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51st Circuit de la Sarthe - 2.3

France, April 8-11, 2003

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Stage 1 - April 8: Nantes - Fontenay-le-Comte, 188.4 km

Da Cruz finds the way out in Ullrich's impressive come back day

By Jean-François Quénet in Fontenay-le-Comte

Da Cruz and Sivakov
Photo: © AFP
Click for larger image's Carlos Da Cruz is the winner of stage 1 in the Circuit de la Sarthe et des Pays de la Loire. Together with Russian Alexei Sivakov from BigMat, he has almost 6 minutes advantage over the first part of the bunch that included superstars Lance Armstrong, Jan Ullrich, Richard Virenque, Christophe Moreau and Bradley McGee.

A smiling Ullrich appeared on the start line in Nantes, more than a year after racing the Tour of Qatar. For different reasons, he couldn't compete since, and he's been close to return home very frustrated again. Only at 9:15am, the UCI allowed him to take part in the race. Initially, his team had put only five bikes on the racks. At the last minute, the Bianchi bicycle manufacturer paid for the bank guarantee covering the salaries of the 1997 Tour de France winner, his directeur sportif Rudy Pevenage, his mechanic and soigneur.

Good start for Ullrich
Photo: © AFP
Click for larger image

Nonetheless Ullrich was smiling but he even looked very fit. He also took part in a photo session with his old rival Armstrong who wants him back in the Tour de France because of a lack opposition last year. The four time winner has a few memories in Nantes. That's the town where he celebrated his 21st birthday at the end of the 1992 Tour de l'Avenir that finished in Pontchateau, where the riders of the Circuit de la Sarthe are expected at the end of stage 2. For the fans of cycling who still think that Armstrong became a climber after recovering from cancer, he was the king of the mountains in this Tour de l'Avenir 11 years ago.

Johan Bruyneel explained that Lance still suffered from his stomach during the race today. He was still able to stay in the first bunch of 35 riders when it split in the forest of Mervent with with 37km to go, but he was not in his best shape. However, Bruyneel was impressed by Ullrich, and he wasn't the only one. The German didn't accept to make any comment until a press conference scheduled for later in the evening.

When the bunch entered in action, there was no more hope for a stage win. After cruising at 26km/h for a couple of hours, the attacks begun and Da Cruz found his way out. "Then I saw that Sivakov was 200 or 300 metres behind so I waited for him, I knew he would be a good companion." The pair had 13' lead and Sylvain Chavanel stayed in between for more than 50km because his DS Jean-René Bernaudeau "couldn't admit that the race would ride in the middle of the forest of Mervent at a senatorial rhythm." Chavanel got caught and no one else than La Boulangère chased really. This team isn't exactly expert in making friends, so there were a few opponents happier to actually see them lose at home than try and win themselves.

Big win for Da Cruz
Photo: © AFP
Click for larger image

In Fontenay-le-Comte, the place where Jacky Durand became the French national champion for the second time in 1994, Da Cruz outsprinted Sivakov, then kissed him as they were still on the bike. They're good friends after racing together for a few years at BigMat. "Last night at dinner table, I told Carlos: "a win is around the corner for you", Aussie teammate Bradley McGee said.

It's Da Cruz's second win in his pro career after stage 1 in the Settimana Lombarda in 1999. He's a true attacker. Recently, he rode for 240km in a breakaway in Milan-San Remo, then for 125km in the first day of the Criterium International. "With FDJ and BigMat controlling the race, I think the GC is done now, it'll be between Alexei and myself", a very confident Da Cruz said.

But a very bitter La Boulangère team doesn't see the race that way!


