By Andrew Hood
Stefano Garzelli (Vini Caldirola) outfoxed – and outsprinted – Denis Menchov (Illes Balears) to snatch overall victory in the 49th Tour of Aragon in Spain.
Garzelli finished third behind stage-winner Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo) to earn a four-second time bonus to put him in a tie with Menchov, who held the lead since winning the opening stage Wednesday to the ski area at Valdelinares.
Based on stage placements, however, Garzelli earned the tie-breaker and the overall title in an important victory as he prepares for next month’s Giro d’Italia.
“The objective was to arrive in good position into Zaragoza and be in a good position for the final sprint,” Garzelli said. “Even though I had to pedal pretty hard to get in position before the final finishing straight, everything went pretty well.”
Garzelli grabbed the wheel of Angel Edo (Milaneza) as Fassa Bortolo’s train drove Petacchi to the line for the Italian’s second victory of the week. Edo came through second and Garzelli snagged the final time bonus after hanging on for third.
Menchov finished fourth into Zaragoza, but missed out on the time bonuses and lost the chance to snag his second overall victory of the month. Menchov barnstormed to victory in the difficult Tour of the Basque Country in early April and carried his form into Aragon to take the victory and leader’s jersey in stage one.
It was cold and rainy in La Muela for the morning start. Six riders – including sixth-place Jan Hruska (Liberty Seguros) – went on an early breakaway, but Illes Balears did the work to reel in the move to protect Menchov’s lead for the sprint finish.
Garzelli’s victory is his first of the season and it gives further credibility for his chances in the 89th Giro (May 8-30). The 2000 Giro champion was runner-up last year to Gilberto Simoni (Saeco) and looks forward to this year’s rematch.
“I thought I could win this race, but I never thought I would do it like this,” Garzelli continued. “I have to keep working to improve my form for the Giro. Until then, my next races are Liege and the Tour of Romandie.”
49th Tour of Aragon (SPA 2.2), Stage 5, La Muela to Zaragoza, 149km
1. Alessandro Petacchi (I), Fassa Bortolo 3 hours, 23 minutes, 21 seconds
2. Angel Edo (Sp), Milaneza
3. Stefano Garzelli (I), Vini Caldirola
4. Denis Menchov (Rus), Illes Balears
5. Gerrit Glomser (Aut), Saeco, all same time
Final overall standings
1. Stefano Garzelli (I), Vini Caldirola 20 hours, 20 minutes, 23 seconds
2. Denis Menchov (Rus), Illes Balears, same time
3. Leonardo Piepoli (I), Saunier Duval, 0:06
4. Koldo Gil (Sp), Liberty Seguros, 0:08
5. Francesco Mancebo (Sp), Illes Balears, 0:53
Hushovd widens French Cup lead with Vendee victory
Norwegian Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole) extended his lead in the French Cup cyclingseries with victory in the 33rd Tour of Vendee on Sunday.
The 26-year-old sprinter, winner of the GP de Denin Cup event in midweek, attacked 15km from the finish of the 193km race and came over the line alone to claim his fourth victory of the season.
His pursuers took more than a minute to come over the line, with Estonian Jaan Kirsipuu (Ag2r), a four-time winner here including last year, taking second place a few seconds ahead of up and coming French hope Sebastien Hinault (Credit Agricole).
Hushovd now has a 96-point lead over Frenchman Franck Bouyer (La Boulangere) in the Cup standings. — AFP
No repeat winners on World Cup yet
With Davide Rebellin’s victory in Sunday’s Amstel Gold Race in Holland, the opening four rounds of the World Cup series has seen a new winner every week. Last year, Peter Van Petegem (Lotto-Domo) came out of the cobbles with victories in Tour of Flanders and Paris-Rouabix.
The opening three events were taken by first-time winners. Rebellin, a former winner at Clasica San Sebastian and GP Zurich (both in 1997), matched an attack on the final Cauberg climb to get passed Michael Boogerd (Rabobank) to take the victory.
Saronni wants Astarloa as well
Giuseppe Sarroni, team manager of the Italian Lampre team, says the team is interested in signing world champion Igor Astarloa. Astarloa has been sidelined since his Cofidis team has voluntarily stopped racing after current and former riders and staff are caught up in a doping scandal. Astarloa, who joined the French team over the off-season, has been given his freedom to find another team by Cofidis management. “Lampre is interested in the world champion, but negotiations are very difficult,” Sarroni told the Italian wires. “Who wouldn’t like to have the rainbow jersey in the Giro?” Quick Step and Astarloa’s former team, Saeco, are also interested in signing the Spanish rider. So far, Astarloa said he’s interested in waiting to see what happens with Cofidis in the coming weeks.