Among the participants this year: Last year's winner Alex Zulle, Laurent Jalabert (Once) Tony Rominger and Abraham Olano (Mapei) Mauro Gianetti and Luc Leblanc (Team Polti), Eugeni Berzin (Gewiss), Claudio Chiappucci (Carrera), Fernando Escartin (Kelme), Michele Coppolillo and Pascal Richard (MG), Francesco Casagrande (Saeco), Richard Virenque and Laurent Dufaux (Festina), Bjarne Riis (Telekom), Piotr Ugrumov and Maurizio Fondriest (Roslotto). In all 144 riders from eighteen teams, twelve foreign and six Spanish. April 8 Stage 1 Lasarte-Oria - Lasarte-Oria 126 km April 9 Stage 2 Lasarte Oria - Galdakao 190 km April 10 Stage 3 Galdakao - Vitoria 200 km April 11 Stage 4 Vitoria - Lekunberri 198 km April 12 Stage 5a Aia - Orio 97 km Stage 5b Venta de Orio ITT 6,5 km Total: 817,5 km Notable climbs: Stage 1: two 2nd category climbs; Andazarrate and alto de Xoxoka. Stage 4: five climbs, four 2nd category and one 3rd. Final time trial is a hillclimb from 0 to 350 m altitude in 6,5 kms.
1. Laurent Jalabert (Fra) Once 3.02.59 2. Stefano Zanini (Ita) Gewiss 3. Abraham Olano (Spa) Mapei 4. Alexander Gontchenkov (Ukr) Roslotto 5. Enrico Zaina (Ita) Carrera 6. Gianni Bugno (Ita) MG-Technogym 7. Davide Rebellin (Ita) Team Polti 8. David Garcia (Spa) Euskadi 9. Mauro Gianetti (Ita) Team Polti 10. Andrea Noe (Ita) Mapei ------- also 16. Pascal Herve (Fr, Festina) 17. Laurent Madouas (Fr, Motorola) 18. Luc Leblanc (Fr, Team Polti) ..... 22. Pascal Richard (Swi, MG-Technogym) 23. Evgeni Berzin (Rus, Gewiss-Playbus) ..... 26. Alex Zulle (Swi, ONCE) all s.t. > 34. Laurent Roux (Fr, TVM) +34 secs .... 45. Tony Rominger (Swi, Mapei-GB) .... 56. Richard Virenque (Fr, Festina) ..... 64 . Maurizio Fondriest (It, Roslotto-ZG Mobili) all s.t. > 72. Bruno Thibout (Fr, Motorola) +1.14 ..... 83. Bjarne Riis (Den, Telekom) .... 98. Axel Merckx (Bel, Motorola) all s.t. (142 classified) d.n.s: Sorensen
Thirty riders got themselves to the front, including Bugno, Olano, Gianetti, Casagrande, Berzin, Madouas, Herve, Leblanc, Zulle and Jalabert. Jalabert kept quiet till the finish and then slipped up through the ranks to take the sprint.
It had been rumoured that Jalabert wouldn't start the race, but he reckoned the terrain was much the same as his native Tarn area, so he might as well be racing as training. "It's good to win when you're not in the best of shape," he said after the stage. "But this victory's not going to change my strategy. I'm drawing a line at riding the Ardennes classics [Fleche Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege] as I did Milan-San Remo. I know that that means I lose good chances to win big races, but you have to take a rational view of life."
1. Francesco Casagrande (Ita) Saeco 5.12.01 2. Maurizio Fondriest (Ita) Roslotto s.t. 3. Abraham Olano (Spa) Mapei + 0.02 4. Mauro Gianetti (Sch) Team Polti + 0.04 5. David Garcia (Spa) Euskadi s.t. 6. Stefano Della Santa (Ita) Mapei s.t. 7. Jesus Montoya (Spa) Motorola + 0.08 8. Pascal Herve (Fra) Festina + 0.09 9. Andrea Noe (Ita) Mapei s.t. 10. Alex Zulle (Sch) Once s.t. 11. Alexandre Gontchenkov (Ukr, Roslotto-ZG Mobili) 12. Davide Rebellin (It, Team Polti) 13. Enrico Zaina (It, Carrera) 14. Jon Odriozola (Sp, Gewiss-Playbus) all s.t. 15. Claudio Chiappucci (It, Carrera) + 0.16 ...... 17 Gianni Bugno (It, MG-Technogym) ..... 19. Luc Leblanc (Fr, Team Polti) 20. Evgeni Berzin (Rus, Gewiss-Playbus) 21. Laurent Jalabert (Fr, ONCE) all s.t. ...... 23 Laurent Madouas (Fr, Motorola) + 0.21 24. Richard Virenque (Fr, Festina) 25. Toni Rominger (Swi, Mapei-GB) all s.t. ...... 55. Laurent Roux (fr, TVM) +0.52 ...... 67. Axel Merckx (Bel, Motorola) ...... 76. Bjarne Riis (Den, Telekom) ..... 119. Bruno Thibout (Fr, Motorola) all s.t. (140 classified) Abandons: Salmeron, Escartin
1. Francesco Casagrande (Ita) Saeco 8.15.00 2. Abraham Olano (Spa) Mapei + 0.02 3. Mauro Gianetti (Sch) Team Polti + 0.04 4. David Garcia (Spa) Euskadi + 0.04 5. Stefano Della Santa (Ita) Mapei + 0.04 6. Jesus Montoya (Spa) Motorola + 0.08 7. Alexander Gontchenkov (Ukr) Roslotto + 0.09 8. Enrico Zaina (Ita) Carrera + 0.09 9. Andrea Noe (Ita) Mapei + 0.09 10. Davide Rebellin (Ita) Team Polti + 0.09 ------- 12. Alex Zulle (Sch) Once + 0.09 13. Laurent Jalabert (Fra) Once + 0.16 ------- 31. Tony Rominger (Sch) Mapei + 0,59
Said Saiz. "I put too much emphasis on Gontchenkov to my riders. When he attacked, Alex went straight after him. It might have been better if he'd waited a bit." It had not been a good day for ONCE tactics; prominent at the front for much of the race they had all but disappeared by 5km to go, when Saeco and Polti took charge, building up a hectic pace towards the line. Luc Leblanc was seen edging ahead at this point, as he had all day in his quest for best climber's points, and Richard Virenque also showed himself.
But Leblanc didn't have enough left to dominate on the climb to the finish. The climb was reckoned a fair dress rehearsal for the Fleche Wallonne's final climb up the Mur de Huy -- note who was here today... Zulle saw one bright side to Casagrande's win: "Now Saeco's Casagrande has the jersey at least they'll have to work from now on to defend it."