cream of Bartoli and Freire rose to the top. Definitely not a day for the “true” climbers - Julio Alberto “Lucky” Perez Cuapio did not finish. Then again Virenque came third in a sprint and Jamie Burrow is still in 8th in the GC.

Hugely entertaining race, this!

Results Stage 2

1 Michele Bartoli (Ita) Fassa Bortolo 5.25.16

2 Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) Mapei

3 Massimiliano Mori (Ita) Mercatone Uno 0.04

4 Devis Miorin (Ita) De Nardi-Pasta Montegrappa 0.13

5 Thomas Gronqvist (Swe) Amore & Vita-Berretta 0.18

6 Luis F. Laverde Jemenez (Col) Formaggi Trentini 2.27

7 Massimo Donati (Ita) Tacconi Sport-Emmegi 3.51

8 Mario Cipollini (Ita) Acqua e Sapone 5.40

9 Fred Rodriguez (USA) Domo-Farm Frites

10 Richard Virenque (Fra) Domo-Farm Frites

General classification

1 Fabiano Fontanelli (Ita) Mercatone Uno 9.24.27

2 Markus Zberg (Swi) Rabobank 0.04

3 Mirko Celestino (Ita) Saeco 0.06

4 Richard Virenque (Fra) Domo-Farm Frites 0.07

5 Matteo Tosatto (Ita) Fassa Bortolo

6 Elio Aggiano (Ita) Mapei-Quick Step 0.11

7 Andrea Peron (Ita) CSC-Tiscali 0.13

8 Jamie Burrow (GBr) Amore & Vita-Beretta

9 Rubens Bertogliati (Swi) Lampre-Daikin

10 Matteo Carrara (Ita) Team Colpack-Astro 0.16

Giro della Provincia di Lucca - Ita - cat. 2.3

Stage 1: Pescia - Castelvecchio Pascoli 165 km

Just after midday 145 riders set out from Pescia to compete in the fourth Giro della Provincia di Lucca. Indeed, this is not a race with the historical glories of say, Milan San Remo, but (and with the cancellation of many races this season) a welcome addition to a European Calendar, the fans of the sport should be thankful to Fabrizio Conforti who, I believe, is the main benefactor of the race.

This being Italy, the vampires were, as always, out early to test 71 riders from 14 different teams - Alessio, Amore & Vita, CSC Tiscali, Domo-Farm Frites, Team Colpack – Astro, Lotto – Adecco, Mercatone Uno, Rabobank, De Nardi – Pasta Montegrappa, Saeco-Longoni Sport, Index Alexia, Formaggi Trentini, Landbouwkrediet – Colnago and Ceramiche Panaria – Fiordo. Everyone was declared fit to race. Only one rider from the failed to make the start - CSC’s Rasmussen, a great shame, for today's parcours would have suited the Danish grimpeur.

The peloton set off in a fairly relaxed mood and the first hours racing was "only" 39.300 km/h... The first climb of the day, the Foce di Trebbio, saw various attacks which were all swiftly countered. However, as the peloton speed through Collodi (km 63), an attack by 14 riders broke clear.

Good to see Britain's Jamie Burrow (finally finding good form after a couple of miserable seasons) one of the main protagonists of the move, along with Garcia Alonso, Peron, Virenque, Tosatto, Reiss, Bertogliati, Scinto, Aggiano, De Angeli, Fontanelli, Marcus Zberg, Celestino and Carrara.

With the average speed gradually rising (41,500 km/h) the 14 men were working so well together that their lead on the peloton was rising all the time - at 92 kilometres it reached its maximum - 5.50.

As the fuyards reached the finish point in Castelvecchio Pascoli for the first time, they had an advantage of 3.34 - but still had three 17.7 circuits to complete.

As ever, the harmony amongst the escapees could not last for ever. On the final circuit the attacks were many. Bertogliati was unfortunate to crash.

Veteran campaigner Fontanelli, seeing the young legs around him, attacked with around ten kilometres to go, and his fans must have been disappointed to see Aggiano and Bertogliati catch him as they passed under the Flamme Rouge. However, the "old man" of Faenza launched the killer attack at that point and soloed home to take the stage and the race leaders jersey.

What can you say about Fontanelli? A professional since 1989, when he joined the SELCA CICLOLINEA team he won his first professional victory in that year when he took a stage of the Giro di Calabria. Indeed since 1993 Fontanelli has won at least one race (and usually more every season). Indeed the veteran has won two races this season, a remarkable achievement when you consider the first time he received the kisses from the misses Greg LeMond, Fignon and Delgado were on the podium in Paris!

