Vuelta al Pais Vasco - Spain

Stages Three to Final

Stage Three
Stage Four
Stages 5a, 5b and Final GC

Stage 3, April 10

Stefano Zanini (It, Gewiss-Playbus won the third stage of the Tour of the Basque Country, 195km between Galdakao and Vitoria Gastelz. Richard Virenque (Fr, Festina) was second and Bo Hamburger (Den, TVM) third. Francesco Casagrande (It, Saeco) retains the overall lead.

Stage 3 Galdakao-Vitoria 199 km:

 1. Stefano Zanini (Ita) Gewiss         4.58.56
 2. Richard Virenque (Fra) Festina
 3. Bo Hamburger (Den) TVM
 4. Claudio Chiappucci (Ita) Carrera
 5. Davide Rebellin (Ita) Team Polti
 6. Jan Ullrich (Ger) Telekom           all s.t.
 7. Abraham Olano (Spa) Mapei
 8. Alexander Gontchenkov (Ukr) Roslotto
 9. Jesus Montoya (Spa) Motorola
10. Laurent Jalabert (Fra) Once          all s.t.
12. Pascal Herve (Fr, Festina) 		all s.t.
103. Bjarne Riis (Den, Telekom)  	+16.13

(133 classified)

Abandons: Blanco, Luppes, Moerenhout, Ch. Moreau, Merckx, Julich, Smetanine


 1. Francesco Casagrande (Ita) Saeco    13.13.56
 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       + 0.08
 6. Jesus Montoya (Spa) Motorola          + 0.08
 7. Alexander Gontchenkov (Ukr) Roslotto  + 0.09
 8. Davide Rebellin (Ita) Team Polti      + 0.09
 9. Pascal Herve (Fra) Festina            + 0.09
10. Enrico Zaina (Ita) Carrera            + 0.09
11. Alex Zulle (Sch) Once                 + 0.09
12. Noe (It, Mapei-GB)    		  + 0.16
13. Jalabert  
14. Gianni Bugno (It, Mg-Technogym)
15. Dominguez (Sp, Kelme-Artiach)
16. Luc Leblanc (Fr, Team Polti)
17. Evgeni Berzin (Rus, Gewiss-Playbus)
18. Michele Coppolillo (It, MG-Technogym) all s.t.
19. Laurent Dufaux (Swi, Festina) 	  + 0.21
20. Echave (Sp, Mapei-GB)
21. Laurent Madouas (Fr, Motorola)  	both s.t.
27. Virenque  				  + 0.59
33. Tony Rominger (Swi, Mapei-GB)

Stage Three Report

There seemed to be a general inclination -- even an instruction from the directeur-sportifs -- not to chase down breaks too vigorously today. Why wasn't ONCE even putting in its customary attacks? "Everybody seems tired," said last year's winner Alex Zulle. The previous day's stage had been tough, with a vicious climb to the finish, but the weather had also changed. Zulle again: "I think that the heat that's coming to the Basque country is part of the reason. These are the first days of good weather this season and we're finding it difficult to find our second wind."

The longest attack of the day was from the lower ranks: Basque rider Alvaro Gonzalez-Galdeano (Euskadi) took off with Stephane Petilleau (Fr, TVM) in his wheel 30km into the race. They were joined a bit later by Peter Meinert-Nielsen (Den, Telekom) and another Basque, Inigo Chaurreau of Polti. At 100km the break had a respectable lead of five minutes, but that was only about half-distance. About then, Marco Zen (It, Roslotto) went off the front of the peloton to join them, then Festina's Joona Laukka (Fin) Around km130 Chaurreau then Zen slipped back into the bunch and soon the game was up. With the peloton hurrying up into Vitoria, Evgeni Berzin (Gewiss) tried an attack 3km from the line, but world champion Abraham Olano (Mapei), up front all day, did an efficient job of shutting him down, leaving the race to wind up in a mass sprint, from which Richard Virenque uncharacteristically popped out to take second place.

Laurent Jalabert outlined an overview of the race the day before this stage: "The time gaps are so narrow," he said "that there's going to be strict marking from here down to the last stage Friday and the hill-climb time trial. That's going to make Alex [Zulle's] task easier. Last year in the last time trial, he took 44 seconds out of second-placed Rominger. We're not really too worried." [Full of surprises, Jalabert was one of those who usefully usefully escaped the marking in Stage 4, see the brief preliminary report!]

