By Andrew Hood
It’s two for two for Oscar Freire, who scored his second straight victory in just two days of racing in the 2005 season.
A day after making his season debut a winning one at the Trofeo Mallorca, the reigning world champion won Monday’s Trofeo Alcudia in similar fashion. It’s not bad for a guy who only has about 2500km in his legs when many of his competitors might have double or triple that amount.
“I didn’t start training seriously until after Christmas and then I got sick with a cold, so I haven’t been able to put in the kilometers I normally would,” Freire said after Sunday’s win. “To win is a surprise because I didn’t think I would have the form yet, but my team did a great job putting me in position.”
His Rabobank team worked to perfection in Monday’s attack-riddled affair and got the same result as the day before. Freire held off Isaac Gálvez (Illes Balears) to score the win while German sprinter ace Erik Zabel (T-Mobile) came through fourth.
Eight riders tried to make things complicated for Freire and Co. with an early move just 33km into the race across the northern side of Mallorca off Spain’s Mediterranean Coast. Rabobank put two men into the move, forcing Illes Balears to lead the chase.
The five-day Mallorca Challenge continues Tuesday with the hilly Trofeo Colomer, with a 165km course from Pollensa to the Mirador de Colomer. In addition to the summit finish, there’s the Cat. 2 Soller climb and the Cat. 1 Puig Mayor.
Trofeo Alcudia (SPA 1.1), Alcudia-Alcudia, 163km
1. Oscar Freire (Spa), Rabobank 3 hours, 41 minutes, 12 seconds
2. Isaac Gálvez (Spa), Illes Balears
3. Dimitri De Fauw (Bel), Quick Step
4. Erik Zabel (Ger), T-Mobile
5. Unai Elorriaga (Spa), Spanish national team – all same time
Mancebo going for it all in the Tour
Francisco Mancebo says he’s just hitting his stride and is ready for more in 2005. The 29-year-old finished third overall in last year’s Vuelta a España and nudged closer to the Tour podium with sixth. Alejandro Valverde will ride alongside Mancebo as co-leaders at Illes Balears, but there’s no doubt that Mancebo will be the team’s main option at the Tour.
Valverde will be making his Tour debut, looking for experience and perhaps a stage win. Mancebo, meanwhile, has even higher goals for Tour. “The most important thing (this season) is improve over last year, above all else in the Tour, where I will go for it all,” Mancebo said in an interview with the Spanish daily AS.
“To win? Sure, why not? In the Vuelta I demonstrated I can be in the hunt for a grand tour. I will take care of things on my end. It looks like this year will be more open, and it’s sure it will be raced in a different manner. This can favor me.” Mancebo has always been quietly on the fringe of Spanish cycling, but his breakthrough came last June after winning the Spanish national title. From there, he went into the Tour with strong form and finished on the Vuelta podium despite injuring his wrist in August. “I always had confidence in myself, but I never had a season like last year. My victory in the Spanish championship was a turning point,” he said. Asked if he thought the Armstrong era is finally over, Mancebo wasn’t so sure.
“We’ve thought that before but you never know,” he said. “One thing’s certain is that the years pass and eventually he has to fall.” Ullrich rolling in Tuscany
T-Mobile’s Jan Ullrich is putting the final touches on his pre-season training program before making his season debut at the Tour of Murcia in early March. Ullrich is currently training in Tuscany with team advisor Rudy Pevenage and teammate Tobias Steinhauser as the 1997 Tour de France champion continues to build basic fitness for the season’s more important goals. “I’ve done a lot of intense training during the last days at home on the trainer. But now I’m glad to be able to ride on the road again. Blue skies and sunshine make it easier to cover the many kilometers,” Ullrich said on the team’s web page.
Steinhauser will join Ullrich during the training camp and also start his season at the Tour of Murcia. The pair often trains together and Steinhauser is Ullrich’s preferred bodyguard during the races. “The two of them find the necessary conditions here to get prepared for the challenges ahead. And maybe other riders from the team will drop by for a training ride,” says Pevenage. Petacchi satisfied with start
Alessandro Petacchi expressed obvious satisfaction with his victory in Sunday’s GP Costa delle Etruschi. The win comes in Petacchi’s debut in the 2005 season and gives him a shot of confidence heading into a busy spring. “To start like this is always nice and comforting,” Petacchi said after the race. “The team made an immense work and put me in the best condition for the sprint.” Petacchi next heads to Spain to compete in the Ruta del Sol, Luis Puig and Tour of Valencia before returning to Italy for Tirreno-Adriatico and Milan-San Remo. Pantani monument set to be unveiled
Marco Pantani’s hometown of Cesenatico will unveil a monument honoring the fallen star on the eve of the one-year anniversary of his death. Pantani died of an apparent drug overdose February 14 last year and sent Italy reeling into shock. “We don’t want to forget the joy that Marco gave us with his sporting exploits,” said the city’s mayor, Damiano Zoffoli. “It’s important to maintain the memory of one of the most beloved Italians.” The town plans a special ceremony followed by a mass at the local church before an homage at Pantani’s grave.