Sciandri prepares to make home run

Cycling
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The Independent Online
Max Sciandri makes his only "home" appearance in tomorrow's World Cup race at Leeds, where three years ago he sealed one of his more significant victories.

Then he won the Kellogg's Tour of Britain as an Italian, but returns tomorrow for the Leeds International Classic as a British rider with more than an even chance of success, and the drive to make it happen.

He has the birthright to ride for Britain, having been born in Derby and, as dearly as he wants to demonstrate his love for Italy, he is seeking selection for his home country.

"I have lived all my life in Italy. I feel Italian, but I have been forced into this position," Sciandri said. He wants to compete in the Atlanta Olympics next year, but needs to qualify by riding in the world road race championship in Colombia in October.

Italy has a wealth of cycling talent, so Sciandri's hopes of representing them have been frustrated. This is his opportunity to show home crowds what he can do.

British selectors saw the power of Sciandri during the Tour de France. His solo victory at St Etienne was over his favourite undulating terrain, and impressive. He has finished seventh and fourth in the past two Classics, and tomorrow's 233km race offers him the exceptional undulations of Holme Moss and Woodhead.

The 18 teams line up in The Headrow for a 9am start. Italians have won the last three Classics, but there is a lot of ambition in tomorrow's field. Belgium's Johan Museeuw leads by six points, and has declared that he will ride only two more Cup races after Leeds.

His closest rival, the Swiss rider Mauro Giannetti, was badly injured in the Tour of Switzerland, so Museeuw's biggest threat is Laurent Jalabert. The Frenchman is 36 points behind and comes to Britain after an outstanding Tour de France, in which he won the green jersey of top points-scorer, had a stage win, and was fourth overall.

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