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Friday’s EuroFile: Markov wins at Volta ao Algarve; race ‘crazy’ to beat LA; Cabello’s a working-class hero

Alexei Markov (Milaneza-Maia) won the third stage of the Volta ao Algarve in Portugal on Friday, outkicking Bernard Eisel (Française des Jeux) and Hans Dekkers (Rabobank) in the bunch sprint to claim the victory. By finishing second on the 200km stage from Vila do Bispo to Lagos in southern Portugal, meanwhile, Austria’s Eisel collected a six-second bonus and took the overall lead from Belgian Tom Steels (Davitamon-Lotto). Steels, who crossed in 25th place, slipped to second overall, at two seconds behind. Australian Stuart O’Grady (Cofidis) sits third at three seconds back. –Agence France

By Andrew Hood

Ocaña took big risks when challenging Merckx

Photo: AFP (file photo)

Markov brings it home

Markov brings it home

Photo: Graham Watson

Alexei Markov (Milaneza-Maia) won the third stage of the Volta ao Algarve in Portugal on Friday, outkicking Bernard Eisel (Française des Jeux) and Hans Dekkers (Rabobank) in the bunch sprint to claim the victory.

By finishing second on the 200km stage from Vila do Bispo to Lagos in southern Portugal, meanwhile, Austria’s Eisel collected a six-second bonus and took the overall lead from Belgian Tom Steels (Davitamon-Lotto).

Steels, who crossed in 25th place, slipped to second overall, at two seconds behind. Australian Stuart O’Grady (Cofidis) sits third at three seconds back. –Agence France Presse

Stage 3 results
1. Alexei Markov (Rus), Milaneza-Maia, 200km in 4:59:35
2. Bernhard Eisel (A), Française des Jeux, same time
3. Hans Dekkers (Ned), Raboobank, s.t.
4. Olaf Pollack (G), T-Mobile, s.t.
5. Robert Forster (G), Gerolsteiner, s.t.

Overall
1. Bernhard Eisel (G), Francaise des Jeux), 13:41:44
2. Tom Steels (B), Davitamon-Lotto, at 0:02
3. Stuart O’Grady (Aus), Cofidis, at 0:03
4. Olaf Pollack (G), T-Mobile, at 0:06
5. Alexei Markov (Rus), Milaneza-Maia, s.t.

How to beat Armstrong? Race crazy, says Prudhomme
Christian Prudhomme, the man who will lead the Tour de France starting next year, says the only way to beat Lance Armstrong is to race “in the crazy manner of Luis Ocaña.”

Speaking in an interview with L’Equipe, Prudhomme was asked about Armstrong’s announcement that he would return to race for a seventh Tour crown come July. Prudhomme, who will take over next year for the retiring Jean-Marie Leblanc, said he believed “Armstrong couldn’t imagine a season without the Tour.”

“If Armstrong’s rivals approach the Tour methodically, he will always be more methodical than the others. There’s no reason to fool themselves, he will be the strongest,” he said. “They have to risk everything, even if they lose. It’s the only way to beat Armstrong.”

Prudhomme said such young riders as Alejandro Valverde and Damiano Cunego give cycling new hope for the future. Looking ahead to the 2005 Tour, he said he hopes the race will be, “more like 2003 than 2004, that’s to say a race that’s truly disputed instead of a race with a dominant leader.”

Ullrich relishes Armstrong rematch
German cycling star Jan Ullrich is looking forward to another epic battle with Lance Armstrong in the 2005 Tour de France.

Armstrong ended speculation about whether he would race in this year’s Tour on Wednesday, news welcomed by his German rival.

Ullrich, 31, has finished runner-up five times, four since his 1997 triumph, but he said he preferred to beat Armstrong rather than win another Tour without having to race against the American.

