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GALVESTON COUNTY, TEXAS WEDNESDAY, JULY 7,1999 B5 Belgium's Steels wins second straight stage of Tour de France The Associated Press LAVAL, France — A day after a dramatic crash during an ocean crossing, the third stage of the Tour de France unfolded on dry ground and in classic style Tuesday. Rolling into the countryside of Brittany, with black-and-white Breton flags fluttering along the route, the stage began with an early breakaway and ended in a furious, shoulder-to-shoulder sprint. For the second straight day, Belgium's Tom Steels won the stage, tuning his attack perfectly and surging through his rivals across the finish line, arms outstretched. Jaan Kirsipuu of Estonia kept the leader's yellow jersey. Steels moved into second place overall, followed by Abraham Olano of Spain and Lance Armstrong of the United States. Armstrong's teammate on a strong U.S. Postal Service team, George Hincapie, is sixth. Armstrong, making a remarkable comeback from testicular cancer, is waiting for Sunday's time trial and then the mountain stages to mount his challenge. But this week, in the early, flat stages, it is the sprinters who excel. Tuesday's 122-mile route stretched through picturesque northern countryside from the city of Nantes, which straddles the Loire River, to the town of Laval. Two riders, Frederic Guesdon and Massimo Giunti, broke away early and maintained their lead ~« Tom Steels, of Belgium, reacts as he crosses the finish line to win the third stage of the Tour de France cycling race between Nantes and Laval In western France on Tuesday. Erik Zabel, of Germany, right, finished second, ahead of Stuart O'Grady, of Australia, left. (AP) for 76 miles. But they were caught by the pack late in the race, making way for the sprinters. The pack maintained a swift pace, averaging 27 mph for the day. The final sprint came at a blistering 42 mph. Steels had a winning time of 4 hours, 29 minutes, 27 seconds. He was Mowed by Erik Zabel of Germany, Stuart O'Grady of Australia, Nicola Minali of Italy and Hincapie. Armstrong finished 24th. Young fans along the route on Tuesday were well aware of the drug scandal that has enveloped the sport. But most preferred to enjoy the race, and some were skeptical about efforts to stamp out drug use. Spanish exchange student Jose Luiz Catala was enjoying a folk concert in Nantes before the riders came through. "I think all the players are doped," said Catala, 17. "You know why? Because you cant win on a plate of spaghetti. You need more." His friend, Joan Albert Lairon, sporting red-and-yellow paint on his cheeks, agreed. "Doping is fair if they all do it," he said. "The problem comes when only some do. That's why it's wrong. "It's only a bit dangerous — no more than smoking cigarettes," he added. U.S. women's soccer team puts spotlight on sport The Associated Press CLAREMONT, Calif. - Soc- cermania has hit the United States. In the midst of one of its countless bus rides during the Women's World Cup, the U.S. team was told that Saturday's final against China was sold out. The Rose Bowl will be filled, just as it was for the men's championship five years ago. "We all kind of jumped out of our seats and were pumping our fists and yelling and cheering," Brandi Chastain said Tuesday. "What a great tribute," Cindy Parlow added. "I think the fans appreciate how much we appreciate their coming to the games and coming out to see us." The Women's World Cup has become a phenomenon in this country. Sure, soccer isn't a high-visibility sport in America and the MLS is struggling to draw fans and television ratings. But the American women have captured the imagination of the nation with their forthrightness, friendliness and accessibility. "It's something we want to do," Tifleny Milbrett said. "Well stay and sign autographs and we'll talk to the fans because we want to do it, not because someone tells us we should. It's important to them and it's important to us." After the team's first practice in preparation for the final, the i Fans greet the U.S. Women's soccer team as they board a bus leaving the Los Angeles International Airport on Monday to begin preparations for the FIFA Women's World Cup championship game against China on Saturday. (AP) players were interviewed by reporters from television networks and national news magazines. "CBS Evening News" was on hand. So was Newsweek. What they found is what those following the team for the last month have long known: This is a refreshing group of athletes who understand exactly what is happening. And cherish it. "We've been excited by the tournament and overwhelmed by the response," Chastain said. "I knew there was a special package we had to offer and now we are getting a chance to present it." What makes it extra special is that the women are doing it on their own. While they were one of the more popular teams at the 19% Olympics, they shared the spotlight with the U.S. basketball, softball and gymnastics teams that won gold medals. This time, the Americans and Chinese and Brazilians are selling soccer — and selling out major league stadiums. "This