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Saturday, 3 March, 2001, 19:24 GMT
Bartoli wins first Spring Classic
Bartoli takes Het Volk race
Bartoli wins wearing the Italian champion's jersey
Italian cyclist Michele Bartoli has won the first major one-day cycling classic of the year, Belgium's Het Volk race.

The Mapei-Quick Step rider started the "Spring Classics" season with a win in the 200km race between Ghent and Lokeren in Flanders.

He sprinted home ahead of Belgian Hendrik Van Dijck of the Lotto team and Dutch rider Matthe Pronk of Rabobank.

The result upstaged the home nation riders who have only been beaten five times in 55 editions of this race.

"Belgium is my second homeland. The Belgian races suit me," Bartoli said after the race.

"I can say that I can count on a lot of support here."

Bartoli has returned to form following a disappointing two seasons.

The 1998 World Cup winner suffered a serious injury to his right leg after an accident in the 1999 Tour of Germany.

He missed out on an Olympic medal in Sydney, finishing a distant fourth in the road race behind winner Jan Ullrich.

Michele Bartoli
The Italian was in confident mood after the race

The Mapei rider then ended last season by getting involved in a dispute within the Italian team at the World Championships in Brittany.

At 30, Bartoli is now in the kind of shape which saw him become the best one-day rider of the mid-to-late -990s.

Bartoli said: "This stands me in good stead before the World Cup races begin."

The 10-race World Cup series begins on 24 March with the Italian Milan-San Remo race before the sport's one-day stars return to northern Europe.

Het Volk is one rung down from the World Cup class of race, but is the opening first category race of the new season.

World Cup aces such as the Tour of Flanders and Liege-Bastogne-Liege are similar in character to this event.

Bartoli won Flanders in 1996 and the Liege race in the following two years, and on this form is set to challenge holder Erik Zabel for his World Cup jersey.

Results:

1. Michele Bartoli (Ita) Mapei 4hr 52min 00sec
2. Hendrik Van Dijck (Bel) same time
3. Matthe Pronk (Ned) same time
4. Arvis Pisiks (Lat) same time
5. Fabian De Waele (Bel) s.t. same time
6. Daniele Nardello (Ita) same time
7. Maarten Den Bakker (Ned) same time
8. Paul Van Hyfte (Bel) at 18sec
9. Didier Rous (Fra) 2:15
10. Pieter Vries (Ned) 2:58
11. Hans De Meester 5:49
12. Frank Hoj (Den) same time
13. Andreas Klier (Ger) same time
14. Mauro Radaelli (Ita) same time
15. Emmanuel Magnien (Fra) same time
16. Peter Van Petegem (Bel) same time
17. Gianluca Bortolami (Ita) same time
18. Rolf Sorensen (Den) same time
19. Serguei Ivanov (Rus) same time
20. Geert Omloop (Bel) same time

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See also:

15 Oct 00 |  Other Sports
Vainsteins sprints to world crown
21 Oct 00 |  Other Sports
Ailing Zabel wins World Cup
27 Sep 00 |  Cycling
Golden finish for Ullrich
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