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  Svorada Outsprints Pack to Win Last Irish Stage

By Shawn Pogatchnik
Associated Press
Monday, July 13, 1998; 3:41 p.m. EDT

 Jan Svorada of the Czech Republic outsprints a pack of cyclists to win the second stage of the Tour de France on Monday. (Laurent Rebours/AP)
CORK, Ireland — Jan Svorada and Erik Zabel stood atop the victor's podium, while Chris Boardman lay in a hospital bed.

The Tour de France concluded its first swing through Ireland with a cruel changing of the guard Monday.

Svorada, of the Czech Republic, earned his first tour stage victory in four years in a close finish to the 127.4-mile race along Ireland's south coast.

Germany's star sprinter Zabel — who previously had come close to the overall leader's yellow jersey — finally donned it, thanks to his 17th-place finish Monday, along with his high finishes in the weekend's prologue and first stage in Dublin.

"It feels excellent, just fantastic to finally wear the yellow jersey,'' said Zabel, who first rode the Tour in 1994. "But I still must fulfill my goal of winning a stage.''

Britain's Boardman, who held the yellow jersey the first two days, was rushed to Cork University Hospital after crashing 35 miles from the finish.

The accident -- caused when Boardman's front tire clipped the back tire of his French Gan teammate, Frederic Moncassin -- left him with a fractured left wrist and a gash on his forehead.

Boardman lay still beside a cobblestone wall until paramedics lifted him by stretcher into an ambulance. He was spending the night in the hospital.

"I am sorry that Chris crashed, but I am not sorry to take the jersey from him,'' Zabel said. "I would have won it today even if he had not crashed.''

A second, much bigger pileup a half-hour before the finish line sent a dozen cyclists tumbling and dozens more veering along the grassy shoulders of the roadway.

That mishap injured another Gan rider, Francois Simon of France, who received four stitches in his heel after finishing the race in 184th place. Also, Dutch rider Erik Dekker withdrew from stage two after deciding his badly bruised leg from a fall Sunday made competing in the 22-day Tour impossible.

As Boardman remained behind in Ireland, the remaining 186 competitors flew to France's northwestern province of Brittany, where the Tour continues Tuesday. The Tour ends Aug. 2 in Paris.

The big winner in the Tour's three days in Ireland was Mapei-Bricobi, the No. 2-ranked Italian team that has both Svorada and Belgium's Tom Steels.

Steels won Sunday's first stage and placed fifth Monday, which allowed him to claim the green jersey in recognition of the Tour's most consistent performer.

"This is another great win for our team,'' Svorada said. "Tomorrow I hope to help Tom win the yellow jersey.''

Steels — who was disqualified from the 1997 Tour for throwing a water bottle at Moncassin — is only seven seconds behind Zabel at No. 2 in the overall standings.

Moncassin was third overall, Spain's Abraham Olano fourth, France's Laurent Jalabert fifth, and the United States' Bobby Julich sixth.

Jan Ullrich, last year's tour winner, finished 45th Monday and was eighth overall.

The big loser, at least in image, was the No. 1-ranked French Festina team, which last week had a member of its staff arrested on the French-Belgian border in possession of more than 400 vials of steroids and EPO, a drug that boosts the blood's ability to absorb oxygen.

Festina director Bruno Roussel launched a spirited defense of his club's integrity. He said his team hadn't known why one of its masseurs, Willy Voet, had missed the boat to Ireland until the media informed him of Voet's arrest.

Festina's top performer Monday was 47th-place Christophe Moreau, who is competing while contesting a positive test for steroids.

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

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