Pozzato gives timely reminder

Filippo Pozzato delivers a timely reminder that his status as one of the sport's most exciting talen

Filippo Pozzato delivers a timely reminder that his status as one of the sport's most exciting talen
Filippo Pozzato ensured that Fassa Bortolo would mourn Alessandro Petacchi for no more than 24 hours as he powered home ahead of Spaniards Francisco Mancebo and Iker Flores for the most important win of his career to date in St Brieuc this afternoon. Behind this trio, Laurent Brochard, Sbastian Hinault, Michele Scarponi and Paolo Bettini were absorbed into a pack containing all of the main contenders on the uphill finishing straight. Bettini had initiated the winning move along with compatriots Scarponi and Pozzato four kilometres from the line. Pozzato, Flores and Mancebo then countered a Brochard attack one kilometre later, effectively ending the resistance of the Frenchman and the other remaining escapees. Pozzato's superior sprinting speed made the finale a foregone conclusion, with Flores narrowly holding on for second ahead of his compatriot Mancebo. The yellow jersey of overnight leader Thomas Voeckler was never seriously under threat at any point on the 204km stage from Chateaubriant to Saint Brieuc. The Frenchman rolled safely into the finish and retained his 3-01 advantage over Stuart O'Grady on a largely unchanged general classification tonight. Jan Ullrich, Lance Armstrong and Tyler Hamilton - still ailing from the bruises sustained in Friday's finale in Angers - all stayed upright on yet another wind-buffeted, rain-sodden stage. If Saturday morning had been overshadowed by the regrettable case of Christophe Brandt (see separate story), then the afternoon set the stage for two memorable cameos from Gilberto Simoni and Bjarne Riis's Team CSC. Already a reluctant starter on Friday, Simoni hinted that his feelings towards the Tour had scarcely mellowed overnight by failing to sign the start sheet for the second consecutive day in Chateaubriant. Once on his way, the Italian almost immediately allowed himself to drift off the back of the peloton and, according to some eye-witnesses, even tried to climb into his Saeco team car, clearly intent on retiring. News agency Reuters reported that the Italian had indeed pulled out at 1.19pm local time. Events took a dramatic turn when Simoni was apparently brought round to the idea of continuing by Saeco directeur sportif Giuseppe Martinelli. Or rather had his arm very forcibly twisted, judging by Martinelli's tense reaction at the finish line. Simoni now hopes to recharge his batteries in the Tour's first rest day in Limoges on Monday and resume his assault on the general classification. If Saeco clearly weren't hitting harmonious notes, then Team CSC most certainly were at the 155km mark. That was when, in an action reply of their race-winning move on stage one of Paris-Nice, the Danish team moved en masse to the front of the peloton to impose a punishing rhythm. Ending the 120km breakaway of Erik Dekker and Thierry Marichal, CSC also sent a group containing O'Grady, Baden Cooke and Christophe Moreau reeling out of the back of the bunch. The demonstration of collective force ended after 10km but it won't be forgotten in a hurry. Tomorrow's stage sees the peloton tackle another undulating 168km route through the Breton peninsula from Lamballe to Quimper.
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