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[an error occurred while processing this directive] Sunday, 7 October, 2001, 18:46 GMT 19:46 UK
Virenque sprints to victory
Richard Virenque in action last year
Virenque returns to winning ways in the Paris-Tours race
Frenchman Richard Virenque upset the sprinters on Sunday to win the 95th edition of the Paris-Tours cycling race.

Virenque, riding for Belgian team Domo, finished ahead of Spain's Oscar Freire and Germany's Erik Zabel in the 254-kilometre event.

Victory in the penultimate round of the 2001 World Cup was a return to winning ways for the five-time Tour de France "King of the Mountains."

The 31-year-old Frenchman was suspended for eight months earlier this year after he confessed to using banned substances when riding for the Festina team.

At the time, Virenque said the ban probably would end his career, but he returned to competition in August and rode in last month's Vuelta, finishing one stage in second place.

Fast break

Virenque broke away with compatriot Jacky Durand at the 22km mark of the race, and never looked back.

Durand capitulated with only 8km to go, but the Frenchman, who now lives in Switzerland carried on to signal a successful end to his season.

"I didn't want to take revenge," Virenque said. "It's just a beautiful story.

"When I realised we were 17 minutes ahead of the bunch after 75km I told myself maybe we had made a mistake to break away so early.


I gave it everything, I closed my eyes, I really suffered
Richard Virenque

"I thought we would be caught before the end as the bunch started chasing."

"With 50 kilometres to go, Durand told me he was exhausted. So I decided to go ahead alone. And I broke away in a small climb", Virenque added.

"Ten kilometres from the finish the bunch was 45 seconds behind me but I refused to give it up. I didn't want history to repeat itself."

In 1996, Virenque was caught with just 500 metres of the event to go after a long solo ride.

"The clock man showed me the board and I knew the bunch was coming back very swiftly. So I gave it everything. I closed my eyes. I really suffered."

Despite winning, the victory means little to his World Cup standings as he is unranked.

But Virenque's first Classic triumph, will boost his confidence only days before the World Championships in Lisbon.

With only one race to go - the Giro di Lombardia on 20 October - in the World Cup, the race is heating up between Zabel and Dutchman Erik Dekker of the Rabobank team.

Leading placings in the 254.5km World Cup classic Paris-Tours race on Sunday:

1. Richard Virenque (France) Domo-Farm Frites 6 hours 58 minutes 32 seconds
2. Oscar Freire (Spain) Mapei-Quick Step two seconds behind
3. Erik Zabel (Germany) Deutsche Telekom
4. Thor Hushovd (Norway) Crédit Agricole
5. Andrej Hauptmann (Slovenia) Tacconi-Vini Caldirola
6. Romans Vainstens (Latvia) Domo-Farm Frites
7. Alessandro Petacchi (Italy) Fassa Bortolo
8. Jaan Kirsipuu (Estonia) AG2r Prevoyance
9. Nico Eeckhout (Belgium) Lotto-Adecco
10. Zbigniew Spruch (Poland) Lampre-Daikin
11. Luca Paolini (Italy) Mapei-Quick Step
12. Guennadi Mikhaïlov (Russia) Lotto-Adecco
13. Erik Dekker (Netherlands) Rabobank
14. Jo Planckaert (Belgium) Cofidis
15. Andreï Tchmil (Belgium) Lotto-Adecco
16. Nicola Loda (Italy) Fassa Bortolo
17. Arvis Piziks (Latvia) CSC-Tiscali
18. Sergueï Ivanov (Russia) Fassa Bortolo
19. Stefan Adamsson (Sweden) Team Coast
20. Marc Lotz (Netherlands) Rabobank

See also:

04 Sep 01 |  Other Sports
Virenque facing a battle
14 Aug 01 |  Other Sports
Virenque makes low-key return
05 Jul 01 |  Tour de France
Domo sign Virenque
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