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Steegmans wins Mallorca finale; Gilbert overall

Belgians dominated the roads of Mallorca on a day when home country Spanish riders were still trying to make sense of ASO’s decision to exclude Astana and defending champ Alberto Contador from the Tour de France. Tom Boonen’s leadout man Gert Steegmans (QuickStep) bolted out of the pack with a well-timed late surge to cap a wild and wooly fifth and final stage in the Mallorca Challenge. Filippe Gilbert (FDJeux) held off a challenge from an anger-fueled Toni Colom (Astana) to claim the unofficial overall prize.

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By Andrew Hood

Belgians dominated the roads of Mallorca on a day when home country Spanish riders were still trying to make sense of ASO’s decision to exclude Astana and defending champ Alberto Contador from the Tour de France.

Tom Boonen’s leadout man Gert Steegmans (QuickStep) bolted out of the pack with a well-timed late surge to cap a wild and wooly fifth and final stage in the Mallorca Challenge. Filippe Gilbert (FDJeux) held off a challenge from an anger-fueled Toni Colom (Astana) to claim the unofficial overall prize.

Colom, who hails from Mallorca, went on a suicidal attack late in the hilly 146km stage, after a five-man breakaway was neutralized, in a vain effort to blow apart the race. But Gilbert found allies in QuickStep, who were keen to reel in the aggression to set up their big sprinter.

“I attacked today for Contador and for our team. It’s an injustice what they did to us,” an angry Colom spewed after the stage. “We are a team of attackers who try to win in every race we start. We deserve to be in the Giro, the Tour and the classics.”

That anger was short-circuited by the Belgian intrigue, with Gilbert also going on a solo flier to win his third stage and secure the overall. QuickStep ate up Gilbert’s advantage and sent big Steegmans bolting out of the bunch to snag the win.

“I told the team this morning if they worked for me and we won, I would buy them a nice bottle of champagne,” a happy Steegmans said. “So you could see how motivated they were. The team was super and I will be glad to buy some champagne to celebrate the first win of the season.”

Gilbert, meanwhile, came through fourth in the stage behind Tomas Vaitkus, another Astana rider trying to win back the team’s honor, with Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d’Epargne) coming through third.

Gilbert won two stages and finished tied with Aitor Perez (Extremadura-Spiuk) in time, but took the unofficial overall prize thanks to placements.

Gilbert was unfazed following his spectacular crash Wednesday with second-place rider Jose Rojas (Caisse d’Epargne), who crashed heavily into the barriers and earned a ticket to the local hospital with a broken collarbone.

“I didn’t do anything, it was nothing,” Gilbert told VeloNews before the start. Judges agreed, but replays revealed that Gilbert might have body-checked him into the boards.

With the dangerous Rojas out of the picture, Gilbert only had to keep an eye on Perez and hope that the bunch came in together.

The Mallorca Challenge is a series of one-day races that riders can start and withdraw at their whim. Gilbert, however, took the unofficial overall prize awarded to riders who compete in all five days.

“It’s quite nice to win the overall even though it doesn’t count as an official result,” Gilbert said. “I am more of a one-day rider and I’ve never won a stage race.”