Cycling: Pantani reduces Russian's race lead

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(First Edition)

MARCO PANTANI, of Italy, scored his second stage win in 24 hours in the Giro d'Italia yesterday and is the new challenger to Russian Evgeny Berzin's race lead.

Pantani raced home 2min 52sec ahead of his compatriot and team-mate, Claudio Chiappucci, after a testing day in the mountains from Merano, and closed to within 1min 18sec of Berzin.

The slim, balding Italian took on the best again over 195km in which the daunting 2,758m Stelvio mountain followed by the punishing Mortirollo climb blew the race apart.

Pantani, dwarfed by the shadowing Miguel Indurain, raced clear of the Giro-treble-seeking Spaniard and Nelson Rodriguez of Colombia on Mortirollo and spent the final 53km in another courageous solo.

On Saturday he had raced the last 21km alone to win at Merano, 40sec clear of another Giro ace, Gianni Bugno of Italy.

Spanish riders made a clean sweep of the major placings in the Tour of Asturies which ended yesterday.

Mapei-Clas team rider Abraham Olano won overall, finishing 59sec ahead of Pedro Delgado, with Felix Garcia Casas third.

TVM rider Jesper Skibby, of Denmark, won the sixth and final stage from Cangas del Narcea.

Ronan Pensec of France sprinted to victory in the sixth stage of the Dauphine Libere race in Chambery, France, yesterday holding off fellow countryman Richard Virenque and Luc Roosen of Belgium.

Following the 203.5km stage, Laurent Dufaux of Switzerland retains the overall lead which he took from Chris Boardman of Britain on Saturday.

Pensec is second overall with Lithuanian Arturas Kasputis third.

GIRO D'ITALIA 15th stage (195km, Merano to Aprica): 1 F Pantani (It) Carrera 6hr 55min 58sec; 2 C Chiappucci (Ity) Carrera +2min and 52sec; 3 W Belli (It) Lampre +3:27; 4 N Rodriguez (Col) ZG Mobili +3:29; 5 M Indurain (Sp) Banesto +3:30; 6 E Berzin (Rus) Gewiss Ballan +4:06; 7 U Bolts (Ger) Telekom s/t; 8 G Bugno (It) Polti +5:50; 9 V Poulnikov (Ukr) Carrera; 10 P Tonkov (Rus) Lampre all s/t. Overall standings: 1 Berzin 67:19:49; 2 Pantani +1:18; 3 Indurain +3:03; 4 Bugno +4:08; 5 Belli +4:41; 6 A de las Cuevas (Fr) Castorama +5:12; 7 Tonkov +7:53; 8 Chiappucci +9:13; 9 Rodriguez +10:15; 10 A Hampsten (US) Motorola +11:48.

TOUR OF ASTURIES Final stage (164km, Cangas to Narcea): 1 J Skibby (Den) 3hr 46min 54sec; 2 G Fagnini (It); 3 W Nelissen (Bel); 4 A Saitov (Rus); 5 J Talen (Neth) all s/time. Overall: 1 A Olano (Sp) 23hr 41min 14sec; 2 P Delgado (Sp) +59sec; 3 F Casas (Sp) +1min 26sec; 4 A Camargo (Col) +1:31; 5 B Zberg (Swit) +2:19.

DAUPHINE LIBERE RACE Sixth stage (203.5km, Allevard-les-Bains to Chambery): 1 R Pensec (Fr) Novemail 5hr 33min 25sec; 2 R Virenque (Fr) Festina; 3 L Roosen (Bel) Lotto; 4 A Kasputis (Lith) Chazal-MBK-Konig; 5 L Dufaux (Swit) ONCE; 6 P Jonker (Neth) Novemail-Laser; 7 E Caritoux (Fr) Chazal-MBK-Konig; 8 I Camacho (Sp) Kelme; 9 D Rous (Fr) Gan; 10 P Herve (Fr) Festina all s/t; 43 C Boardman (GB) Gan +11min 23sec. Overall: 1 Dufaux 28:35:52; 2 Pensec +55sec; 3 Kasputis +1min 11sec; 4 Rous +1:22; 5 Virenque +1:28; 6 Herve +1:39; 7 Camacho +2:17; 8 Jonker +2:39; 9 C Manin (Fr) Chazal-MBK-Konig +4:18; 10 Caritoux +4:22; 22 Boardman +15.23.