By Andrew Hood
Oscar Freire profited from quality work from his orange Rabobank train to win Monday’s stage into Port d’Alcudia by a half-bike length ahead of Erik Zabel (T-Mobile). Five Rabos set a blistering pace over the final 10km to catapult the former two-time world champion to victory. Sunday’s winner, Allan Davis of Liberty Seguros, was caught out of position but sprung back to finish third. “Today was different than yesterday’s circuit course when it was hard to find the right position,” Freire said after winning in 3 hours, 57 minutes, 38 seconds. “Today the team did amazing work over the final kilometers. The most important was to win.” Freire overtakes the lead of the five-day Mallorca Challenge, but will sit out Tuesday’s challenging 150.6km stage to Port de Soller that includes four category-two ranked climbs along the way. “Tomorrow is the hard stage that will determine who can fight for the win,” said Toni Colom of Illes Balleares-Banesto. “We are a ‘home team’ so we’ll be motivated to try to have some protagonists tomorrow.” The five-day Mallorca Challenge is a series of one-day races with a cumulative time to determine an unofficial overall winner. Riders like Freire can opt out of Tuesday’s tough climb yet come back to race again on the flat Wednesday and Thursday. Early on, Russian rider Mikhail Ignatiev (Lokomotiv) went on a monster 130km solo break to scoop up the mountain’s jersey, but was reeled in with about 15km to go. The main bunch took it relatively easy until Illes Baleares-Banesto picked up the pace.Alcudia-Port d’Alcudia (UCI 1.3), Feb. 2, 159km
1. Oscar Freire, Rabobank 159km in 3:57:39 (40.1 kph)
2. Erik Zabel, T-Mobile
3. Allan Davis, Liberty Seguros
4. Sebastian Siedler, Wiesenhof
5. James Vanlandschoot, Relax — all same time
Overall after two stages
1. Freire 5:33:27
4. Danilo Hondo (G), Gerolsteiner
5. Jens Voigt (G), CSC — all same time
Saunier Duval takes win at Qatar
A day after new Spanish team Liberty Seguros scored a win at the Mallorca Challenge, Saunier Duval started the 2004 season off on an equally bright note. Spanish rider Francisco Ventoso edged French rider Sebastian Chavanel (Boulangere) and South African Robert Hunter (Rabobank) to take the opening stage of the Tour of Qatar. Tour of Qatar (UCI 2.3), Feb. 2, Stage 1, Sealine BeachResort to Doha
1. Francisco Ventoso (Sp), Saunier Duval, 150.5km in 3:14:40
2. Sebastian Chavanel (F), Boulangere
3. Robert Hunter (RSA), Rabobank
4. Matej Jurco (Svk)
5. Tom Boonen (Bel), Quick Step — all same time
Zülle keen on Hamilton
Alex Zülle says he believes Tyler Hamilton can have a great Tour de France and vows to play the “helper’s role” in what might be the 12-year veteran’s last season.
“If everything goes right with me, I would be very glad to have a supportive role at the side of the great Phonak team captain Tyler Hamilton,” Zülle said on the team’s web page.
“I think I would be a valuable help, especially in the team time trial. I consider myself a leader in the new crew and can certainly cycle for others. Hamilton has an outstanding character. He is a great guy, something that I find really uplifting.”
Zülle said his main goal for the season will be to try to win the Tour de Suisse a second time.
“My main aims though are the Tour de Romandie and the Tour de Suisse. Another triumph in the big Swiss tour would be just great,” he said.
France seeks dope help from Interpol
French sports officials are to work more closely with Interpol to track down drug traffickers, sports minister Jean-Francois Lamour said Monday after meeting the international police body’s general secretary Ronald K. Noble in Lyon.
“Doping knows no frontiers,” said Lamour who revealed a new data base would help sports officials keep a track on coaches, soigneurs and team officials who supply athletes in France with illegal, performance-enhancing substances.
“We have to stop criminals supplying sportsmen with substances which ruin their health and turn them into cheats,” he added.
French police have put two riders under investigation for possessing illegal substances and charged Bogdan Madejak, the Polish soigneur of the top-ranked Cofidis team, with drug trafficking in the latest scandal to hit cycling.
French calendar kicks off Tuesday
The French racing season kicks off this week with the GP de La Marseillaise on Tuesday and the five-day l’Etoile de Bessèges.
Spanish rider Joseba Beloki will make his debut in his new colors with La Boulangère de Brioches while other big names include Fabio Baldato (Alessio), Laurent Brochard (AG2R), and Belgians Nico Eeckhout (Lotto) and Ludo Dierckxsens (Landbouwkrediet).
Tuesday: GP de La Marseillaise, 150km from Gardanne to Aubagne (Bouches-du-Rhône).Wednesday: l’Etoile de Bessèges – Stage 1, 139km circuit course in Marseille
Thursday: Stage 2, 149km circuit course in Palavas.
Friday: Stage 3: Nîmes to Les Fumades, 160km.
Saturday: Stage 4, Branoux-les-Taillades to Les-Salles-du-Gardon, 150km
Sunday: Stage 5, Gagnières to Bessèges, 148kmTeams
Crédit Agricole Cofidis will make planned season debut
Cofidis has confirmed it will start this week’s start to the French racing season, but said none of the riders connected with the festering “Cofidis Affaire” will be starting.
Stuart O’Grady will be leading the team, with support from Frédéric Bessy, Jimmy Engoulvent, Peter Farazijn, Staf Scheirlinckx, Dmitriy Fofonov, Hayden Rouslton and Janek Tombak.
Reigning world champions Igor Astarloa (road) and David Millar (time trial) are not racing and expect to make their season debut later this month. Tour of Valencia without ITT
The 62nd edition of the Vuelta Ciclista a la Comunidad Valenciana (Tour of Valencia, Feb. 24-28) won’t have an individual time trial, race organizers revealed Monday.
Among the riders expected to race include road world champion Igor Astarloa (Cofidis), Alejandro Valverde and Angel Casero (both Kelme), Alex Zülle (Phonak), Juan Miguel Mercado (Quick Step) and Alexandre Vinokourov (T-Mobile).
Illes Balears-Banesto (Sp)
Liberty Seguros (Sp)
Saunier Duvar-Prodir (Sp)
Colchón Relax-Bodysol (Sp)
Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme (Sp)
Paternina-Costa Almería (Sp)
Labraca 2-Cafe Beque (Sp)
AG2R Prevoyance (F)
Brioche La Boulangere (F)
Quick Step (B)
Milaneza Maia (Por)