BriefDaniel Schamps sends this report from the race. The 1996 winner, Laurent Jalabert (ONCE), won la Classique des Alpes cycliste on Saturday. Over the 181.5 kms course between Chambéry and Aix-les-Bains, the rider from the Tarnais region of France won the sprint from his two breakaway companions, Italian Francesco Casagrande (Cofidis) and Frenchman Benoît Salmon (Casino).
Laurent Jalabert (30-years) notched up his 105th professional victory since turning pro in 1989. The world number one has now shown that his form is strong. He said after the race: "There are some who might say that my form is not very good. that I did not support all the effort in the break. This was a long breakaway and I was not going to go into the red."
With his participation in the Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré, that starts on Sunday, he confirmed that his objective is clear: "The Tour de France is my objective and if I am going well in the Critérium I think I will stop after the ITT on Thursday before the major mountain passes.
It rained all day (stormy weather above the Alps with a temperature between 25 and 30°C)
The col du Granier, was the initial difficulty in this edition of the Classique des Alpes, that required the riders to confront 7 côtes et cols. The Spaniard Gonzales Arietta attacked at the front and had a lead group of a dozen riders including Jalabert, Salmon and Casagrande behind himm On the col des Près, these three riders put the pressure on the peloton. The gap on the climb stabilised to less than 2 minutes on the chasing group which contained Jan Ullrich, the 1997 Tour winner, and Richard Virenque, his principal rival for the Tour.
With forty km to go, in the ascent of the Col de Plainpalais (summit at 31 km of the finish line) the penultimate ascent of the race (Côte of Miribel les Echelles km 24.5), Côte of Chatelard (km 39), Col du Granier (km 55.5), Col de Marocaz (km 99), Col des Prés (km 116), Col de Plainpalais (km 149.5) and Mont Revard (km 157), three riders led (L. Jalabert, F. Casagrande and B. Salmon). They were 1.30 ahead of a group of some twenty men including Virenque (who finally took part in the Classique), Hamburger, Madouas , Olano, Ullrich, Riis, Robin, Beltran, Voigt, Gonzalez-Arrieta, Teyssier, van de Wouwer, Blanco, Aggiano, Arrieta, Djavanian, Lebreton, and Teteriouk. Near the top of Plainpalais, Salmon who looked a bit tired in the wheels of the 2 others tried to break free, and crossed the top 100 metres clear but was caught almost immediately. Behind the leaders, Lebreton counter-attacked in company with Madouas and crossed the top of Plainpalais 1.32 behind Salmon, the group of 20 some 300 metres behind.
Between Plainpalais (1174 m above sea-level) and Mont Revard there is no descent. A very short flat part and then it climbs again to reach 1450 m. above sea-level on the top of the Revard, the highest point of the race. While the Banesto team led the chase (the more often with Beltran and Arrieta) for Olano, Casino manager Lavenu asked Salmon to content himself with remaining behind Casagrande and Jalabert who both took the relays. On the top of the Revard, where Casagrande led, the chasers were still 1.30 back. Madouas and Lebreton were caught at less than one km of the top.
Then began the long descent towards Aix-les-Bains with just the 4 last kms flat through Aix-les-Bains. Salmon immediatly broke free and quickly built a 20 seconds lead, but he was too fast and crashed on the wet road in a hair-pin bend. When he stood up Jalabert and Casagrande were with him. Nothing happened until the last 800m finish line except a desperate lone counter-attack by Teteriuk in the descent. Salmon led the sprint which began at 400m of the line. Casagrande was on his wheel and Jalabert 3rd and has no problem to pass Casagrande with 100 m to go. Salmon was already dropped.
In the chase group, the great animators of the 1997 Tour de France, Bjarne Riis, Virenque, Abraham Olano and Ullrich, were neutralised. Riis finished 7th, Virenque 10th and Ullrich 14th, a place that gave the German plenty of encouragement.
Chambéry - Aix-les-Bains (Savoie), 181.5 kms:
1. Laurent Jalabert (Fra) ONCE 4.57.51 (36.562) 2. Francesco Casagrande (Ita) Cofidis 3. Benoît Salmon (Fra) Casino s.t. 4. Andreï Tétériouk (Kaz) Lotto-Mobistar 1.12 5. Viatcheslav Djavanian (Rus) Big Mat-Auber 93 1.43 6. Bo Hamburger (Den) Casino 7. Bjarne Riis (Den) Deutsche Telekom 8. Jens Voigt (Ger) GAN 9. Jean Cyril Robin (Fra) US Postal 10. Richard Virenque (Fra) Festina 11. Kurt Van de Wouwer (Bel) Lotto-Mobistar 12. Manuel Beltran (Spa) Banesto 13. Lylian Lebreton (Fra) Big Mat-Auber 93 14. Jan Ullrich (Ger) Telekom 15. Yvon Ledanois (Fra) La Francaise des Jeux 16. Ramon Gonzales (Spa) Euskadi-Euskatel 17. Inigo Gonzales (Spa) Vitalicio-Seguros 18. Laurent Madouas (Fra) Lotto-Mobistar 19. Denis Leproux (Fra) Big Mat-Auber 93 20. Abraham Olano (Spa) Banesto s.t.
TVM (Outschakov) Festina (Virenque and Brochard among the substitutes) Casino (Elli, Massi, Vinokourov) Deutsche Telekom (Ullrich, Riis) ONCE (Laurent Jalabert) Rabobank (Sorensen) Banesto (Olano) GAN (Vasseur, Hinault) Lotto-Mobistar (Madouas, Teteriuk) La Francaise des Jeux (Heulot) Cofidis (Casagrande) Kelme-Costa Blanca (Cabello) US Postal Service (Llaneras) Vitalicio Seguros (Casero) Riso Scotti (Caruso, Di Biase) Big Mat-Auber 93 (L.Auger) Euskaltel-Euskadi (Gonzalez-Arrieta, Chaurreau) Mutuelle Seine et Marne (Maignan, Dojwa)
Chambery - Aix-les-Bains, 187.5 kms:
1991 Charly Mottet (Fra) 1992 Gilles Delion (Fra) 1993 Eddy Bouwmans (Ned) 1994 Oliverio Rincon (Col) 1995 Ramón Gonzalez-Arrieta (Spa) 1996 Laurent Jalabert (Fra) 1997 Laurent Roux (Fra)Past winners from Mario Stiehl, Berlin