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Jimenez wins; Ullrich withdraws

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Posted: Saturday June 03, 2000 02:43 PM

PARIS (Reuters) -- Spaniard Jose Maria Jimenez won the Classique des Alpes cycling race in style on Saturday, but the race was overshadowed by the strange withdrawal of German Jan Ullrich and a riders' protest.

Banesto's Jimenez, the most impressive climber in last year's Tour of Spain, attacked far from the finish to snatch a convincing victory 38 seconds ahead of two of the next Tour de France favorites, Spain's Fernando Escartin and American Lance Armstrong.

Armstrong, the 1999 Tour champion, launched the chase in the last climb of the 197-km race to confirm he is reaching his form just at the right time.

If the race was any indication of current form, Swiss Alex Zuelle, second in the Tour last year, is not yet at his best, dropping back in the early climbs.

As for 1997 Tour winner Ullrich, his participation in the Tour looks more and more in jeopardy. The German rode out of last month's Grand Prix du Midi Libre only five kilometers from the finish.

This time he quit in under two kilometers, citing back problems.

French riders also staged a strike to protest against the choice made by Tour de France organizers not to award wild cards to two French teams.

Big Mat and Jean Delatour riders were wearing arm bands reading "Merci" (Thank you). The Classique des Alpes is run by Tour de France organizers.

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