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Olympics2000

Wednesday, 30 August, 2000, 14:27 GMT 15:27 UK
Cipollini thrown out of Tour
Mario Cipollini
Cipollini has been thrown out of the Tour of Spain
Italian sprinter Mario Cipollini has been expelled from the Tour of Spain after allegedly punching another rider at the start of the fifth stage.

"Cipollini punched Spanish rider Francisco Cerezo of the Vitalicio team during the registration for today's stage," said a spokesman for race organisers Unipublic.

"As a result he will take no further part in the Tour."

Cerezo had three stitches in his forehead but still started the 152.3-km stage between Albacete and Xorret de Cati.

The attack came while riders were signing up for the fifth leg of the Tour on Wednesday morning.

Cipollini, of the Saeco team, claimed Cerezo insulted him during Tuesday's stage. Cerezo is currently in 29th place in the competition.

The Saeco team issued a statement explaining the suspension of one of their stars, saying: "What has happened is far from appropriate behaviour for our team.

"The rider will be suspended for an indefinite period. Cipollini will not ride for the team until the matter has been investigated.

"The team would like to apologise to the riders, the organisers and the people of Spain for the incident."

And Cipollini himself, speaking on Spanish radio, added his own apology, directed specifically at Cerezo.

"I know that I committed a brutal act but if you can forgive me, please forgive me," he said. "It is not in my character to do such a thing."

Scuffle

The 33-year-old Italian was also involved in a scuffle with reporters at the end of Tuesday's fourth stage in which he finished eighth.

Regarded as one of cycling's greatest ever sprinters, Cipollini has won 12 sprint finishes on the Tour de France since 1993, including the all-time fastest at an average speed of more than 50 kph.

That was last year, when he won four straight stages on the Tour. He missed this year's event through injury and had been lying 33rd overall in the Tour of Spain after the fourth stage.

Swiss rider Alex Zulle of Banesto is in the overall lead of the 21-stage competition, with a two-second lead over Spaniard Abraham Olano.

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See also:

29 Aug 00 |  Cycling
Freire wins fourth stage
28 Aug 00 |  Cycling
Koerts wins sprint finish
27 Aug 00 |  Cycling
Zulle starts well in Spain
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