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Svorada takes Murcia opener

Lampre’s Jan Svorada came back to Spain and did what he did this time last year: Win the opening stage of the Tour de Murcia in a tough field sprint. But this year he had to beat Erik Zabel to do it. The two battled to the line at the end of Wednesday’s 162km first stage between Murcia and Ceuti in southeastern Spain, a day that also served as the season debut of four-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong. Indeed, Armstrong was the clearly the center of attention before the start in Murcia as big crowds hovered around the U.S. Postal Service bus hoping to catch a glimpse of the

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Armstrong starts season in southern Spain

By Andrew Hood

Photo: Graham Watson

Lampre’s Jan Svorada came back to Spain and did what he did this time last year: Win the opening stage of the Tour de Murcia in a tough field sprint. But this year he had to beat Erik Zabel to do it.

The two battled to the line at the end of Wednesday’s 162km first stage between Murcia and Ceuti in southeastern Spain, a day that also served as the season debut of four-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong.

Indeed, Armstrong was the clearly the center of attention before the start in Murcia as big crowds hovered around the U.S. Postal Service bus hoping to catch a glimpse of the Texan.

What they saw was an impressive Armstrong looking fit as he prepares for an assault on the 2003 Tour and an attempt at matching the record of five straight wins held by Miguel Indurain.

“I’ve just finished testing in Spain and it appears that my fitness, weight and body fat are about a month ahead of last year, not that that matters,” Armstrong said on his web page. “I need to see where I am in relation to others, although it’s not imperative to be at the front.”

Spring in Spain... and the livin' is easy

Spring in Spain… and the livin’ is easy

Photo: Graham Watson

Of course on Wednesday Armstrong almost didn’t even make it to the back of the field after he stayed a little too long in the comfortable surroundings of that team bus and had to scramble through the streets of Murcia to catch up to the race, but otherwise, it was a fairly easy first day in the saddle.

Armstrong wanted to start at Murcia last year, but succumbed to a flu bug and was forced to postpone his debut until Milan-San Remo. This year, however, Armstrong’s healthy and being welcomed by enthusiastic crowds, lots of media and sunny skies and temperatures in the 70s.

Throughout Wednesday’s 162km stage from Murcia to Ceuti, Armstrong stayed clear of trouble and rode mostly in the middle of the pack, chatting with U.S Postal Service teammate George Hincapie. Armstrong finished safely in the main bunch to make it a smooth first day in the saddle.

Early in the stage, Daniele Contrini (Gerolsteiner) attacked at 35km and built up a four-minute lead after passing the Category 3 Alto de Pliego at 45km. Kelme started driving the front to bring Contrini back with 50km to go.

Scores of riders tried in vain to escape in the closing 20km as a strong headwind buffeted the peloton. Driving in the group were Telekom and Sidermec, though American Fred Rodriguez was a last-minute scratch evidently still suffering from the sickness that forced him out of Het Volk last weekend.

With 10km to go, a spill on the left side of the road knocked down Stefan Schumacher, a German on Telekom, and Cesar Garcia Calvo, a Spanish rider on Labarca nicknamed the “Wild Boar of Bierzo.” Both riders came in behind the main group, with Garcia Calvo looking like he suffered the worse of the two.

As the World’s No. 1 ranked rider, Zabel is still looking for a stage-win this season after more than a month of racing.

Svorada gets the win

Svorada gets the win

Photo: Graham Watson

Coming into the steep uphill finish, Svorada denied the German that elusive first win as he powered into the lead position. Zabel simply couldn’t pull around and lost by half a bike length.The five-day Tour of Murcia continues Thursday with a difficult climbing stage, 153km from Alguazas to Cresta del Gallo, ending with a Category 1 summit finish.Stage 1, Tour of Murcia, Murcia to Ceuti
1. Jan Svorada (Cze), Lampre, 162km in 3:58:08 (10-second bonus)
2. Erik Zabel (G), Telekom, same time (6-second bonus)
3. Steffen Radochla (G), Coast, (4-second bonus)
4. Angelo Furlan (I), Alessio
5. Massimo Strazzer (I), Phonak
6. Alejandro Valverde (Sp), Kelme
7. Ricardo Serrano (Sp), Labarca
8. Nico Sijmens (B), Vlaanderen
9. Massimo Apollonio (I), Sidermec
10. Beat Zberg (Swi), RabobankOthers:
34. Levi Leipheimer (USA), Rabobank, s.t.
43. Victor Hugo Pena (Col), U.S. Postal Service, s.t.
48. George Hincapie (USA), U.S. Postal Service, s.t.
51. Steffan Kjaergaard (N), U.S. Postal Service, s.t.
80. Roberto Heras (Sp), U.S. Postal Service, s.t.
82. Lance Armstrong (USA), U.S. Postal Service, s.t.
98. Michael Barry (Can), U.S. Postal Service, s.t.
99. David Zabriskie (USA), U.S. Postal Service, s.t.

