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Casper wins Etoile de Bessèges opener

Jimmy Casper delivered his new Besson Chaussures team its first victory of the 2009 season after out-kicking the field in the opening stage Wednesday at the Etoile de Bessèges in southern France. Casper — best known for his stage win in the 2006 Tour de France — crossed the line ahead of compatriot Sébastian Chavanel (Française des Jeux) and Belgian Klaas Lodewyck (Topsport Vlaanderen-Mercator) to win the 128.6km stage from Bellegarde to Le Grau-du-Roi in a mass charge to the line.

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Jimmy Casper (Besson Chaussures-Sojasun) celebrates his win in Stage 1 of l’Etoile de Bessèges.

Photo: AFP

Jimmy Casper delivered his new Besson Chaussures team its first victory of the 2009 season after out-kicking the field in the opening stage Wednesday at the Etoile de Bessèges in southern France.

Casper — best known for his stage win in the 2006 Tour de France — crossed the line ahead of compatriot Sébastian Chavanel (Française des Jeux) and Belgian Klaas Lodewyck (Topsport Vlaanderen-Mercator) to win the 128.6km stage from Bellegarde to Le Grau-du-Roi in a mass charge to the line.

Casper also grabs the overall leader’s jersey in the five-day stage-race.

The victory comes at a good time for Casper, who fended off a positive doping control during the 2008 Tour. The French sprinter was popped for traces of banned glucocorticoids taken after the sixth stage of last year’s Tour, but was later cleared of charges by the French cycling federation.

Officials agreed that Casper, who had a therapeutic-use exemption for asthma treatment for 12 years, but failed to file the appropriate paperwork when he switched products ahead of the 2008 Tour.

The strong ride will also help the modest Besson Chaussures squad in its efforts to increase its profile in the French peloton.

Former yellow-jersey holder Stéphane Heulot has taken over as team manager and he managed to sign some talent to the 13-man team, including Yannick Talabardon and Jimmy Engoulvent, both former Crédit Agricole riders.

The team is hoping to get invitations to several higher-profile French races this year to become outsiders for a wild-card bid to the 2010 Tour de France. Early season wins will only help.

Casper will carry the leader’s jersey into Thursday’s 149.2km second stage from Nîmes to Saint-Ambroix.

Results

Stage
1. Jimmy Casper (F), Besson Chaussures, 128km in 2:52:21
(44.560Km)
2. Sébastien Chavanel (F), s.t.
3. Klaas Lodewyck (B), s.t.
4. Denis Flahaut (F), s.t.
5. Romain Feillu (F), s.t.
6. Borut Bozic (Slo), s.t.
7. William Bonnet (F), s.t.
8. Stefan Van Dijk (Ned), s.t.
9. Daniele Colli (I), s.t.
10. Niko Eeckhout (B), s.t.

Overall
1. Jimmy Casper (F), Besson Chaussures), 2:52:11
2. Sébastien Chavanel (F), at 0:04
3. Klaas Lodewyck (B), at 0:06
4. Jonathan Thire (F), at 0:07
5. Jef Peeters (B), at 0:08
6. Tom Stubbe (B), at 0:09
7. Denis Flahaut (F), at 0:10
8. Romain Feillu (F), s.t.
9. Borut Bozic (Slo), s.t.
10. William Bonnet (F), s.t.