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Stefan Schumacher wins opening stage at Vuelta a Asturias

Stefan Schumacher claimed victory in Thursday’s opening stage at the Vuelta a Asturias in what’s his first win since returning from a doping ban last season.

Schumacher crossed the line just ahead of his Miche-Guerciotti teammate Tino Zaballa to win the 162km run from Oviedo to Gijón in northern Spain. David Gutiérrez (Geox-TMC) was third as a group of 26 pulled clear of the main pack in the hilly stage.

Andrey Amador (Movistar) crashed out with a broken collarbone and will miss next month’s Giro d’Italia after crashing during the opening day of action in the four-day race.

With time bonuses, Schumacher grabs the race leader’s jersey three seconds ahead of defending champion Zaballa. Gutiérrez is third at six seconds adrift. Rory Sutherland and Charly Wegelius made it through with the first group for UnitedHealthcare, both at 10 seconds back.

The race continues Friday with a split stage. The morning sector is an 82.9km hilly route followed by a 14km individual time trial at Piedras Blancas.

The victory is the first for Schumacher since his two-year ban for doping after he tested positive for EPO-CERA during the 2008 Tour de France. Schumacher’s doping case helped doom the German-backed Gerolsteiner team and created a furor in his native Germany.

The 29-year-old Schumacher rejoined the peloton midway through last season with Italian squad Miche, scoring modest results in his first races back in the bunch. So far this year, Schumacher’s best was eight overall at Coppi e Bartali in Italy last month.

Schumacher sounded apologetic with his comeback last season, writing on his web site he promises to ride clean.

“I am well aware that the reactions to the announcement of my comeback will not all be positive. It is clear that, with the headlines that have appeared about me recently, a lot of people in Germany and cycling fans, in particular, are disappointed with me. I will therefore make every effort in the coming months to regain the trust and sympathy that has been lost by ensuring transparency and openness and, not least of all, through sporting performance and success,” he wrote on www.stefan-schumacher.com. “It is up to me to do everything in my power to show that I am serious about this and will pursue my sport in a clean manner. For this reason, all the data relating to training rides, mountain trials, blood counts and other test results can be viewed in this website under the heading ‘Transparent professional.’”

The link to Schumacher’s test results has not been updated since December, but it reveals that he was tested five time by German officials from July to December, 2010.

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