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By VeloNews Interactive wire services, Copyright AFP2002
Mapei’s Laszlo Bodrogi won the prologue of Paris-Nice in Issy-Les-Moulineaux day, edging out Frenchman Didier Rous by 0.28sec after the 5.32km run.
Spaniard Javier Pascual placed third, 4sec adrift with Belgian Nico Mattan, who won the prologue last year, fifth.
Last year’s winner, Dario Frigo, coming off a six-month doping suspension just in time to compete, kept well in touch and came in only five seconds off the pace.
Bodrogi, 25, who has spent several years in France honing his skills, is the first Hungarian to turn professional in the cycling world. He has come to the fore over the past 12 months, placing second in the Nations Grand Prix and fifth in the world championship time-trial.
“I was 90 percent confident before the start,” said Bodrogi. “It’s great to win the prologue. But a really big victory would be to get to Nice wearing this (leader’s) jersey. There are either in the team who can do well – Tom Steels for the sprints, Cadel Evans for the overall standings.”
Frigo, meanwhile, said he was delighted to be back in the fray with his new team Tacconi.
“I’m happy to be in the top ten,” said the 28-year-old nicknamed “little lord,” whose ban came after he was found to be in possession of banned substances after a police raid in San Remo last June during the Giro d’Italia.
His former team Fassa Bortolo dropped him but Frigo says he is back older and wiser after coming out of the cold.
“I hope that here in Nice I will be able to show I am back to being a good rider,” he said.
Before starting, 35 riders from seven teams underwent blood tests and were all declared fit to ride in the first major stage race of the season known as “the road to the sun.”
1. Laszlo Bodrogi (Hun), Mapei 5.2 km in 6:56 (45kph);
2. Didier Rous (F), s.t.;
3. Javier Pascual (Sp), 0:04;
4. Nico Mattan (Bel), 0:04;
5. Juan Carlos Dominguez (Sp), 0:04;
6. Andreas Kloeden (G), at 0:04;
7. Alberto Martinez (Sp), at 0:04;
8. Dario Frigo (Ita), at 0:05;
9. Nicolas Jalabert (Fra), at 0:05;
10. Alex Zuelle (Swi), at 0:05.