Tour of the Basque Country, Stage 4, April 11

Francesco Frattini (It, Gewiss-Playbus) won today's fourth stage of the Tour of the Basque Country, 198km between Vitoria and Lekunberri. Frattini outsprinted the rest of a leading group of six riders. Laurent Jalabert (Fr, ONCE) was second, Davide Rebellin (It, Team Polti) third and Marteen Den Bakker (Neth, TVM) fourth. Davide Rebellin takes over the overall lead from Francesco Casagrande, with another rider in today's break, Festina's Pascal Herve, second and Laurent Jalabert third.

Stage 4 Stage 4 Vitoria - Lekunberri 198 km:

 1. Francesco Frattini (Ita) Gewiss      5.10.57
 2. Laurent Jalabert (Fra) Once
 3. Davide Rebellin (Ita) Team Polti
 4. Maarten den Bakker (Ned) TVM
 5. Pascal Herve (Fra) Festina
 6. Marcos Serrano (Spa) Kelme-Artiach  all s.t.
 7. Stefano Zanini (Ita) Gewiss          + 0.32
 8. Claudio Chiappucci (Ita) Carrera
 9. Gianni Bugno (Ita) MG-Technogym
10. Richard Virenque (Fra) Festina      
11. Abraham Olano (Sp, Mapei-GB)
12. Michael Boogerd (Neth, Rabobank
13. Mauro Gianetti (Swi, Team Polti)
14. Giuseppe Guerini (It, Team Polti)
15. David Garcia (Sp, Euskadi)
17. Francesco Casagrande (It, Saeco)
22. Luc Leblanc (Fr, Team Polti)
34. Laurent Madouas (Fr, Motorola)
39. Alexandre Gontchenkov (Ukr, Roslotto-ZG Mobili)
41. Alex Zulle (Swi, ONCE)
43. Evgeni Berzin (Rus, Gewiss-Playbus)   all s.t.
47. Jean-Cyrille Robin (Fr, Festina)     + 5.21
59. Laurent Roux (Fr, TVM)      	 +14.17
67. Tony Rominger (Swi, Mapei-GB)
96. Bruno Thibout (Fr, Motorola)  	both s.t.
107. Stephane Petilleau (Fr, TVM)    	 +23.09

(126 classified)


 1. Davide Rebellin (Ita) Team Polti    18.25.02
 2. Pascal Herve (Fra) Festina              s.t.
 3. Laurent Jalabert (Fra) Once           + 0.07
 4. Francesco Casagrande (Ita) Saeco      + 0.23
 5. Abraham Olano (Spa) Mapei             + 0.25
 6. Mauro Gianetti (Sch) Team Polti       + 0.27
 7. David Garcia (Spa) Euskadi            + 0.27
 8. Stefano Della Santa (Ita) Mapei       + 0.27
 9. Jesus Montoya (Spa) Motorola          + 0.31
10. Enrico Zaina (Ita) Carrera            + 0.32
11. Gontchenkov
12. Zulle   				both s.t.
13. Bugno   				  + 0.39
14. Juan Carlos Dominguez (Sp, Kelme-Artiach) 
15. Leblanc 
16. Berzin    				all s.t.
19. Madouas 				  + 0.44
25. Virenque 				  + 1.22

Stage Four Report

Laurent Jalabert said he was tired at the start of the stage -- he even said he intended abandoning the race after the first feed at 100km.

As it turned out, ONCE' directeur-sportif Manolo Saiz's pick for the overall, Alex Zulle showed he was in even worse shape on the first climbs of this difficult stage. "I didn't need to tell my team-mates," said Zulle after the finish. "They could see very well that I wasn't in good shape -- I was hanging off the back of the peloton." Zulle was suffering from the beginnings of gastro-enteritis and this seems to have pushed Jalabert to take on leadership responsibilities.

"In spirit, I'm only here for training," said Jalabert, "but the race was open enough for me to make an opportunist move -- I don't think I'm yet i the best of form.

That may be so, but Jalabert was in all the day's attacking moves, especially the decisive one, 15km from the finish on the col of Zuarrarrate where he and Frattini led four others away with them -- Davide Rebellin, Marteen Den Bakker, Marco Serrano and Pascal Herve.

Manolo Saiz is still not convinced that his plans haven't been upset with Zulle facing a set back.

"With the the final time trial ahead [see today's preliminary report] I'd give Rebelin a 50% chance of winning the Tour overall; the other 50% I'd split between Jalabert, Frattini and Herve."

