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Belgium, April 8, 2001
Bortolami takes the Ronde
By Jeff Jones
The 85th Ronde rolled out of Brugge with 196 riders, minus Mercatone Uno's Fabio Fontanelli (high hematocrit) and Jean Patrick-Nazon (sick). The wet conditions on the coast led to several crashes, with Johan Museeuw, Erik Zabel and Peter van Petegem amongst those who fell. The speed at the start was also very high, as the riders had a tailwind for most of the first 150 km.
An attack from Collstrop's Karel Pauwels and Bert Scheirlinckx succeeded in drawing off a 15 rider chasing group, which eventually caught the pair after 93 kilometres. They held a 5 minute advantage at that stage. 20 kilometres later (just before Oudenaarde), Nico Eeckhout (Lotto), Paolo Bossoni (Tacconi), Christophe Detilloux (Collstrop) and Martin van Steen (Bankgiroloterij) countered, and established themselves at the head of the race.
Their gap to the main peloton had shrunk from 5 minutes to 2'30, as Domo, Telekom, US Postal, and Saeco led the chase. They were captured at km 161, by a 18 rider group containing Fabian DeWaele and Paul van Hyfte (Lotto), Servais Knaven (Domo), Matthew White and Christian Vandevelde (USPS), Stefano Zanini and Daniele Nardello (Mapei), Fabio Baldato, Alessandro Petacchi and Leonardo Giordani (Fassa Bortolo), Maarten Den Bakker and Erik Dekker (Rabobank), Michel Vanhaecke (Landbouwkrediet), Mariano Piccoli and Ludo Diercxksens (Lampre), Frank Hoj (Coast), and Arvis Piziks (CSC).
These riders made the race over the next 100 kilometres, but fortunes continually changed at the head. The 5th of the 16 climbs was Kluisbergen (km 189) and from here on there was almost no chance to recover before the next hill. The leaders disintegrated on the 2,200m Oude Kwaremont, as Dierckxsens (Lampre), Nardello (Mapei), Knaven (Domo), Vandevelde (USPS), Zanini (Mapei) and Baldato (Fassa) emerged at the top. They were caught later by Piziks (who fell into a ditch on the Oude Kwaremont), Maarten den Bakker and Michel Vanhaecke, forming a leading group of 9 riders with 56 km to go.
The race was far from over though, as many of the favourites (Tchmil, Sciandri, Wesemann, Bartoli, Planckaert, Vainsteins, Sorensen) were in a larger peloton, 1'00 behind. In the lead, Lampre's Ludo Dierckxsens was "having fun" as he later recalled, and led the break up almost every climb, helping to keep the bunch at bay. Perhaps the critical moment in a constantly changing race came at 41 km to go, when Max Sciandri (Lampre), Gianluca Bortolami (Tacconi) and Geert Van Bondt (Mercury) escaped the peloton, which stopped working. These three caught some of the stragglers ahead, and then the front riders on the steep, cobbled Taaienberg (climb 12, 37 km to go).
Chris Peers (Cofidis), Denis Zanette (Liquigas) and Rolf Sorensen (CSC) had also made it across, but no-one could manage to make an attack stick. Sciandri, Dierckxsens, Peers, Nardello and Zanette looked to be the strongest over the final 20 kilometres, while Dekker bided his time at the back and looked behind for the chasing group.
As it headed towards the feared Muur at Geraardsbergen, the race finally found its feet. In the lead were 8 riders: Sciandri, Dierckxsens, Peers, Nardello, Zanette, Vandevelde, Bortolami and Sorensen. Chasing them was a group of 9, with Wesemann, Planckaert, Mattan, Museeuw, Tchmil, Vainsteins, Bartoli, Bettini, Balducci and Hincapie. At the base of the Muur, the gap was approximately 16 seconds, and that turned out to be enough for the leaders to stay away on the Bosberg and the subsequent downhill run into Ninove.
There were several attacks in the leading group, but there was too much at stake to let anything go. Ludo Dierckxsens rode his heart out to keep Max Sciandri in a winning position, but unfortunately it didn't work. Sciandri led out the uphill sprint with 400 metres to go, but was quickly passed by Denis Zanette. On Zanette's right was Bortolami, lurking in the shadow of the barriers, and the powerful Italian moved past with less than 100 metres to go. On the other side, Erik Dekker was finishing very fast and got past Zanette but needed another few metres to get Bortolami.
