O’Grady wins in Hamburg

Stuart O'Grady's season is still on an upward curve as the Australian takes his first World Cup succ

Stuart O’Grady’s season is still on an upward curve as the Australian takes his first World Cup succ

PICTURE BY TIM DE WAELE Stuart O’Grady continued his great run of form when he won the HEW Cyclassics World Cup race in Hamburg this afternoon (Sunday), beating Paolo Bettini and Igor Astarloa in the final sprint contested by about 25 riders, including most of the pre-race favourites. After a win at the Tour de France and a stint in the green jersey, this was the Australian’s first World Cup win and marks him out as one of the contenders for Olympic gold in Athens later this month. Once a four-man breakaway had been reeled in soon after the first of five finishing circuits that included the 15% slopes of the Waseberg, the likes of World Cup leader Davide Rebellin, defending World Cup champion Paolo Bettini, world champion Igor Astarloa and local hero Jan Ullrich were all in the hub in the action. Gerolsteiner, in particular, did all they could to break up a large leading group, with some success. The final time up the climb, with 15 kilometres to the finish, Astarloa, Bettini and Rebellin formed a group ‘de luxe’ at the front of the race, with Ullrich among those leading the chase behind them. The trio were hauled back by the chasers after three kilometres away, and then Lampre’s Paolo Bossoni and fdjeux.com’s Philippe Gilbert tried their luck. This pair were clear for a similar distance, before they too were chased down. Axel Merckx was the next to attack, but there was little delay before he was reeled in as well. During this flurry of attacks, many of the riders dropped by the hot pace up the final climb of the Waseberg got back up to the front group, including sprinters Erik Zabel and Danilo Hondo. This gave Gerolsteiner two options in the shape of Hondo and Rebellin, but any plans for an organised lead-out were dented by a late and vain attempt by Ullrich, followed by something similar from Serhiy Honchar. Luca Paolini led out the sprint for team-mate Bettini, but it was Astarloa who made the first dig for the line from behind Paolini. Bettini, though, was well placed and came past the Spaniard, only for O’Grady to carry off a similar manoeuvre and deny the Italian a repeat of his 2003 victory here. Sixth place for Rebellin was enough to keep him in the World Cup leader’s jersey. 1 Stuart O’Grady (Aus) Cofidis 250km in 5.51.39 (42.66kph) 2 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quick Step 3 Igor Astarloa (Spa) Lampre 4 Oscar Freire (Spa) Rabobank 5 Gerben Lowik (Hol) Chocolade Jacques 6 Davide Rebellin (Ita) Gerolsteiner