Cycling: Wauters bursts into lead

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The Independent Online
AMERICA'S US POSTAL team won a stage and lost a jersey in the Prutour at Blackpool yesterday. The American George Hincapie outsprinted Poland's Piotr Wadecki to win the 103-miles sixth stage from Liverpool. But his team-mate Benoit Joachim lost the red jersey of leadership to Belgium's Marc Wauters.

Wauters and Joachim finished side by side on Blackpool's seafront, but Wauters had collected time bonuses in intermediate sprints at Ormskirk and Garstang to take the lead by just two seconds. Joachim, a first-year professional, had exceeded expectations to lead the race for three stages.

"We lost the lead but our team has now won three stages," said the US road race champion Hincapie. "And when Benoit dropped back after the Ormskirk sprint it meant I had the freedom to ride my own race."

Hincapie had broken away with Wadecki in the Trough of Bowland after 65 miles. Battling into a headwind, they shared the pace-making to stay clear to the finish. Sheffield's John Tanner of the Men's Health team won the sprint for third place from a 30-man chasing group - the best result by a British- based rider so far.

Wauters' Rabobank team lost its strongest rider, Leon Van Bon, who failed to start at Liverpool after crashing on stage five. "It's a big loss for us," admitted Wauters. "But my team-mates worked hard for me today. Robbie McEwan led me out in the bonus sprint and Erik Dekker rode on the front all day."

Chris Boardman, who had started the day 13th overall, hit a wandering sheep while descending the Nick O' Pendle climb. It was the third crash in a month for Boardman, who was cut and bruised on his right side.

His team-mate Eros Poli waited for him and they chased hard for 18 miles before regaining the main pack. Boardman slumped to 37th place overall and Chris Newton took over as the leading Briton, in 13th position.

Today Wauters will have to defend his two-second advantage in the 92- mile stage from Carlisle to Edinburgh followed by a 30-mile circuit race based on Prince's Street, Edinburgh.

Results, Digest, page 29

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