The 32 year old Italian took his biggest victory since the Leeds Classic and Meisterschaft von Zurich in 1994, and was surprised but happy. "I helped Museeuw win Roubaix (1996), and across the line here I was congratulated by Museeuw. I never thought I would win - it's a dream come true."
"I began the day by having problems. I chased after 20 km because my bike broke in two, and I had to use the spare. Then I tried really hard to remain in the front."
"In the group we all had a chance to win. I had at least a small chance in a sprint. I passed Zanette in a very narrow space. If he had moved his line, I would have been blocked. Dekker was very strong, but he missed by a few centimetres."
"I have felt good since the beginning of the season, especially since the first stage of the Driedaagse van de Panne. The day after, I gave up in order not to get sick."
Bortolami now moves into the equal lead in the World Cup, as Erik Zabel didn't pick up any points today.
1 Gianluca Bortolami (Ita) Tacconi Sport-Vini Caldirola 6.10.23 (43.58 km/h) 2 Erik Dekker (Ned) Rabobank 3 Denis Zanette (Ita) Liquigas 4 Rolf Sorensen (Den) CSC-World Online 5 Daniele Nardello (Ita) Mapei-Quick Step 6 Chris Peers (Bel) Cofidis 7 Max Sciandri (GBr) Lampre-Daikin 8 Ludo Dierckxsens (Bel) Lampre-Daikin 9 Andre Tchmil (Bel) Lotto-Adecco 0.19 10 Romans Vanisteins (Lat) Domo-Farm Frites 11 Nico Mattan (Bel) Cofidis 12 Steffen Wesemann (Ger) Telekom 13 George Hincapie (USA) US Postal Service 14 Gabriele Balducci (Ita) Tacconi Sport 15 Michele Bartoli (Ita) Mapei-Quick Step 16 Johan Museeuw (Bel) Domo-Farm Frites 17 Christian Vandevelde (USA) US Postal Service 1.19 18 Frank Hoj (Den) Team Coast 19 Hans De Clercq (Bel) Lotto-Adecco 20 Guido Trenti (USA) Cantina Tollo 21 Bart Voskamp (Ned) Bankgiroloterij-Batavus 22 Marcus Zberg (Swi) Rabobank 23 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Mapei-Quick Step 24 Arvis Piziks (Lat) CSC-World Online 25 Servais Knaven (Ned) Domo-Farm Frites 26 Aart Vierhouten (Ned) Rabobank 27 Marco Serpellini (Ita) Lampre-Daikin 28 Jo Planckaert (Bel) Cofidis 29 Roberto Petito (Ita) Fassa Bortolo 30 Matteo Tosatto (Ita) Fassa Bortolo 31 Fabio Baldato (Ita) Fassa Bortolo 2.16 32 Jaan Kirsipuu (Est) Ag2R Prevoyance 33 Frederic Guesdon (Fra) La Francaise des Jeux 34 Pieter Vries (Ned) Bankgiroloterij-Batavus 35 Bert Hiemstra (Ned) Bankgiroloterij-Batavus 36 Rolf Huser (Swi) Team Coast 37 Paul Van Hyfte (Bel) Lotto-Adecco 38 Cédric Vasseur (Fra) U.S. Postal Service 39 Leon Van Bon (Ned) Mercury-Viatel 3.58 40 Stefano Zanini (Ita) Mapei-Quick Step 41 Vjatceslav Ekimov (Rus) U.S. Postal Service 42 Franco Ballerini (Ita) Mapei-Quick Step 43 Michel Van Haecke (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago 44 Geert Van Bondt (Bel) Mercury-Viatel 4.06 45 Fabian De Waele (Bel) Lotto-Adecco 5.40 46 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Credit Agricole 47 Peter Farazijn (Bel) Cofidis 48 