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Cyclist Perez Wins Second Stage of Tour of Spain; Rodriguez Claims Yellow Jersey - 2003-09-07


Luis Perez has earned the first win of his eight-year pro career in the second stage of the Tour of Spain cycling race while Spanish countryman Joaquin Rodriguez claimed the leader's yellow jersey.

Perez, riding for Cofidis, won the 148-kilometer stage Sunday from Gijon to Cangas de Onis in northern Spain in three hours, 27 minutes, 32 seconds. While descending the mountain pass of Del Fito, Perez slipped away with Carlos Sastre, and beat him to the finish by 15 seconds.

Rodriguez, riding for Once-Eroski, took the overall lead from teammate Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano. Once-Eroski won the team time-trial on Saturday in the Tour's opening stage.

The third stage on Monday is a 153-kilometer stretch from Cangas de Onis to Santander. The 21-stage, 3,162-kilometer Tour of Spain ranks with the Tour de France and the Giro d'Italia as Europe's top three cycling events. The race ends Sept. 28 in Madrid. Last year's winner was Spaniard Aitor Gonzalez.

Tour de France runner-up Jan Ullrich of Germany may be on the verge of joining the Bianchi team next week.

The German cyclist, reportedly being pursued by four teams, wants Bianchi to surround him with riders strong enough for him to win the Tour de France for the second time after 1997. Ullrich is also seeking the Giro d'Italia title and to defend his Olympic gold medal at Athens.

Bianchi hopes to secure a big sponsor by the end of the month which would take care of ongoing financial problems and allow it to build the strong team sought by Ullrich to challenge five-time winner Lance Armstrong of the United States.

Ullrich won the 1997 Tour as Team Telekom's star. But he and the team separated last year over a drug ban by the German rider and his controversial training habits.

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