Road

Cooke streaks to Med’ win

It was an all-star cast taking the initiative in Wednesday’s 111km opening stage of the Tour Mediterranean with last year’s green jersey winner Baden Cooke (FDJeux.com) edging classics strongman Michele Bartoli (CSC) in a 20-up sprint. Some of cycling’s biggest names seemed anxious to test their form as a group of about 20 riders tore away from the main bunch early in the sunny stage featuring two Category 1 climbs. “Since I was the only sprinter in the group I worked to stay with them in the break,” said Cooke, who’s already won at the Tour Down Under and the GP d’Ouverture. World

Top-tier escape group sets high standard at opener

Photo: Graham Watson

It was an all-star cast taking the initiative in Wednesday’s 111km opening stage of the Tour Mediterranean with last year’s green jersey winner Baden Cooke (FDJeux.com) edging classics strongman Michele Bartoli (CSC) in a 20-up sprint.

Some of cycling’s biggest names seemed anxious to test their form as a group of about 20 riders tore away from the main bunch early in the sunny stage featuring two Category 1 climbs.

“Since I was the only sprinter in the group I worked to stay with them in the break,” said Cooke, who’s already won at the Tour Down Under and the GP d’Ouverture.

Lots of horsepower and plenty of motivation

Lots of horsepower and plenty of motivation

Photo: Graham Watson

World champion Igor Astarloa (Cofidis), defending champion Paolo Bettini (Quick Step), French fave Laurent Brochard (Ag2r) and Americans Bobby Julich (CSC) and Levi Leipheimer (Rabobank) were among the attacking riders.

Cooke had the help of teammate Brad McGee as the lead group opened up a gap of more than seven minutes on the chasers. McGee made a solo attack on the lower ramps of the final climb, but the bunch wasn’t going to let him get away too far.

Team CSC was active with five in the break and sent Jörg Jaksche on the attack coming off the day’s final obstacle at the Cat. 1 Col de la Turbie, just 13km from the finish. Jaksche skidded off course while holding a 10-second lead and teammate Jens Voigt was forced to chase Brochard and Bettini when the pair attacked late.

“If it hadn’t been for Jörg’s crash, we would have won with flying colors,” said Team CSC manager Bjarne Riis on the team’s web page. “He had the lead and behind him we had four very strong guys. We have had an excellent start to the race and I am very optimistic about the coming stages.”

Julich continued on his fine early season form to take seventh while Leipheimer finished 17th to be among the favorites at 10 seconds back of Cooke in the overall.

The Tour Mediterranean continues Thursday with the 130-kilometer second stage from Le Londe to Hyeres and features four difficult Category 1 climbs packed in over the opening 85 kilometers.

Cooke in yellow

Cooke in yellow

Photo: Graham Watson

Tour Mediterranean (UCI 2.3)
Stage 1, Le Cannet to Menton
1. Baden Cooke, FDJeux.com   111km in 2:46:26 (40.016kph)
2. Michele Bartoli, Team CSC
3. Laurent Brochard, Ag2r
4. Jens Voigt, Team CSC
5. Michael Boogerd, Rabobank
6. Simone Masciarelli (I), Vini Caldirola
7. Bobby Julich (USA), CSC
8. Cyril Dessel (F), Phonak
9. Franco Pellizotti (I), Alessio-Bianchi
10. Dmitry Fofonov (Kaz), Cofidis
11. Alexandre Botcharov (Rus), Credit Agricole
12. Igor Astarloa (Spa), Cofidis
13. Sylvain Calzati (F), Oktos
14. Sylvain Chavanel (F), La Boulangere
15. Grischa Niermann (G), Rabobank
16. David Moncoutie (F), Cofidis
17. Levi Leipheimer (USA), Rabobank
18. Ivan Basso (I), CSC
19. Benoit Salmon (F), Credit Agricole
20. Jorg Jaksche (G), CSC< all s.t.Overall
1. Baden Cooke (Aus), FDJeux.com,  2:46:26
2. Michele Bartoli (I), CSC, at 0:04
3. Laurent Brochard (F), Ag2r, at 0:06
4. Jens Voigt (G), CSC, at 0:10
5. Michael Boogerd (Nl), Rabobank
6. Simone Masciarelli (I), Vini Caldirola
7. Bobby Julich (USA), CSC
8. Cyril Dessel (F), Phonak
9. Franco Pellizotti (I), Alessio-Bianchi
10. Dmitry Fofonov (Kaz), Cofidis
11. Alexandre Botcharov (Rus), Credit Agricole
12. Igor Astarloa (Spa), Cofidis
13. Sylvain Calzati (F), Oktos
14. Sylvain Chavanel (F), La Boulangere
15. Grischa Niermann (G), Rabobank
16. David Moncoutie (F), Cofidis
17. Levi Leipheimer (USA), Rabobank
18. Ivan Basso (I), CSC
19. Benoit Salmon (F), Credit Agricole
20. Jorg Jaksche (G), CSC, all s.t.

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