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Sprinting Super Mario

Cipollini wins 5th stage to end tour misery

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Posted: Thursday July 16, 1998 02:09 PM

  Mario Cipollini takes the fifth stage (AP)

CHATEAUROUX, France (CNN/SI) -- Mario Cipollini of Italy powered his way over the finish line ahead of Erik Zabel of Germany and Christophe Mengin of France to win the fifth stage of the Tour de France on Thursday.

The stage of 228.5 kilometers (142 miles) stretched from Cholet to Chateauroux as the riders contested with only minor hills.

Cipollini's surge over the last 150 meters ended a miserable run so far for the sprint specialist after he had crashed twice earlier in the tour.

Stuart O'Grady of Australia retained the overall leaders yellow jersey.

CHATEAUROUX, France, July 16 (Reuters)- Sprint specialist Mario Cipollini ended his Tour de France misery by winning the 228.5-kilometre fifth stage in style on Thursday.

"I'm not completely satisfied with this win because I think I was capable of winning many more stages in this Tour given my condition," said the Saeco team leader, who fell in Dublin in the first stage and again in Cholet on Wednesday.

O'Grady also fell shortly before the first intermediate sprint of the day in Loudun, after 80 kilometres, and finished the stage with bruises on his right knee.

"It was very hard and very dangerous because of the rain," said the 24-year-old Australian, who leads American George Hincapie by seven seconds overall.

There was another spectacular fall at the finish when Italian Silvio Martinello crashed violently to the tarmac and was unable to finish.

The crash occurred just after Cipollini launched his decisive move, surging behind Zabel and overhauling him shortly before the line in five hours, 18 minutes and 49 seconds.

"Zabel led the way but I found an opening and went for it. It shows how strong I am this year," said Cipollini, who has now won seven stages on the tour and 25 in either the Tour de France, the Giro d'Italia (Tour of Italy) or the Vuelta (Tour of Spain).

"Hopefully, the hard luck is over now," added the man nicknamed Super Mario.

Asked why there were so many crashes in the race, Cipollini said it had always been like that in the world's number one cycling event.

"The reason is the Tour de France. Everybody wants to be at the finish and even third place is considered a good result for riders. The tour means always more -- more falls too," he said.

Three riders, Frenchman Thierry Gouvenou, Dutchman Aart Vierhouten and Italian Fabio Roscioli, tried to prevent the sprinters from stealing the show by breaking away after Loudun, but they too fell on the roads of Touraine, made slippery by constant drizzle. They were caught with 15 kilometers left.

Riders in the Festina team started the long stage in Cholet without team director Bruno Roussel, who was still being held for questioning at the police headquarters when the field left for Chateauroux.

Roussel was suspended by the International Cycling Union (UCI) for failing to send the sport's ruling body a report on the doping case currently rocking the Tour in time.

Roussel and two others were being held for questioning following the arrest last week of Festina masseur Willy Voet who was carrying hundreds of doping products in a team car. Voet is currently jailed in Lille.

Friday's sixth stage takes the riders from La Chatre to Brive over 204.5 kilometers.


Related information
Festina's team chief and team doctor are taken into custody
French PM saddened by drug scandal surrounding tour
Cholet and Ch‰teauroux
Stage 5 description and elevations
Overall Standings
Stage 5 Results
frame The pack gets wet as rain decends upon the Tour De France
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Reuters contributed to this report.

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