Cycling: Moreni is master of mountain

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CHRISTIAN MORENI claimed the first success for his Liquigas team in this year's Tour of Spain when he won the 225km (140 miles) 17th stage between Bronchales and Guadalajara yesterday.

Moreni recorded 5hr 33min 14sec after breaking away from a five-man leading group only four kilometres from the line. Spain's Jose Garcia Acosta won the sprint for the minor placings, finishing two seconds behind Moreni, while Spain's Mikel Zarrabeitia took third place and was given the same time as his compatriot.

So successful was the original break that the main bunch finished 16 behind, with Germany's Jan Ullrich tucking in among them to retain the race leader's golden jersey.

Another dose of mountain air proved too much for his compatriot Marcel Wust, who gave up the struggle after 140km. The Festina rider had sprinted to victory in four of the stages early in the race, and was the leader in the points standings before yesterday, but he had been battling fatigue after three stages in the Pyrenees last weekend.

Among four others to retire yesterday was Spain's Angel Casero, who was lying eighth in the overall standings, cutting the field to only 118 of the 189 riders who set off on 4 September.

The tour has been staged in the north of Spain but next time it will return south, starting in Malaga earlier, on 26 August, to avoid coinciding with the road and track World Championships and the Sydney Olympics. However, the race will again incorporate the Alto del Angliru mountain, which featured this year for the first time. Its summit finish, regarded as the hardest in cycling, has gradients of over 20 per cent during the final 13km, and race organisers want it to earn the same reputation as the Tour de France's Alpe d'Huez.

Results, Digest, page 31