Fred Rodriguez (USA), Sidermec — DNSOverall standings after one stage
1. Jan Svorada (Cze), Lampre, 3:58:08
2. Erik Zabel (G), Telekom, at 4 seconds
3. Steffen Radochla (G), Coast, at 6 seconds
4. Fabian Wegmann (G), Gerolsteiner, at 7 seconds
5. Daniele Contrini (I), Gerolsteiner, s.t.
6. Alejandro Valverde (Sp), Kelme, at 8 seconds
7. David Etxebarria (Sp), Euskaltel, s.t.
8. Juan Miguel Cuenca (Sp), Kelme, s.t.
9. Angelo Furlan (I), Alessio, at 10 seconds
10. Massimo Strazzer (I), Phonak, s.t.Others
36. Levi Leipheimer (USA), Rabobank, s.t.
45. Victor Hugo Pena (Col), U.S. Postal Service, s.t.
50. George Hincapie (USA), U.S. Postal Service, s.t.
53. Steffan Kjaergaard (N), U.S. Postal Service, s.t.
82. Roberto Heras (Sp), U.S. Postal Service, s.t.
84. Lance Armstrong (USA), U.S. Postal Service, s.t.
100. Michael Barry (Can), U.S. Postal Service, s.t.
101. David Zabriskie (USA), U.S. Postal Service, s.t.

Photo Gallery

Results

Stage 1, Tour of Murcia, Murcia to Ceuti
1. Jan Svorada (Cze), Lampre, 162km in 3:58:08 (10-second bonus)
2. Erik Zabel (G), Telekom, same time (6-second bonus)
3. Steffen Radochla (G), Coast, (4-second bonus)
4. Angelo Furlan (I), Alessio
5. Massimo Strazzer (I), Phonak
6. Alejandro Valverde (Sp), Kelme
7. Ricardo Serrano (Sp), Labarca
8. Nico Sijmens (B), Vlaanderen
9. Massimo Apollonio (I), Sidermec
10. Beat Zberg (Swi), Rabobank

Others:
34. Levi Leipheimer (USA), Rabobank, s.t.
43. Victor Hugo Pena (Col), U.S. Postal Service, s.t.
48. George Hincapie (USA), U.S. Postal Service, s.t.
51. Steffan Kjaergaard (N), U.S. Postal Service, s.t.
80. Roberto Heras (Sp), U.S. Postal Service, s.t.
82. Lance Armstrong (USA), U.S. Postal Service, s.t.
98. Michael Barry (Can), U.S. Postal Service, s.t.
99. David Zabriskie (USA), U.S. Postal Service, s.t.

Fred Rodriguez (USA), Sidermec — DNS

Overall standings after one stage

1. Jan Svorada (Cze), Lampre, 3:58:08
2. Erik Zabel (G), Telekom, at 4 seconds
3. Steffen Radochla (G), Coast, at 6 seconds
4. Fabian Wegmann (G), Gerolsteiner, at 7 seconds
5. Daniele Contrini (I), Gerolsteiner, s.t.
6. Alejandro Valverde (Sp), Kelme, at 8 seconds
7. David Etxebarria (Sp), Euskaltel, s.t.
8. Juan Miguel Cuenca (Sp), Kelme, s.t. 4. Angelo Furlan (I), Alessio, at 10 seconds
5. Massimo Strazzer (I), Phonak, s.t.
Others36. Levi Leipheimer (USA), Rabobank, s.t.
45. Victor Hugo Pena (Col), U.S. Postal Service, s.t.
50. George Hincapie (USA), U.S. Postal Service, s.t.
53. Steffan Kjaergaard (N), U.S. Postal Service, s.t.
82. Roberto Heras (Sp), U.S. Postal Service, s.t.
84. Lance Armstrong (USA), U.S. Postal Service, s.t.
100. Michael Barry (Can), U.S. Postal Service, s.t.
101. David Zabriskie (USA), U.S. Postal Service, s.t.