By Andrew Hood
Carlos García Quesada and his Comunidad Valenciana team delivered what might be the knock out punch in the opening stage Sunday in the Ruta del Sol in southern Spain.
Quesada won the hilly 150.5km route from Benalmádena and Comares thanks to heavy pressure that split the peloton early, leaving only a group of 19 riders to contest for the spoils. With a start list heavy with sprinters, many of the big teams had riders present in the break and no one seemed interested in putting up a chase.
Quesada, a runner-up last year to Juan Carlos Domínguez, attacked hard on the final climb coming into Comares to solo in over the final 7km to score the triumph. Teammate Francisco Cabello came through second at 26 seconds back while Johan Vansummeren (Davitamon-Lotto) was third at 40 seconds slower.
Things might change in Monday’s 165.7km second stage from Antequera to the summit finish atop the Cat. 1 Alto de Cumbres Verdes, but both Quesada and Cabello live in the Granada area and know the roads well.
Ruta del Sol (SPA 2.1), Stage 1, Benalmádena to Comares, 150.5km
1. Carlos García Quesada (Spa), C.Valenciana 4 hours, 5 minutes, 50 seconds
2. Francisco Cabello (Spa), C. Valenciana) +0:26
3. Johan Vansummeren (Bel), Davitamon Lotto) +0:40
4. Roberto Petito (Ita), Fassa Bortolo) +1:33
5. Efrain Gutiérrez (Spa), Andalucia PV) +1:43
Hunter takes Med Tour finale; Voigt victorious
Jens Voigt (CSC) claimed the overall crown at the Tour Méditerranéen while South African Robert Hunter (Phonak) scored victory Sunday in the fifth and final stage.
Voigt’s win came as no surprise after the 33-year-old German’s strong display. Third overall last year behind former teammate and compatriot Jorg Jaksche, Voigt won two stages and was part of the team time trial victory with Team CSC.
Sunday’s 120km stage from Cabriès to Marseille was highlighted by a long escape featuring two riders — Przemyslaw Niemec and Kevin De Weert. The pair slipped away on the day’s first climb at the Col du Petit Galibier at 45km and held a four-minute gap at the Col de l’Espigoulier at 70km.
The peloton came back to life and reeled in the renegades with 10km to go, but De Weert gave it another go, but was checked with 5km to go to set up the mass sprint.
Tour Méditerranéen (FRA 2.1), Stage 5, Cabriès to Marseille, 120km
1. Robert Hunter (RSA), Phonak 3 hours, 5 minutes, 22 seconds
2. Danilo Hondo (Ger), Gerolsteiner
3. Fabio Sacchi (Ita), Fassa Bortolo
4. Stefano Zanini (Ita), Quick Step
5. Jeremy Hunt (GBr), MRB – all same time
Pozzato out, Bettini in for Laigueglia
Flu has knocked Italian Filippo Pozzato (Quick Step) out of the Trofeo Laigueglia in Italy on Tuesday. Instead, Olympic champion Paolo Bettini will take his spot.
Pozzato, the two-time defending champion, felt bad enough to pull out of the Tour Méditerranéen this week. He had hoped to recover in time for Laigueglia, but now the young Italian could be out even longer.
Bettini, meanwhile, has recovered from his own bout of the flu and seems ready to get back on track for his first major goals of the season.
“The respiratory problems I had are gone, so I will be there Tuesday,” Bettini said. “But at the same time I don’t want to take any risks before Tirreno-Adriatico and Milan-San Remo. I’m a little behind my preparation from last season, but I’m not too bad.”
Plaza, Eisel tower in Portugal
Austrian Bernhard Eisel (FDJeux.com) won the fourth and final stage of the GP Costa Azul in Portugal while Rubén Plaza (Comunidad Valenciana) grabbed the overall title. There were some tepid attacks early on, but the sprinter teams kept a lid on things to set up the mass gallop. American Fred Rodriguez (Davitamon Lotto) won the opening stage Thursday.
Spain takes tough line on doping
Government officials in Spain – long regarded as a country with a soft policy on doping in sport – may begin seeking jail time for those caught using and distributing performance-enhancing drugs.
On Friday, Spain’s Cabinet focused almost entirely on drafting the outlines of the National Anti-doping Plan.
The 59 measures passed are characterized by Spain’s Sports Council as “conclusive and with no return.” Included is a new anti-doping law that would change the penal code so that doping can be treated as a crime, and the creation of what would be Spain’s first anti-doping agency.
Until now, the only person sanctioned in a doping case has been the athlete, but the new plan envisages punishment of coaches and doctors. Doping will be considered a crime, and those found guilty could be sent to jail rather than simply being fined