By Andrew Hood
Eisel back on top in Algarve
A day after slipping back into the overall lead, Austria’s Bernhard Eisel (FDJeux.com) emphatically won his second stage of the Tour of the Algarve to confirm his lead with one day to go.
Eisel held off Stuart O’Grady (Cofidis) and Fabian Wegmann (Gerolsteiner) to take the victory and consolidate his hold on the overall lead. The win marked Eisel’s third win during his early season stop in Portugal, with one stage win in the GP Costa Azul and two in Algarve.
Sunday’s finale ends with a climb, giving the climbers a chance to make up some lost time on the sprinters who’ve ruled the roost so far.
Volta ao Algarve (Por 2.1), Stage 4, Castro Marin to Tavira, 151km
1. Bernhard Eisel (A), FDJeux.com 3:41:23
2. Stuart O’Grady (Aus), Cofidis
3. Fabian Wegmann (G), Gerolsteiner
4. Aart Vierhouten (Ned), Davitamon-Lotto
5. Pedro Soeiro (Por), Carvalhelhos – all same time
Petacchi coasts to win in Spain
Alessandro Petacchi had such an easy go in Saturday’s Trofeo Luis Puig that he had time to look back at his competition and coast the final 50 feet across the line.
Petacchi’s Fassa Bortolo train worked to perfection to deliver the big Italian his third win of the week to go with the final two stages at Ruta del Sol. The lead-out smothered any hope for Isaac Gálvez (Illes Balears) and Oscar Freire (Rabobank), who came across third.
Despite some early attacks, including a late move by Comunidad Valenciana’s Carlos Zarate, Fassa Bortolo controlled the pace, driving toward the finish in Valencia. Pushed along by a strong tailwind, Petacchi had no problem holding off his outgunned rivals.
Marco Velo took the final pull and Petacchi smashed his pedals into the big gear, coasting across the line for his fourth win of the season.
Such big names as Mario Cipollini and Alejandro Valverde were sidelined by illness, but the race marked the season debut for Stefano Garzelli. He’ll race later this month at the Vuelta Comunidad Valenciana (February 22-26) and the Clasica de Almeria (February 27).
“I feel quite good, even if stomachache has spoiled my last days’ training. By now my purpose is to find the right rhythm and these Spanish races are ideal for me to find the right condition,” said the 2000 Giro champion. “I must not repeat the last year’s mistakes when I attained my best between March and April. I want to reach the top for the Giro d’Italia.”
35th Trofeo Luis Puig (Spa 1.1), Benidorm to Valencia, 174km
1. Alessandro Petacchi (I), Fassa Bortolo
2. Isaac Galvez (Sp), Illes Balears
3. Oscar Freire (Sp), Rabobank
4. Francisco Ventoso (Sp), Saunier Duval
5. Max Van Heeswijk (Ned), Discovery Channel – all same time
Gilbert finds groove in Haut Var
Belgian rider Philippe Gilbert (Française des Jeux) won the sprint Saturday in the 37th Tour du Haut-Var.
The 181km race, starting and ending in Draguignan, was the first of the French Cup series. It marks Gilbert’s second victory of the season, following his stage win at the Tour Mediterranean.
The win also helps take away the sting of steering off course in the final kilometers while leading the GP Ouverture La Marseillaise back on February 1, an error that allowed Nicki Sorensen (CSC) to take the honors in Europe’s first race of the 2005 season.
In Saturday’s Tour du Haut-Var, Gilberto held off Ruggero Marzoli (Aqua & Sapone) and Cédric Vasseur (Cofidis), who came through third. The racing in France continues Sunday with the Classic Haribo.
Tour du Haut-Var (Fra 1.1), Draguignan- Draguignan, 181km
1. Philippe Gilbert (B), FDJeux.com 4:43:55
2. Ruggero Marzoli (I), Aqua & Sapone
3. Cédric Vasseur (F), Cofidis
4. Davide Rebellin (I), Gerolsteiner
5. Patrice Halgand (F), Credit Agricole – all same time