Images by AFP Photo/Franck Fife


1 Carlos Da Cruz (Fra)                          5.10.13 (36.439 km/h)
2 Alexei Sivakov (Rus) Big.Mat-Auber 93
3 Massimo Strazzer (Ita) Phonak Hearing Systems               5.52
4 Aurélien Clerc (Swi) Quick.Step-Davitamon	
5 Bradley McGee (Aus)	
6 Massimo Giunti (Ita) Domina Vacanze-Elitron	
7 Damien Nazon (Fra) Brioches La Boulangère	
8 Laurent Brochard (Fra) Ag2r-Prevoyance	
9 Markus Zberg (Swi) Gerolsteiner	
10 Andrea Noe' (Ita) Alessio	
11 Jens Voigt (Ger) Credit Agricole	
12 Richard Virenque (Fra) Quick.Step-Davitamon	
13 Patrice Halgand (Fra) Jean Delatour	
14 Steffen Kjaergaard (Nor) US Postal presented by Berry Floor	
15 David Herrero Llorente (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi	
16 Mikel Pradera Rodriguez (Spa) O.N.C.E.-Eroski	
17 Inigo Landaluze (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi	
18 Yuriy Krivtsov (Ukr) Jean Delatour	
19 Michael Rogers (Aus) Quick.Step-Davitamon	
20 Rafael Diaz Justo (Spa) O.N.C.E.-Eroski	
21 Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Alessio	
22 Jan Ullrich (Ger) Team Coast	
23 Thorsten Rund (Ger) Team Coast	
24 Sébastien Talabardon (Fra) Big.Mat-Auber 93	
25 Didier Rous (Fra) Brioches La Boulangère	
26 Lance Armstrong (USA) US Postal presented by Berry Floor	
27 Cyril Saugrain (Fra) Big.Mat-Auber 93	
28 Alvaro Gonzalez de Galdeano (Spa) O.N.C.E.-Eroski	
29 Stéphane Barthe (Fra) MBK-Oktos-Saint-Quentin 	
30 Ludovic Turpin (Fra) Ag2r-Prevoyance	
31 Guillaume Auger (Fra) Big.Mat-Auber 93	
32 Christophe Moreau (Fra) Credit Agricole	
33 Franck Bouyer (Fra) Brioches La Boulangère	
34 Walter Beneteau (Fra) Brioches La Boulangère	
35 Kyrylo Poskyeyev (Ukr) Domina Vacanze-Elitron	
36 Jean Cyril Robin (Fra)	
37 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Brioches La Boulangère	
38 Eddy Seigneur (Fra) Jean Delatour	
39 Sergeï Krushevskiy (Uzb) MBK-Oktos-Saint-Quentin           9.15
40 Christophe Le Mevel (Fra) Credit Agricole                 12.57
41 Cédric Herve (Fra) Credit Agricole	
42 Gerhard Trampush (Aut) Gerolsteiner	
43 Denis Bertolini (Ita) Phonak Hearing Systems	
44 Alexandr Kolobnev (Rus) Domina Vacanze-Elitron	
45 Piotr Wadecki (Pol) Quick.Step-Davitamon	
46 Omasz Brozyna (Pol) CCC-Polsat	
47 Jimmy Casper (Fra)	
48 Uwe Hardter (Ger) Gerolsteiner	
49 Bogdan Bondariew (Ukr) CCC-Polsat	
50 Torsten Schmidt (Ger) Gerolsteiner	
51 Olivier Perraudeau (Fra) Brioches La Boulangère	
52 Lorenzo Cardellini (Ita) Domina Vacanze-Elitron	
53 Ruben Lobato (Spa) Domina Vacanze-Elitron	
54 Allan Davis (Aus) O.N.C.E.-Eroski	
55 Andris Naudusk (Lat) CCC-polsat	
56 Arkadiusz Wojtas (Pol) CCC-Polsat	
57 Gorka Beloki Dorronsoro (Spa) O.N.C.E.-Eroski	
58 Cédric Fragniere (Swi) Credit Agricole	
59 Laszlo Bodrogi (Hun) Quick.Step-Davitamon	
60 Dioni Galparsoro (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi	
69 Roberto Heras (Spa) US Postal presented by Berry Floor