Schumacher's win overshadowed by scandal

Stefan Schumacher wins, Britain's Charly Wegelius is a brave loser, Ivan Basso's pink jersey is as s

Stefan Schumacher wins, Britain's Charly Wegelius is a brave loser, Ivan Basso's pink jersey is as s
Whether it be in success or failure, Jan Ullrich usually finds a way of overshadowing his compatriots in the peloton, but even the Kaiser will have been far from delighted that his was the quote everyone was chasing after Stefan Schumacher's second stage victory of the Giro in Gemona del Friuli this afternoon. As Schumacher was whisked away to his post-stage press conference, Ullrich faced the latest round of questions about his alleged links with Spanish doctor Eufemiano Fuentes. Again, Ullrich's response was clinical: "I don't work with Fuentes, have never worked with him and will never work with him". Meanwhile, Liberty Seguros directeur sportif Neil Stephens was facing his own Spanish Inquisition. Would Stephens' team start Friday's nineteenth stage from Pordenone to Passo San Pellegrino, even after the Liberty Seguros company's announcement today that they are ending their sponsorship of the team with immediate effect? "The riders and employees are contracted to Active Bay (the holding company owned by Manolo Saiz - Ed.), not Liberty Seguros," Stephens stressed. "We will continue and we will go to the Tour with Alexandre Vinokourov." Spokesmen for Liberty Seguros said that they had not yet considered whether they would give the team permission to sport their corporate logo if they did decide to compete on Friday. As confusion, upset and outrage reigned, one couldn't help feeling for Schumacher. The 24-year-old Gerolsteiner rider's stage win ahead of Marzio Bruseghin and Illes Balears' Jose Gutierrez was a masterpiece of small-group sprinting at the end of a 156km breakaway. Euskaltel's David Garcia Lopez and Charly Wegelius of Liquigas came home in 4th and 5th place, having paid for their own courageous but vane bids for the stage win. Briton Wegelius was dropped on the Montenars, 12km from the finish-line, but fought back and even attacked under the one kilometre-to-go flag. Wegelius eventually trailed Schumacher by 7 seconds to cap an excellent run of performances in three back-to-back stages this week. Paolo Bettini lead home a main peloton containing Basso 2-43 after Schumacher had crossed the line. Commenting on his second win of the Giro and his third race win this season, Schumacher admitted that he was pleasantly surprised by his form two months after he was due to peak for the spring Classics. "I thought that my stage win in Namur was my biggest ever but I knew that I still felt good in this Giro and wanted to try again," the German told the press. "I tried to go away on the final climb and didn't manage, but I still had the confidence to win the sprint." Tomorrow's stage is a classic Dolomite blockbuster, taking in the mountain passes of the Forcella Staulanza, Pordoi and Fedaia before climaxing on the 18.5km Passo San Pellegrino. Looking ahead to what will be by far the hardest stage of the race so far, Basso said this evening "I have to be able to handle the attacks and I hope to be in the same condition as I have been for the last two weeks. I respect my rivals and know that I can't forget about them, but I also know that I have a very strong team." Sillian to Gemona del Friuli, 210km Results 1 Stefan Schumacher (Ger) Gerolsteiner 5.31.33 @ 37.46 kph 2 Marzio Bruseghin (Ita) Lampre-Fondital 3 Jos Ivan Gutierrez Palacios (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears 4 David Lopez Garcia (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 0.02 5 Charly Wegelius (GBr) Liquigas 0.07 6 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quick Step-Innergetic 2.43 7 Alberto Ongarato (Ita) Milram 8 Matthew White (Aus) Discovery Channel 9 Jos E. Gutierrezw(Spa) Phonak 10 Paolo Tiralongo (Ita) Lampre-Fondital
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