Sciandri homes in

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Max Sciandri will not be treating today's Leeds Classic as a lap of honour after his Olympic bronze medal but as an opportunity to repeat last year's success. The man who declared his allegiance to the British cycling cause, but remains a true Italian, is on home ground in this seventh round of the World Cup.

He was born in Derby, but the Yorkshire terrain has similar characteristics to the scenes of other Sciandri triumphs, particularly the approaches to St Etienne where he won a Tour de France stage last year.

Today's 232 kilometres sends the 126 racers, including the Tour de France winner, Bjarne Riis of Denmark, over the drags of Holme Moss and Woodhead twice before they return to Leeds to fight it out on a short finishing circuit.

Last year Sciandri outfoxed Roberto Caruso and Alberto Elli at the finish, but this season he has lost out in similar situations. He set himself up for a victory chance in the Milan-San Remo classic but a late attack by Gabriele Colombo had Sciandri trapped tactically. If he chased that would help his reticent co-leaders, Alex Gontchenkov and Michel Coppolillo, so he held back and was an angry fourth. Then in Atlanta his graft brought the Olympic road race down to a straight fight, but Switzerland's Pascal Richard and the Dane Rolf Sorensen had saved a bit extra for the final metres.

Britain's other Atlanta medallist Chris Boardman will see the Classic's distance as a little more "in the bank" for his attempt to take the world track pursuit title from Graeme Obree later this month.

At present the wooden 250 metres of Manchester Velodrome have more appeal for Boardman but six hours or so spent pedalling over the Cow and Calf climb, through Last of the Summer Wine country, passing the Flouch Inn, and taking in Heckmondwike can be profitable.

Johan Museeuw certainly wants to gain from the day. His World Cup lead of 24 points sounds comfortable but with victory worth 50 points, the Belgian cannot rest if he is to keep the title. His chief threat, the Italian Stefano Zanini, is absent, but the Ukrainian Gontchenkov and another Italian, Fabio Baldato, can seriously damage Museeuw's ambitions.