Vuelta al Pais Vasco - Spain

Preview to Stage Two

Stage One
Stage Two

36th edition of the Vuelta al Pais Vasco (Cat 2.1) 8-12 april

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.

Stage 1 Lasarte Oria - Lasarte Oria 126 km:

 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
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

Stage One Report

In the first part of the stage Euskadi rider Igor Gonzalez Gaideano was out on a lone break for 100km with ONCE leaving Gewiss to track him down. When he was caught ONCE took a firmer hand -- Alex Zulle attacked followed by Alexandre Gontchenkov (Ukr, Roslotto-ZG mobili and then world champion Abraham Olano (Sp, Mapei-GB). Inigo Cuesta (Sp, ONCE) provoked the crucial break in the peloton before falling back.

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."

Stage 2, 196km, Lasarte Oria--Galdakao, April 9

Stage 2 of the Tour of the Basque Country was one by Francesco Casagrande (It, Saeco), beating Maurizio Fondriest (It, Roslotto-ZG Mobili) in the sprint. Abraham Olano (Sp, Mapei-GB) was third at 2 seconds. Casagrande takes over the overall lead from Laurent Jalabert. with Olano second at 2 seconds and Mauro Gianetti (Swi, Team Polti) third at 4 seconds.

Stage 2 Lasarte Oria - Galdakao 190 km:

 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

Stage Two Report

ONCE directeur-sportif Manolo Saiz had focused his team's attention on keeping track of Alexandre Gontchenkov. Indeed Gontchenkov did attack with a kilometre to go, at the foot of the very severe climb that led up to the finish. Alex Zulle went after him but a number of riders swept past both of them before the line. "it's my fault,"

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."