By Andrew Hood
Erik Zabel doesn´t cry over spilt milk for very long. Two days after a disappointing Milan-San Remo, the Telekom sprinter drove home a victory in the opening stage of the Setmana Catalana.
Zabel — who couldn´t win his fifth “La Classicissima” on Saturday when bad luck derailed his chances — beat a handful of Spanish riders in the 152-km stage.
Angel Vicioso, David Etxebarria, Angel Edo and David Fernández were close, but they´re not Mario Cipollini.
UCI’s “vampiros” swooped down at the start of the race, testing 48 riders from Itera, Milaneza, La Pecol, Relax, Fassa Bortolo and Credit Agricola. No riders were found with high hematocrit levels.
Aitor Silloniz, a Spanish rider, attacked early and had a gap of more than 11 minutes at 63 kilometers. Kelme, ONCE, Relax and Phonak worked together to bring him back34 kms from the finish.
Several riders tried to pull away in the closing kilometers, but Zabel´s rabble kept them in check.
Tuesday´s stage is split into two sections. First, a 106-km road stage from Lloret de Mar to Empuriabrava with two category-three climbs. In the afternoon, racers will line up for a 10.3-km individual time trial.
Results, Setmana Catalana, March 25, Stage 1, Lloret de Mar circuit, 152 kilometers:
1. Erik Zabel (G), Telekom, 3 hours, 58 minutes, 25 seconds,(38.5 kph);.
2. Angel Vicioso (Sp), Kelme, same time;
3. David Etxebarria (Sp), Euskaltel, s.t.;
4. Angel Edo (Sp), Milaneza, s.t. ;
5. David Fernández (Sp), Relax, s.t.;
6. Miguel Angel Martín Perdiguero (Sp), s.t.;
7. Oscar Pereiro (Sp), s.t.;
8. Gonzalo Bayarri (Sp), s.t.;
9. Juan Carlos Domínguez (Sp), s.t.;
10. Addy Engels (Ned), s.t.