By VeloNews Interactive
Showing fine form heading into the spring classics, Rabobank’s Michael Boogerd won the toughest stage of the Tour of Valencia on a rainy day in Spain. The Dutch World Cup threat won Friday’s 147.2km stage 4, a mountainous journey between Benidorm and Campello pass.
Boogerd, who also won the first stage, beat Fabian Jeker of Switzerland, Italian rider Leonardo Piepoli and Alexandre Vinokurov of Kazakhstan in a sprint finish to tighten his grip on the overall lead.
Mercatone Uno’s Marco Pantani had failed to start Friday’s stage because he was suffering from a high fever and bronchitis. Pantani was 134th in the overall standings, 38:02 behind Boogerd. Abraham Olano of the ONCE team dropped out during the stage.
Boogerd had led a 16-strong breakaway group at the 119km mark on the first climb up the Campello pass, which also included Spaniards David Etxebarria and Melchior Mauri and American Christian Vande Velde of the U.S. Postal Service squad. The group was reduced to four by the end, with Boogerd’s sprinting strength proving decisive. The fifth and final stage on Sunday is a 26.8km time trial around Valencia.
Pantani, 31, who is currently battling a series of judicial investigations in Italy over taking performance-enhancing drugs, told journalists that despite his illness he would continue to train for Sunday’s Almeria Classic, also in Spain.
TOUR OF VALENCIA, February 27-March 3. Spain.
1. Michael Boogerd (Nl), Rabobank 3:57:46; 2. Fabian Jeker (Swi), same time; 3. Alexandre Vinokurov (Kaz) s.t.; 4. Leonardo Piepoli (I), s.t.; 5. Francisco Mancebo (Sp), at 0:12; 6. Melchior Mauri (Sp), s.t.; 7. Christian Vande Velde (USA), at 0:33; 8. David Etxebarria (Sp), at 0:38, 9. Bo Hamburger (Dk), at 0:43; 10. Erik Dekker (Nl), at 0:44.
1. Boogerd, 15:52:50; 2. Jeker (Swi), s.t., 3. Piepoli, s.t.; 4. Vinokourov, at 0:38; 5. Etxebarria, at 0:45; 6. Mauri, at 0:50; 7. Mancebo, s.t.; 8. Dekker, at 0:51; 9. Koldo Gil (Sp), at 0:57; 10. Vande Velde (USA), at 1:11.