Stage 5a Aia - Orio 97 km:

After winning the Tirreno - Adriatico in March Francesco Casagrande also won the Vuelta a Pais Vasco. Thereby he put an an end to the four year consecutive Swiss victories (Rominger in 1992/93/94 and Alex Zulle 1995).

Stage 5a Lekumberri - Orio 97 km:

 1. Neil Stephens (Aus) Once                    2.12.20 (43,980 km/h)
 2. Mauro Gianetti (Sch) Team Polti              + 0.11
 3. Alexander Gontchenkov (Ukr) Roslotto            s.t.
 4. Francesco Casagrande (Ita) Saeco             + 0.13
 5. Abraham Olano (Spa) Mapei
 6. Jesus Montoya (Spa) Motorola
 7. Pascal Herve (Fra) Festina
 8. Jose Maria Jimenez (Spa) Banesto
 9. Stefano della Santa (Ita) Mapei
10. Eugeni Berzin (Rus) Gewiss                   all s.t.
11. Zanini (It, Gewiss)  			 + 0.41
12. Maurizio Fondriest (It, Roslotto-ZG Mobili) 
13. Claudio Chiappucci (It, Carrera)
14. Serrano (Sp, Kelme-Artiach)
15. Jesper Skibby (Dan, TVM) 
27. Laurent Jalabert (Fr, ONCE)  		all s.t.
31. Laurent Roux (Fr, TVM)  			 + 1.36
41. Richard Virenque (Fr, Festina)
66. Luc Leblanc (Fr, Team Polti)  		both s.t.

(124 finishers)

Principal abandons:  Zulle, Pulnikov


 1. Pascal Herve (Fra) Festina
 2. Francesco Casagrande (Ita) Saeco            + 0.23
 3. Abraham Olano (Spa) Mapei                   + 0.25
 4. Mauro Gianetti (Sch) Team Polti                s.t.

Stage 5b Venta de Orio ITT 6,5 km (hillclimb):

 1. Francesco Casagrande (Ita) Saeco              12.23 (31,452 km/h)
 2. Maurizio Fondriest (Ita) Roslotto            + 0.20
 3. Abraham Olano (Spa) Mapei                    + 0.24
 4. Eugeni Berzin (Rus) Gewiss                   + 0.25
 5. Pascal Herve (Fra) Festina                   + 0.26
 6. Mauro Gianetti (Sch) Team Polti              + 0.28
 7. Andrea Noe (Ita) Mapei                       + 0.30
 8. Luc Leblanc (Fra) Team Polti                 + 0.31
 9. Juan Carlos Dominguez (Spa) Kelme            + 0.32
10. Stefano Zanini (Ita) Gewiss                  + 0.43
25. Virenque   					 + 1.16
30. Jalabert   					 + 1.21
37. Laurent Madouas (Fr, Motorola)  		 + 1.32
54. Tony Rominger (Swi, Mapei-GB)   		 + 2.04
60. Laurent Roux (Fr, TVM)    			 + 2.08
70. Bruno Thibout (Fr, Motorola)   		 + 2.20

Final overall:

 1. Francesco Casagrande (Ita) Saeco           20.50.21
 2. Pascal Herve (Fra) Festina                   + 0.03
 3. Abraham Olano (Spa) Mapei                    + 0.27
 4. Mauro Gianetti (Sch) Team Polti              + 0.31
 5. Eugeni Berzin (Rus) Gewiss                   + 0.42
 6. Jesus Montoya (Spa) Motorola                 + 0.54
 7. Stefano della Santa (Ita) Mapei              + 1.00
 8. Alexander Gontchenkov (Ukr) Roslotto         + 1.02
 9. Juan Carlos Dominguez (Spa) Kelme            + 1.17
10. Davide Rebellin (Ita) Team Polti             + 1.18
11. Maurizio Fondriest (Ita) Roslotto            + 1.27
12. Zaina (It, Carrera)  			 + 1.29
13. Jalabert  					 + 1.34
14. Jimenez   					 + 1.34
15. Echave (Sp, Mapei-GB)  			 + 2.08
16. Leblanc   					 + 2.11
49. Tony Rominger (Sch) Mapei                    +18.12

(116 riders classified)

Team competition:

 Mapei (Ita) 62.33.40


 Abraham Olano, 74 pts.


 Francesco Frattini (Ita) Gewiss

Metas volantes (sprints):

 Alvaro Gonzalez (Spa) Euskadi