“This is great for me, the Tour is better with Lance in and I want to compete against the best,” he said. “I’m training to be the best in the world. I want to win again to prove something to myself, I know my prospects are getting better day by day.” – By the AFP

Cipo out with cold
Mario Cipollini won’t race at this weekend’s Trofeo Luis Puig in Spain because of laryngitis and a risk of bronchitis, his Liquigas-Bianchi team announced. If his condition does not improve, the Lion King would likely renounce the Vuelta Valenciana as well.

Bettini back for Haut Var, Haribo
Paolo Bettini, who was a late addition to the Trofeo Laigueglia last week after having his own bout with the flu, will line up this weekend for the Tour du Haut Var and Classic Haribo in France. The Olympic champion’s first major goal of the season is Milan-San Remo with a tune-up at Tirreno-Adriatico.

Quick Step for Tour du Haut Var: Paolo Bettini, Davide Bramati, Kevin Deweert, Ad Engels, Marc Lotz, Cristian Moreni, Michael Rogers, Bram Tankink Quick Step for Classic Haribo: Paolo Bettini, Davide Bramati, Dimitri De Fauw, Kevin De Weert, Cristian Moreni, Filippo Pozzato, Michael Rogers, Sebastien Rosseler

Cabello one happy work-horse
Francisco Cabello finally pulled off the victory he always wanted after taking the overall crown at the 51st Ruta del Sol.

“Ever since I started race so many years ago it was one of my objectives, to win the race of my region. Year after year I tried, but until today luck was never behind me, even though I finished on the podium before,” Cabello said following Thursday’s lock on the overall.

Born in 1969, Cabello turned pro in 1990 with Kelme and has stayed with the team ever since. A winner of 13 races in his career, Cabello’s Tour stage win in 1994 (in England) is his only victory outside of Spain. The overall title ends a two-year winless drought for the 35-year-old.

“The honors are mine, but the merit goes to everyone at Comunidad Valenciana. From the beginning we made it clear that we didn’t want anything short of the podium,” he said. “And this time we did it.”

Cabello finished third in the decision opening stage, but slipped into the overall lead after working into an early breakaway in stage 3 that stuck. Teammate Carlos García Quesada and the second-place rider both missed the move, but Comunidad Valenciana was more than happy to let Cabello take the win.

Pascual Llorente back after doping ban
One member of Cabello’s winning team was Javier Pascual Llorente, the Spanish rider who tested positive for EPO in the 2003 Tour de France. Pascual Llorente – winner of the 2003 Ruta del Sol – was banned for 18 months.

Pascual Llorente finished 86th in the GC, nearly an hour down on Cabello’s winning time. The 33-year-old said he’s hoping to regain his form, we hope without the help of EPO.

“I still not the year of inactivity. Even though I can do my work, I still notice a lack of explosiveness,” he told the Spanish wires. “I don’t have any pressure to get back on top, because I know that at one more or other during the season I will be back and challenge for the top positions.”

Up next is Semana Catalana, Vuelta a Aragón and the Vuelta a La Rioja.

Racing this weekend
France hosts two semi-classics this weekend, beginning with the 37th Tour du Haut Var on Saturday. The hilly, 181km course winds over wonderful roads north and east of Draguinan, hit the Cote des Marjoris at 52.8km, the Col de Mons at 81.3km and the Cote des Tuilieres at 144.5km. Despite the undulating course, it’s usually a fairly large group coming in for a sprint, with Marc Lotz (ex-Rabobank) taking the win last year. Sunday’s Classic Haribo starts near the Haribo candy factory in Uzès and finishes in Marseille’s Old Port. Last year’s winner was Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole).

In Spain, the Trofeo Luis Puig in Valencia jump-starts the week of racing capped by the Vuelta Comunitat Valenciana (February 22-26). There’s some pretty heavy climbing in the opening 90km, including the Cat. 2 Alto de Canonche right off the bat. Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo), fresh off two straight wins at the Ruta del Sol, will be looking to win for the second time in three years, but defending champion Oscar Freire (Rabobank), already with two wins in his pocket from the Mallorca Challenge, looks to be only be getting stronger.

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