Super Mario II
Cipollini repeats Spanish stage winPosted: Tuesday September 10, 2002 12:45 PM
Updated: Wednesday September 11, 2002 7:20 AM
ROQUETAS DEL MAR, Spain (Reuters) -- For nearly 14 years a stage win in the Tour of Spain has eluded Mario Cipollini, but Tuesday the Italian continued to make up for lost time with his second bunch sprint victory in 24 hours.
Since 1989 Cipollini has amassed 40 Giro stage wins and 12 in the Tour de France, but until this year he had abandoned the Vuelta on three occasions without ever taking a stage.
The 35-year-old, who briefly retired earlier in the year and has not raced since the Giro, is using the Vuelta as preparation for the world road championships in Zolder next month and will quit the race after stage nine Sunday.
He will be a threat there if he displays the same finishing speed he produced to win the 149.5-kilometer fourth stage between Aguilas and Roquetas del Mar -- beating compatriot Alessandro Petacchi for the second day running.
The Acqua Sapone rider clocked three hours 33 minutes and 32 seconds, the same time as Fassa Bortolo's Petacchi and Austrian Gerrit Glomser of Saeco. German Erik Zabel of Telekom was fourth.
Unlike Monday, Cipollini's second victory was an assured affair as he finished more than a bike length ahead of Petacchi and, unlike on stage three, with enough time to raise his arms.
"It was a very risky finale, but with a team like this, I knew I was in safe hands," Cipollini said after celebrating his 179th win and 12th this season.
"200 meters from the line I was in an ideal position and I could exploit this natural ability which I have to accelerate for victory."
Cipollini's teammates gave the veteran a comfortable ride through the dangerous run-in to the Mediterranean coastal resort of Roquetas del Mar, with Italian Mario Scirea and Spaniard Miguel Angel Martin Perdiguero shepherding this year's Milan-San Remo and Ghent-Wevelgem winner through the last four kilometers which contained no less than six roundabouts.
Acqua Sapone's lead-out man Giovanni Lombardi guided Cipollini to the final 200 meters before swinging off himself and leaving it to Cipollini to romp home.
Afterwards Italian national trainer Franco Ballerini confirmed that Cipollini would be a key rider in the world championships in October.
One rider who was unable to challenge Cipollini was Index Alexia sprinter Ivan Quaranta.
The Italian was the victim of a four-rider crash with nine kilometers to go when part of the bunch misjudged a high-speed roundabout and although he continued racing, the ensuing delay meant he was dropped by the main peloton.
Earlier the main talking point of the flat stage was the solo breakaway of Spaniard Dario Gadeo (Jazztel-Almeria).
The 27-year-old launched an attack after three kilometers and went on to build up a lead which peaked at 11 minutes. Gadeo was still ahead when he reached the city of Almeria, the second sponsor of his squad, but then was finally sucked in 13 kilometers from the finish after 132 kilometers alone.
Overall race leader Joseba Beloki finished safely in the peloton, but the Spaniard warned that Wednesday's stage to Sierra Nevada, which concludes with a 35-kilometer climb, will be "the day when the Tour of Spain really starts."
"I am really grateful to my team for looking after me so well on each stage, but tomorrow is when I will have to respond as best I can for myself," the ONCE-Eroski rider stated.
Copyright 2003 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.