Sciandri utilises 'home' advantage

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The Independent Online
Max Sciandri took the victory he badly wanted yesterday when he won the Leeds Classic. Then he raised questions over the world selection he craved so much that he took out a British racing licence.

For an Italian, born in Derby of an English mum and an Italian dad, he got a rousing reception as he rode along The Headrow finishing straight, arms aloft to celebrate a win forged in the last 50 of the 233 kilometre race.

"It's something special to win in England, and I was motivated because of that and this selection business," Sciandri said. "I will decide about the World Championships at the end of the month because it is going to be a particularly hard course in Colombia.

"I am in really good condition, and if I am in that shape at the time of the world race in October then I would be confident about it."

He was frustrated with Italian selectors who, with a wealth of talent to pick over, ignored his claims. This year he took out a British racing licence, declared himself truly Italian, but keen to race for Britain in the World Championships - and hopefully the Atlanta Olympics.

He has finished seventh and four in previous Classics, but yesterday was quick to spot his opportunity. "I could see there were not too many guys in good condition, and that a lot were tired.

"When I caught the leaders, I knew from experience of this course that if we were a minute or more ahead on reaching the finishing circuit there was a good chance of winning."

This success had the same stamp on it as his Tour de France stage win at St Etienne. Then he shook off Hernan Buenahora and raced on alone. Yesterday as he, Roberto Elli, and Roberto Caruso began the final eight kilometres, Sciandri pedalled away to open a winning gap of 44 seconds.

After twice climbing Holme Moss the class field was scattered around the magnificent moorlands. Caruso and Elli had, however, escaped with the Belgian Sammie Moreels, Latvia's Arvis Piziks, and the Italian Marco Milesi. Then the two Italians escaped after 180km, and Sciandri saw his chance.

With his fifth place Johan Museeuw, of Belgium, improved his lead in the World Cup of which this race was the seventh round.