Cycling: Colotti makes a clean break

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The Independent Online
JEAN-CLAUDE COLOTTI put himself in the shop-window of the Tour de France yesterday with his first major victory, and it was a timely affair, too. His sponsor, Roger Zannier, who runs a chain of children's clothing stores, has decided after six years to withdraw his support from a team which includes Greg LeMond.

It is another blow to Continental professional teams with major sponsors such as Panasonic, Buckler, PDM, all Dutch-based, and RMO, a French employment agency, heading for the exit.

The cameras zoomed in on Colotti's commercial break (only the 'for hire' sign was missing). They also picked up the feud between the riders of Panasonic and Buckler. Colotti rode away as the Belgian Marc Sergeant and the Dutchman Frans Maassen glared at each other after Sergeant had refused to help with the pace-making.

Riders of different sponsors have a well-established agreement that they share the work to maintain a lead, but for nine years the managers of Sergeant and Maassen have been at loggerheads.

The Tour organisers sent an official warning to Peter Post, the manager of Panasonic, and Jan Raas, of Buckler, stating that the 'unsporting behaviour' of their riders in the last two stages was giving the Tour and professional cycling 'a deplorable image'.

Since Raas left Post in 1983 to start his own team there has been ill-feeling, and their riders have become involved. Maassen, who finished second yesterday with Sergeant third, is fed up. 'I am asking Raas to stop it,' he said. 'I have lost 25 races because of this nonsense. I have won a few, too, but I want to race at a sporting level.'

Certainly it will not help their search for new backers.

Away from the back-biting it was time for back-slapping as Colotti, alone for the last 34 kilometres, pulled clear of the feud by more than three and a half minutes.

He finished 16min 15sec ahead of the main pack containing the Tour aces - but he held no fears for Miguel Indurain and his yellow-jersey prospects. Colotti started yesterday in La Bourboule two hours and 50 minutes in arrears, incapable of spreading panic.

'I want to dedicate this victory to Greg,' said Colotti, referring to his team leader who, totally fatigued, quit in the Alps on Sunday.

The Frenchman himself had been on the verge of withdrawing in the first week. 'I felt that bad I did not feel like riding a bike,' Colotti said. 'My wife told me that I could achieve something, and that helped a lot.'

The move that took the three clear after 50 of yesterday's 189km stemmed from a sparring match between Indurain and Claudio Chiappucci. First the Italian chased Indurain, then launched his own attack. The Spanish rider pursued him with Colotti, Maassen and Sergeant. Indurain and Chiappucci then slipped back into the pack, leaving Colotti and his mates each to their own brand of aggression.

TOUR DE FRANCE Stage 17 (189km, La Bourboule to Montlucon): 1 J-C Colotti (Z, Fr) 4hr 34min 55sec; 2 F Maassen (Buckler, Neth) +3min 31sec; 3 M Sergeant (Panasonic, Bel) same time; 4 P Louviot (ONCE, Fr) +8:34; 5 G Nulens (Panasonic, Bel) s/t; 6 S Lilholt (Tulip, Den) +15:43; 7 J Museeuw (Lotto, Bel) +16:15; 8 J-P van Poppel (PDM, Neth); 9 P de Clercq (Lotto, Bel); 10 L Jalabert (ONCE, Fr); 11 O Ludwig (Panasonic, Ger); 12 H Redant (Lotto, Bel); 13 C Chiappucci (Carrera, It); 14 E de Wilde (Telekom, Bel); 15 A Peiper (Tulip, Aus) all s/t. Selected: 16 G Bugno (Gatorade, It) +16:15; 26 M Indurain (Banesto, Sp); 22 S Roche (Carrera, Irl); 58 S Yates (Motorola, GB); 64 S Kelly (Festina, Irl); 78 M Earley (PDM, Irl); 100 R Millar (TVM, GB) all s/t.

Overall: 1 Indurain 84hr 49min 10sec; 2 Chiappucci +1min 42sec; 3 A Hampsten (Motorola, US) +8:07; 4 P Lino (RMO, Fr) +9:22; 5 Bugno +10:09; 6 P Delgado (Banesto, Sp) +11:50; 7 E Breukink (PDM, Neth) +15:54; 8 G Perini (Carrera, It) +15:56; 9 Roche +17:12; 10 F Vona (GB-MG, It) +19:22; 11 J Heppner (Telekom, Ger) +20:01; 12 G-J Theunisse (TVM, Neth) +20:32; 13 E Boyer (Z, Fr) +20:40; 14 G Rue (Castorama, Fr) +21:29; 15 E Bouwmans (Panasonic, Neth) +22:56. Selected: 17 Millar +24:14; 40 Kelly +1hr 11min 42sec; 77 Earley +2:11:21; 84 Yates +2:19:53.