RadioShack’ Haimar Zubelbia won the prologue of the Tour de l’Ain in France on Tuesday.
Zubeldia completed the three-kilometer course at Amberieu-en-Bugey 0.20 seconds ahead of 19-year-old Dutchman Yilco Kelderman of Rabobank. France’s Laurent Mangel (Saursogasun) was squeezed into third another 0.22 seconds back.
The 33-year-old Zubeldia finished fifth in the Tour de France in 2003 and 2007 but was ruled out of this year’s event after breaking his wrist in June in a massive crash in the first stage of the 2010 Criterium du Dauphine Libere.
As an established climber he is likely to be in the mix when the five-stage Tour de l’Ain finishes in the mountains.
Zubeldia’s last win came 10 years ago in the Bicicleta Vasca, but as the Spaniard — who came fourth in the San Sebastian Classic at the end of last month — explained he has not had many opportunities to win stages himself.
“I am not a winner. My job in the team is to help our grand tour riders in the mountains,” said Zubeldia.
“I always kept working hard. This victory is a nice compensation for my hard work. We are a small but good team and we will try to keep yellow until the end. It would be nice to win this 22nd Tour de l’Ain,” added Zubeldia.
Tejay Van Garderen (HTC-Columbia) was the top American, in eighth, two seconds behind Zubeldia.
Wednesday’s stage takes the riders the 144.4 km from Lagnieu to Saint Vulbas.
- 1. Haimar ZUBELDIA AGIRRE, (ESP) Team RadioShack, in 3:38
- 2. Wilco KELDERMAN, (NED), at 0
- 3. Laurent MANGEL, (FRA) Saur-Sojasun, at 0
- 4. Greg VAN AVERMAET, (BEL) Omega Pharma-Lotto, at 1
- 5. Matthieu BOULO, (FRA) Roubaix Lille Metropole, at 1
- 8. Tejay VAN GARDEREN, (USA) HTC-Columbia, at 2
- 13. John MURPHY, (USA) BMC Racing Team, at 4
- 31. Craig LEWIS, (USA) HTC-Columbia, at 9
- 35. Chris BARTON, (USA) BMC Racing Team, at 9
- 70. Cole HOUSE, (USA) BMC Racing Team, at 14