Dario Pieri (Ita) Saeco Macchine Per Caffe 49 Marco Melisi (Ita) Domo-Farm Frites 50 Eric De Clercq (Bel) Collstrop-Palmans 51 Matthew White (Aus) U.S. Postal Service 52 Guennadi Mikhailov (Rus) Lotto-Adecco 53 Erik Zabel (Ger) Team Deutsche Telekom 8.50 54 Franck Perque (Fra) La Francaise Des Jeux 55 Remco Van Der Ven (Ned) Bankgiroloterij-Batavus 56 Jurgen Guns (Bel) Vlaanderen-T Interim 57 Matthé Pronk (Ned) Rabobank 58 Diego Ferrari (Ita) Tacconi Sport-Vini Caldirola 59 Max Van Heeswijk (Ned) Domo-Farm Frites 60 Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Credit Agricole 61 Cristian Salvato (Ita) Liquigas-Pata 62 Andrea Tafi (Ita) Mapei-Quick Step 63 Biagio Conte (Ita) Saeco Macchine Per Caffe 64 Leonardo Giordani (Ita) Fassa Bortolo 65 Jens Voigt (Ger) Credit Agricole 66 Maarten Den Bakker (Ned) Rabobank 67 Karsten Kroon (Ned) Rabobank 68 Gian Matteo Fagnini (Ita) Team Deutsche Telekom 69 Mario Cipollini (Ita) Saeco Macchine Per Caffe 70 Paolo Bossoni (Ita) Tacconi Sport-Vini Caldirola 10.56 71 Roger Hammond (GBr) Collstrop-Palmans 72 Lars Michaelsen (Den) Team Coast 73 Cristian Pepoli (Ita) Cantina Tollo 74 Plamen Stainov (Bul) Mercury-Viatel 75 Martin Van Steen (Ned) Bankgiroloterij-Batavus 76 Miquel Van Kessel (Ned) Team Gerolsteiner 77 Levy Leipheimer (USA) U.S. Postal Service 78 Corey Sweet (Aus) Bankgiroloterij-Batavus 79 Benoît Joachim (Lux) U.S. Postal Service 80 Christopher Jenner (Fra) Credit Agricole 81 Piotr Wadecki (Pol) Domo-Farm Frites 82 Christophe Mengin (Fra) La Francaise Des Jeux 83 Koen Beeckman (Bel) CSC-World Online 84 Antonio Cruz (USA) U.S. Postal Service 85 Ludovic Capelle (Bel) Ag2R Prevoyance 86 Björn Leukemans (Bel) Vlaanderen-T Interim 87 Karl Pauwels (Bel) Collstrop-Palmans Finishers: 87
1 Gianluca Bortolami (Ita) Tacconi Sport-Vini Caldirola 100 pts 2 Erik Zabel (Ger) Deutsche Telekom 100 3 Erik Dekker (Ned) Rabobank 75 4 Mario Cipollini (Ita) Saeco 70 5 Romans Vainsteins (Lat) Domo-Farm Frites 66 6 Rolf Soerensen (Den) CSC-World Online 56 7 Denis Zanette (Ita) Liquigas-Pata 50 8 Biagio Conte (Ita) Saeco Macchine per Caffe 40 9 Gabriele Balducci (Ita) Tacconi Sport-Vini Caldirola 40 10 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Mapei-Quick Step 39 11 Daniele Nardello (Ita) Mapei-Quick Step 36 12 George Hincapie (USA) US Postal Service 33 13 Chris Peers (Bel) Cofidis 32 14 Gabriele Colombo (Ita) Cantina Tollo 32 15 Maximilian Sciandri (GBr) Lampre-Daikin 29 16 Beat Zberg (Swi) Rabobank 28 17 Michele Bartoli (Ita) Mapei-Quick Step 26 18 Ludo Dierckxsens (Bel) Lampre-Daikin 24 19 Andrei Tchmil (Bel) Lotto-Adecco 20 20 Guido Trenti (USA) Cantina Tollo 20 Team classification 1 Cofidis (Fra) 13 pts 2 Lampre-Daikin (Ita) 12 3 Saeco Macchine per Cafe (Ita) 12 4 Rabobank (Ned) 11 5 Mapei (Ita) 10 6 Tacconi (Ita) 10 7 US Postal (USA) 10 8 Telekom (Ger) 9 9 Cantina Tollo (Ita) 8 10 Domo-Farm Frites (Bel) 6 11 Lotto Adecco (Bel) 5 12 Fassa Bortolo (Ita) 4