|HINCAPIE, ARMSTRONG IN LEAD GROUP AT MILAN-SAN REMO; ZABRISKIE THIRD OVERALL AT SEA OTTER
The United State Postal Service Pro Cycling Team's George Hincapie placed 16th and Lance Armstrong - in his first event of the season - 44th Saturday as the 2002 World Cup season kicked off with its traditional opener, Milan - San Remo. Both USPS riders made the final group and were involved in the sprint to the line, won by Italian Mario Cipollini. As the lead group of riders stormed to the line, Hincapie was boxed in along the right side of the road and could not break free.
"Considering it is a race of nearly 300 kilometers, I felt pretty good," Armstrong said of his performance. "In year's past, I didn't make it to the finish with the first group, so it's a good sign.
"The team was solid," Armstrong continued. "We had one plan and that was to protect George and keep him "in" the race. I know George was disappointed with his finish but he will absolutely be redeemed in (the upcoming Tour of) Flanders and/or (Paris-) Roubaix. I have a great feeling about him this year."
Armstrong was due to start his season at the Tour of Murcia earlier this month but a stomach virus caused him to miss the event, thus leaving Milan - San Remo as his opener. Armstrong has also committed to riding in support of Hincapie at several early season one-day events, such as Milan - San Remo, the Tour of Flanders and Gent-Wevelgem.
"I will say that I've missed the race and team atmosphere, it was nice to be back at the races," Armstrong said. Regarding Milan - San Remo, Armstrong added, "I'm disappointed there were so many crashes. We lost a few guys that would have surely been up front, like (Floyd) Landis and (David) Clinger, and the race lost big favorites like (four time winner Erik) Zabel, (Tirreno Adriatico winner and 2002 World Cup champ Erik) Dekker and (Danilo) Di Luca."
In domestic racing action, the USPS' Dave Zabriskie, on the heels of his top five finish at the Redlands Classic, won the opening stage and placed third overall at the Sea Otter Classic, which also concluded on Saturday. Zabriskie won Thursday's 27.2 km time trial by 13 seconds over runner up and eventual race winner Chris Horner of Prime Alliance. Zabriskie then retained the race lead following Thursday's second stage, an 80 kilometer criterium, where teammate Robbie Ventura crashed and separated his left shoulder. Horner then took the race lead for good following his victory in Friday's difficult 184 km road race. The event then concluded Saturday with a 73 kilometer circuit race.
Next up for the team will be the Criterium International, a two-day, three-stage event in France this weekend.
MILAN - SAN REMO
1. Mario Cipollini, Acqua & Sapone; 287 kms 6:39:30
2. Fred Rodriguez, Domo-Farm Frites; s.t.
3. Marcus Zberg, Rabobank; s.t.
4. Jo Planckaert, Cofidis; s.t.
5. Oscar Freire, Mapei; s.t.
16. George Hincapie, U.S. Postal Service; s.t.
44. Lance Armstrong, U.S. Postal Service; s.t.
67. Benoit Joachim, U.S. Postal Service; at 3:16
110. David Clinger, U.S. Postal Service; at 3:38
113. Pavel Padrnos, U.S. Postal Service; s.t.
120. Matt White, U.S. Postal Service; s.t.
FINAL GC, SEA OTTER CLASSIC
1. Chris Horner, Prime Alliance; 8:13:11
2. Henk Vogels, Mercury; at 2:35
3. Dave Zabriskie, U.S. Postal Service; at 3:12
4. Scott Moninger, Mercury; at 4:07
5. Adham Sbieh, Mercury; at 4:14
13. Michael Barry, U.S. Postal Service; at 6:51
29. Tom Boonen, U.S. Postal Service; at 20:10
30. Dylan Casey, U.S. Postal Service; at 21:40