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By Andrew Hood
French rider Robert Sassone won Wednesday’s 179km second stage of theTour du Poitou-Charentes (UCI 2.3) in France, finishing ahead of Ukrainerider Bogdan Bondariev (CCC-Polsat).
Sassone and Bondariev were part of a group of 11 attacking riders inthe stage. Sebastian Chavanel (Boulangere) started the attack, but theleft attacked the group with about 15km to go. They came in just over 1minute ahead of the remainders of the break.
Fellow Ukraine Yuri Mitlushenko (Landbouwkrediet), winner of Tuesday’sopening stage, retained the overall lead after finishing safely in themain bunch.The race continues Thursday with the 178km third stage from Bressuire to Loudun.Tour du Poitou-Charentes (UCI 2.3), Stage 2, 179km
1. Robert Sassone (F), Cofidis 4 hours, 14 minutes, 23 seconds
2. Bogdan Bondariev (Ukr), CCC-Polsat – same time
3. Sebastian Chavanel (F), Boulangere +1:08
4. Christophe Edalaine (F), Jean Delatour
5. Anthony Morin (F), Credit Agricole – all same timeOverall standings after two stages
1. Yuri Mitlushenko (Ukr), Landbouwkrediet 8 hours, 27 minutes, 22 seconds
2. Alberto Ongaranto (I), Domina Vacanze +0:04
3. Thor Hushovd (Nor), Credit Agricole +0:05
4. Frank Renier (F), Boulangere +0:05
5. Andris Nauduzs (Let) +0:06
Euskaltel will probably hold Mayo
Alpe d’Huez winner Iban Mayo will likely stay with Euskaltel-Euskadi through the 2006 season, according to reports Tuesday in the Spanish daily Marca.
Mayo met with team officials Monday to listen to a counter-offer the Basque team was offering its latest breakout star. Mayo’s future was rife with speculation, with Saeco and Rabobank reportedly coming to the table with a lucrative deal that was tempting the Spanish rider to leave his longtime home with Euskaltel.
According to Marca, Euskaltel representatives came back with a new offer to increase Mayo’s pay check as well as a promise to improve the team’s competitive level at the Tour. Mayo’s major concern was that Euskaltel lost more than three minutes in the team time trial and wanted the guarantee the orange-clad team would be stronger for the Tour.
Also, Haimar Zubeldia and Samuel Sanchez have both verbally agreed to terms and are both expected to sign deals this week, Marca reported.
Ullrich wants ‘El Nino,’ but so does Kelme
Spanish rider Oscar Sevilla is once again the subject of speculation that he’s being tempted away from Kelme to join a foreign team. Phonak, Telekom and now Bianchi have reportedly approached “El Niño,” the latest with Rudy Pevenage offering Sevilla the chance to ride in aid of Jan Ullrich.
Sevilla acknowledged he’s been approached by foreign teams, but said he’s close to extending his contract with Kelme.
“Bianchi has been one of the teams that have contacted, along with some other foreign teams, but how I am closer to Kelme than anything else,” Sevilla told the Spanish daily AS. “It’s already been three weeks that I’ve stopped thinking about my future. After my long injury, all I think about now is racing.”
Sevilla has said he’s thrown his future into the hands of his agents and indicated he wants to stay with Kelme. Team boss José Quiles said they want to sign Sevilla to a two-year deal, while Sevilla wants a one-year extension.
Sevilla missed the 2003 Tour de France with continuing problems with a cyst in his groin area that’s required two surgeries. Second overall in the 2001 Vuelta a España, Sevilla is hopeful for a strong Vuelta to save what’s been a disappointing season.
“Perhaps there have been teams that have lost confidence in me for my injury that I’ve had. Kelme, however, hasn’t and they’ve helped me,” Sevilla said.
Astarloa signs with Cofidis
Spain’s top classics rider Igor Astarloa has signed a two-year deal to join Cofidis, the Spanish daily Marca reported Tuesday. The 27-year-old Basque rider will lead the French team in the spring classics, according to reports.
Astarloa joined Saeco in 2002 after racing for two seasons with Mercatone Uno. He became the first Spanish rider to win a northern semi-classic when he won Fleche Wallone in April and he finished fourth overall in the 2002 World Cup standings
Vuelta adds ’23rd’ team
September’s Vuelta a España will start with “23 teams” as an extra squad of 10 ex-pros will be providing some extra glam to the season’s final grand tour.Race officials said a team of ex-racers will be schmoozing with fans, officials and VIPs throughout the race, but won’t actually be racing.Lining up for the all-star team are: Abraham Olano, Melchor Mauri, Herminio Díaz Zabala, Neil Stephens, Jesús Rodríguez Magro, Miguel Angel Iglesias, Jesús Cruz Martín, Antonio Sánchez, Alberto Leanizbarrutia and José Enrique Cima.