Bertogliati takes stage, jersey

Swiss dashes past Zabel

Armstrong, team make no effort to hold top spot

Tour De France

July 08, 2002|By Bonnie DeSimone | Bonnie DeSimone,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

LUXEMBOURG - As expected, the yellow jersey changed backs yesterday. Unexpectedly, it passed from cycling's biggest star to a virtually unknown young pro.

Swiss rider Rubens Bertogliati sprinted across the finish ahead of Lance Armstrong and the rest of the main pack to win Stage 1, a tedious, hilly 119.4-mile leg that began and ended in Luxembourg.

Bertogliati, who streaked past star German sprinter Erik Zabel with less than one mile remaining, also took the leader's yellow jersey from Armstrong, who won Saturday's prologue.

Armstrong had hinted that he and the U.S. Postal Service team would not try to keep the jersey this early. Leading wire-to-wire is not unheard-of - Armstrong nearly did it in 1999 - but no one has managed it since 1935. Conventional wisdom says it saps too much energy before the critical mountain stages.

"Lance Armstrong, tactically, would have an interest in seeing someone else take over the yellow jersey, so that someone else helps him lead the pack until the mountains," Tour de France director Jean-Marie Leblanc said.

"If we get lucky and keep it, then that's just fine," said Postal rider Floyd Landis. "We just want to keep Lance out of trouble this week."

Bertogliati finished in 4 hours, 49 minutes, 16 seconds - the same time as the 121-rider pack. This is the second Tour for the 23-year-old, who rides for the Italian team Lampre.

With 20 seconds taken off his time as a bonus for placing first, Bertogliati moved past Armstrong (30th yesterday) in the standings.

Bertogliati, 23, described claiming the yellow jersey as "a dream that has now come true."

Zabel, of the Telekom team, celebrated his 32nd birthday by placing second. Australia's Robbie McEwen of the Lotto team was third.

In the overall standings, France's Laurent Jalabert moved up to second, just ahead of Armstrong. Jalabert, of CSC-Tiscali, finished with the same time as Bertogliati but won bonus seconds in an intermediate sprint.

Three crashes entangled small groups of riders, but no one was seriously injured.

"The field is hungry in the first few days, and that's why you have to be careful about falls, which can be frequent," said French rider Jacky Durand.

The race moves into Germany today for a gentle, 112.4-mile Stage 2 beginning in Luxembourg and ending in Sarrebruck.

Bonnie DeSimone is a reporter for the Chicago Tribune. Wire reports contributed to this article.

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