Italian catches tired Sciandri

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The Independent Online
Max Sciandri again tripped over the doorstep to victory, and this time it was more expensive than just losing the Leeds Classic race yesterday.

The Italian with the British birthright was 200 metres from victory when his lone rival, the Italian Andrea Ferrigato, caught him off guard and extinguished a chance for the Olympic bronze medallist to repeat last year's triumph.

Then he vanished, leaving a vacant second place on the podium. That absence cost him 11,500 Swiss francs, the currency of international cycling. He was fined Sfr2,000 for failing to appear at the ceremony and forfeited his prize-money of Sfr9,500. He also lost 10 of the 35 World Cup points he had earned for second place to make it a day to forget.

Yet, over the final 20 kilometres of the 235-kilometre race through the Yorkshire moorlands Sciandri looked good enough to make it a memorable day and had the crowds buzzing with anticipation in The Headrow finishing straight.

He and Ferrigato had shaken off their rivals, including the Belgian Johan Museeuw, the World Cup leader, but there is a chink in the powerful Sciandri's armour.

In the first World Cup round, the Milan-San Remo race, Sciandri set up a winning opportunity, only to allow another Italian, Gabriele Colombo, to wreck his plans in the last kilometre.

Then, in the Olympic road race he looked the man to beat after a dominant show that took three riders clear to dispute the medals. Switzerland's Pascal Richard and Dane Rolf Sorensen did so , and Sciandri was left with a hard-earned bronze as consolation.

"It is killing me that I lost," Sciandri said after being discovered at the changing-rooms yesterday, unaware of his financial fate. "I was tired because I did a lot of work, and when someone is stronger what can you do? He certainly surprised me with his attack." After two months out of action after an operation, Ferrigato described his success as "the win of my life".

Museeuw was also smiling. Third place, 20 seconds behind Ferrigato, almost doubled his World Cup points total, and he leads the Italian Stefano Zanini by 49 points with four races to come. Britain's other hope, Chris Boardman, was one of the non-finishers, obviously reserving something for his bid to regain the world pursuit title at Manchester in 10 days' time.