By Andrew Hood
Australian Graeme Brown (Rabobank) won Friday’s third stage of the Tour of Murcia in Spain.
Brown crossed ahead of compatriot Baden Cooke (Unibet.com) and Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d’Epargne) to win the 146km stage between Puerto Lumbreras and San Pedro del Pinatar.
Cooke, meanwhile, took the overall lead from José Joaquin Rojas, winner of Wednesday’s first stage. Brown and Danilo Napolitano (Lampre-Fondital) sit second and third overall, respectively.
High winds forced the cancellation of Thursday’s second stage. Riders, commissaires and race organizers agreed that winds as strong as 120kph posed a serious danger to riders in the route, which went over the Cat. 1 Collado de Bermejo.
Riders agreed to award the day’s prize money to the family of Isaac Galvez, the Spanish sprinter and Madison world champion who died in a track-racing accident over the winter.
Meanwhile, Team CSC’s Carlos Sastre decided to abandon the race after crashing hard in Wednesday’s first stage.
“Carlos had a lot of pain in his back after the crash and we found that it was best to look into the injury than to have Carlos keep racing,” said Team CSC doctor Joost De Maeseneer on the team’s web page. “He will have a scan and hopefully it will show that they are only superficial injuries.”
Saturday’s climbing time trial should decide the overall.
1. Graeme Brown (Aus), Rabobank, 146km in 3:12:48
2. Baden Cooke (Aus), s.t.
3. Alejandro Valverde (Sp), s.t.
4. Joaquin Sobrino (Sp), Relax-Gam, s.t.
5. Danilo Napolitano (I), Lampre-Fondital, s.t.
1. Baden Cooke (Aus), Unibet.com, 7:43:38
2. Graeme Brown (Aus), Rabobank, s.t.
3. Danilo Napolitano (I), Lampre-Fondital, s.t.
4. José Joaquin Rojas (Sp), Caise d’Epargne, s.t.
5. Alejandro Valverde (Sp), Caisse d’Epargne, s.t.
Hincapie eyes Georgia comeback
With his classics campaign shelved after an unfortunate crash in last month’s Tour of California, George Hincapie is eyeing a comeback to competition at the Tour de Georgia in April.
Hincapie broke the radial bone in his wrist when he crashed in the sixth stage in California. The Discovery Channel rider finished stage, but later was forced to pull out and undergo surgery.
“For now, I am not sure what my timeline is. I just got my stitches out (Wednesday),” Hincapie told VeloNews in an e-mail. “Right now the plan is to try and start with Georgia.”
The surgery forced Hincapie to forfeit his run at the northern classics. Last year, an in-form Hincapie finished third at the Tour of Flanders but crashed out of Paris-Roubaix when his steering tube snapped and left him with a separated shoulder which later required surgery..
The reigning U.S. pro champion said he’s only been able to ride on the trainer and is waiting for the green light from doctors to be able to resume regular training.
“I have been riding indoors only and waiting for the go ahead from the doctor to let me ride outside,” he said. “I took a new set of X-rays and should know more.”
Casper wins West Flanders kickoff
Jimmy Casper (Unibet.com) won the 170km first stage of the Three Days of Western Flanders, outsprinting Belgian champ Nico Eeckhout.
It is the second success in three days for the Frenchman, who on Wednesday won the GP Samyn in Fayt-le-Franc, Belgium.
Olano joining Simoni in MTB marathon
Former world champion Abraham Olano will be riding in next weekend’s World Cup marathon race in Spain’s Canary Islands.
The 1998 Vuelta a España champion said he will ride in the 77km “90 Challenge” that takes place immediately after the World Cup races on the same course. Two-time Giro d’Italia champion Gilberto Simoni (Saunier Duval-Prodir) has already announced he’ll race in the elite division.
—Agence France Press contributed to this report.