Cycling Cycling

Piil power

Dane emulates team chief Riis with stage win

Posted: Tuesday July 15, 2003 12:52 PM

MARSEILLE, France (Reuters) -- Jakob Piil took over from his CSC team boss Bjarne Riis as the last Dane to win a Tour de France stage in Marseille on Tuesday.

The 30-year-old took advantage of his experience on the track to upstage Italian Fabio Sacchi and make up for past disappointments in the world's biggest cycle race.

"That's the reason why Bjarne took me on the Tour, to win a stage. It's great to achieve one of your goals for the season," Piil said.

Riis was the last rider from Denmark to win a stage in Hautacam in 1996, the year he won the Tour. After retiring from the sport he became CSC team director.

For Piil, the win was ample compensation after he twice narrowly missed out in previous Tours.

Last year, his feet slid off the pedals as he was sprinting for victory in Bourg-en-Bresse and the year before he was second in Montlucon behind Belgian Serge Baguet.

"I did not think about it during the stage proper, but I did near the finish. It definitely made me more motivated to win a stage this year," he said.

Cunning rider

Piil broke away with Sacchi along the shimmering Marseille sea front and outwitted him in the final stretch, as he had done to Frenchman Jacky Durand in winning the Paris-Tours World Cup classic in October.

The two riders sportingly shook hands two kilometers from the finish before battling it out. "I don't know what Sacchi said because I don't speak Italian. I think he said thanks for the ride and let the best man win," Piil said.

He said his track experience came to his aid in the dash for the line.

"It's a long time ago that I raced on the track," he said. "But I still have a good starting speed for a short sprint and in a small group, I can normally win even against a good sprinter."

"He's a very cunning rider," said former CSC team leader Laurent Jalabert, now a television consultant.

"He's a very inconsistent rider. He can be last in a stage one day and win the next. But he's also very cunning and he manoeuvered perfectly against Sacchi."

Piil said Jalabert's retirement at the end of last season had been extra motivation.

"Last year, it was easier to win stages with a rider like him in the team. Now I'm glad we've been able to win one without him," he added.

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