So Fontanelli wins his 36th career victory and reminds us all that, whereas the big stars make millions, it is the journeymen of the sport - who ride more for love than profit - who are the backbone of the sport we love.

CSC Report: "Unfortunately, Garcia crashed on the last of four final rounds and then we only had one rider left for the finale. Peron looked very strong throughout the stage and he was part of the very first breakaway. Now, the plan is to keep both Peron and Garcia among the frontrunners and hope for further separation among the top riders in the general classification which will allow us to bring both Peron and Garcia into the top-10. I suspect that tomorrow's 225 km stage will be used by some of the potential members of the Italian national team as a test of the world championship form", said Johnny Weltz after the first 165 km stage which was won by Fabiano Fontanelli (Mercatone Uno) who went away from his breakaway companions on the final kilometre.

Result Stage One

1 Fabiano Fontanelli (Ita) Mercatone Uno 3.53.36 42,370 km/h.

2 Markus Zberg (Swi) Rabobank 0.02

3 Mirko Celestino (Ita) Saeco

4 Matteo Tosatto (Ita) Fassa Bortolo

5 Richard Virenque (Fra) Domo-Farm Frites

6 Elio Aggiano (Ita) Mapei-Quick Step 0.06

7 Rubens Bertogliati (Swi) Lampre-Daikin 0.08

8 Andrea Peron (Ita) CSC-Tiscali

9 Jamie Burrow (GBr) Amore & Vita-Beretta

10 Luca Scinto (Ita) Mapei-Quick Step 0.11

General classification

1 Fabiano Fontanelli (Ita) Mercatone Uno 3.53.36

2 Markus Zberg (Swi) Rabobank 0.04

3 Mirko Celestino (Ita) Saeco 0.06

4 Matteo Tosatto (Ita) Fassa Bortolo 0.07

5 Richard Virenque (Fra) Domo-Farm Frites

6 Elio Aggiano (Ita) Mapei-Quick Step 0.11

7 Rubens Bertogliati (Swi) Lampre-Daikin 0.13

8 Andrea Peron (Ita) CSC-Tiscali

9 Jamie Burrow (GBr) Amore & Vita-Beretta

10 Luca Scinto (Ita) Mapei-Quick Step 0.16

Teams

ACQUA&SAPONE – CANTINA TOLLO ITA (Cipollini, Gentili)

ALESSIO ITA - (Hvastija, Shefer)

AMORE&VITA – BERETTA POL (Rohtmer, Gronquist, Burrow )

CERAMICHE PANARIA – FIORDO ITA (Perez Cuapio, O’Neill)

CSC TISCALI DEN (L. Jalabert, Pena )

DE NARDI – PASTA MONTEGRAPPA SVK (Bulgarelli, Aug)

DOMO – FARM FRITES BEL (Virenque, Vainsteins)

FASSA BORTOLO ITA (Bartoli, Basso Tosatto)

FORMAGGI TRENTINI ITA (Di Biase, Bondarenko)

GEROLSTEINER GER (Rebellin, Rastelli)

INDEX – ALEXIA ITA (Hamburger, G. Valoti)

LAMPRE – DAIKIN ITA (Sciandri, Bertogliati)

LANDBOUWKREDIET – COLNAGO BEL (Popovych, Bernucci)

LOTTO – ADECCO BEL (R. Verbrugghe, Van de Wouwer)

MAPEI – QUICK STEP ITA (Bettini, Freire)

MERCATONE UNO ITA (Fontanelli, Mazzanti)

RABOBANK NED (Dekker, M. Zberg)

SAECO – LONGONI SPORT ITA (Commesso, Celestino)

ACCONI SPORT ITA (Bortolami, Donati)

TEAM COLPACK – ASTRO ITA (Lunghi, Giordani)

Stages:

01.10 - stage 1: Pescia - Castelvecchio Pascoli 165 km

02.10 - stage 2: Capannori - Altopascio = 225 km

03.10 - stage 3: Stazzema - Forte dei Marmi = 162 km

04.10 - stage 4: Viareggio - Lucca = 162 km

Past winners

2001 Mario Aerts (Bel) Lotto-Adecco

2000 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Fassa Bortolo

1999 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Mapei-Quick Step


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