event has done better than anyone could have expected," Milbrett said. "I'm shocked at how massive it has been. "We knew it would be huge and we felt it would be OK if we have maybe 40,000 fans at the games. But we never thought of anything like sellouts at every game." Milbrett said that is a tribute to the sport, whereas the Atlanta Games were about something else. "The Olympics is about the patriotic USA," she said. "It's people going to games because it's the Olympics. If we have success, they will also come; I think that showed in the numbers, when we had 25,000 for an early Olympic game and then sold out the final. But it was not just a soccer crowd. "But 79,000 at the opener says they knew about our soccer and they wanted to come and watch soccer, watch women's soccer." It doesn't hurt, either, that the teams generally have given the U.S. public what it craves: wide-open play, lots of scoring, spectacular goalkeeping and passion. Ah, the passion. "It makes us smile. It's really flattering that the fans see that from us," Tisha Venturini said. "They see how much you can enjoy what you're doing." Can they really enjoy the prospect effacing China, which has been the best team in the tournament and routed defending champion Norway 5-0 in the semifinals? "I remember back in the FIFA All-Star game in February, the Chinese keeper (Gao Hong) saying, 'It will be China and U.S. in the World Cup final,' " Milbrett said. "I really believe that's how it should be. We've earned it." AL'S DPS CERTIFIED CONCEALED HANDGUN LICENSE TRAINING & RENEWAL CLASSES HELD DAILY INCLUDES FREE LUNCH, RANGE, CLASSROOM, FINGERPRINTS, PHOTOS, NOTARY AND FREE USE OF SEMI-AUTO HANDGUN. A ONE STOP SHOP ALL AT THE SAME LOCATION (409) 945-3043 or (800) 320-2588 Before you Renew your Home or Auto Insurance Give Us A Call sales Representative AMERICAN NATIONAL AMttKAN NATIONAL INSUtANd CO. AMIUCAN NATIONAL FHWOTT t CAJUAITT CO. AUTO • HOME • UFE • HEALTH • GROUP • BOATS • MOTORCYCLES Uxally Owned t Opemted 1*09)762-2646 2417 MARKET SUITE 105 GALVESTON Cycling's governing body said 16 cyclists — none elite riders — have been certified to race with a hematocrit level that exceeds the 50-percent limit. The hematocrit level measures the proportion of red blood cells in a blood sample — one sign of drug use, since the substances increase red blood cells. The International Cycling Union noted that 3 percent of the global population has a hemat- ocrit level higher than 50 percent. It wasn't clear how many, if any, of the riders issued those certificates are racing in this year's Tbur. U.S. racer Jonathan Vaughters has one, but he was injured in Monday's crash on the Passage du Gois and forced to abandon the race. On the passage, a strip of land that connects a small island to the mainland and is submerged at high tide, top riders Alex Zulle, Michael Boogerd and Ivan Gotti were dealt a serious blow. They got caught behind the 10- rider crash and never reached a group of 50 or so riders that broke away after the crash. Panel proposes structural changes for IOC committee The Associated Press LONDON — A reform panel has suggested changes in the way the IOC chooses members, including democratic elections, terms of office and a lower age limit. A working group of the IOC 2000 commission, set up following the Salt Lake City scandal, also proposed full membership for 10 athletes elected by their peers. The panel, whose members include former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, discussed a number of proposals during a meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland, on Monday. The group will meet again Sept. 10 to complete its recommendations. "We have made considerable progress toward transparency, rotation in office and broad representation from all interested sports organizations, especially from the active athletes," Kissinger said. Reforms also were discussed in London in a meeting between International Olympic Committee president Juan Antonio Samaranch and former Senate Majority leader George Mitchell. They were in London to attend Sunday's Wimbledon finals. Mitchell wrote a report criticizing the IOC's role in the Salt Lake scandal. The report accused the IOC of fostering a "culture of improper gift giving" and suggested wide-ranging reforms. The IOC said Tuesday all of Mitchell's recommendations have been "integrated into the reform process and are currently being considered by the IOC 2000 commission." Samaranch described his meeting with Mitchell as "most constructive and very encouraging." The IOC is under pressure to change following the vote-buying scandal stemming from Salt Lake's winning bid for the 2002 Winter Games. Six IOC members have been expelled and four others resigned in the organization's worst crisis. TRUE BLUE ZTR Dlxoa ZTR Residential Mowers can cut your mowing time in half! TIM Only ThM ZTR. I* • Blin ZTR OIXOO Mowers CLOSED THURSDAY Come in for a demo! BAWOTN'EQUIPMENt Sales & Service since 1972 409-938-027! Gulf Freeway At Magnolia La Marque Visit our webtlt*: www.dwliwn.com .877.558-2646 MEN WANTED!! 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