Bettini Wins Championship of Zurich
Paolo Bettini (Quick Step) has won the Championship of Zurich.
Paolo Bettini (Quick Step) has won the Championship of Zurich. The Olympic champion surged away from a dozen companions to win the hilly, 240.9-km race in 6:06:22. Frank Schleck (CSC) outsprinted Lorenzo Bernucci (Fassa Bortolo) for second at 2:57. Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) continues to lead the ProTour with one race remaining.
The riders competed in cold, rainy conditions, and they started competing early. At 15 km, Mauricio Ardila Cano (Davitamon), Karsten Kroon and Joost Posthuma (both from Rabobank), Jan Hruska (Liberty Seguros), Gorka Verdugo (Euskaltel), and Aurelien Clerc (Phonak) escaped. By 72.5 km, the fugitives ran up an 6:30 lead.
On the first of the four 41-km finishing circuits, the plot began to thicken. Seventeen riders, including Marc Wauters (Rabobank), Jurgen van den Broeck and Vyatcheslav Ekimov (both from Discovery Channel), Markus Fothen and Georg Totschnig (both from Gerolsteiner), and Vicente Reynes (Illes Balears), counterattacked. The rest of the peloton, however, picked up the pace and reeled in the counterattackers, narrowing the gap to the leaders in the bargain. At 125 km, the six escapees were caught. Unfortunately, Bradley McGee (La Francaise des Jeux) and Jakob Piil (CSC) crashed out of the race, with the latter breaking his hip.
At about 135 km, Rik Verbrugghe, Patrik Sinkewitz, and Cristian Moreni (all from Quick Step); Bernucci; Clerc; Carlos Barredo (Liberty Seguros); Andrea Moletta and Heinrich Haussler (Gerolsteiner); Vladimir Miholjevic (Liquigas); and Andriy Grivko (Domina Vacanze) attacked. The nine riders forged a 2:00 lead on the field, and Stijn Devolder (Discovery Channel) bridged up to the group with 82 km left.
Lampre led the chase, and the peloton was reduced to 30 riders. The bunch was within 0:30 of the break when the pursuit lagged during the fourth ascent of the Pfannenstiel. The gap increased to 1:00, and Damiano Cunego (Lampre) attacked and took Bettini and Luca Paolini (both from Quick Step) with him. The Quick Steppers dropped the 2004 Giro champion and bridged up to the lead group. With 45 km left, Quick Step, with five men in the lead break?including the Olympic champion?held the winning hand.
With 36 km left, the leading 13 led the peloton by 1:20. Bettini made his move, and the race was over. He shipped his chain, but his pursuers were not strong enough to exploit his problem. Behind, the bunch was gradually reeling in the break.
With 17 km left, Bettini led Bernucci by 3:00. Schleck caught the Italian, and the two stayed together until the finish. Di Luca led the peloton home at 3:10.
With one race, the Giro di Lombardia, remaining in the ProTour, Di Luca leads Tom Boonen (Quick Step) and Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile) by 58 and 89 points, respectively. Will Di Luca show up at the Giro di Lombardia? If so, how will he fare? To learn the answers to these questions and others, check in at http://www.roadcycling.com/ and find out!