By Andrew Hood
Spanish climber Juan Miguel Mercardo (Quick Step) went on the attack in the third stage of the Giro di Trentino and was rewarded with a stage victory for his efforts.
Mercado attacked the lead group at the Passo Uldarico climb and held on to win, 25 seconds ahead of Giuseppe Muraglia (Formaggi Pinzolo Fiave). The new father quickly dedicated the victory to his daughter.
“It is a great satisfaction to have won today. During the last climb I made another attack and I arrived at the finish line alone,” Mercado said. “I want to dedicate this victory to my daughter, Aiñoa, who was born three months ago.”
Race leader Damiano Cunego (Saeco) finished safely in the main bunch to retain his hold on the overall lead with just one stage to go.
Giro di Trentino (ITA 2.2), Stage 3, Roncone Breguzzo to Fiavè, 165km
1. Juan Miguel Mercado (Sp), Quick Step 3:54:13
2. Giuseppe Muraglia (I), Formaggi Pinzolo Fiave , at 0:25
3. Bartosz Huzarski (Pol), Action , at 0:34
4. Aliaksandr Kychinski (Blr), Amore e Vita , at 0:46
5. Luca Solari (I), Team Barloworld, all s.t.
Overall after three stagesbr> 1. Damiano Cunego (I), Saeco 13 hours, 35 minutes, 5 seconds
2. Jure Golcer (Slo), Formaggi Pinzolo , at 0:49
3. Gilbert Simoni (I), Saecno , at 0:53
3. Giuliano Figueras (I), Panaria , at 0:55
5. Pavel Tonkov (Rus), Lampre , at 1:06
Hondo wins again Germany
German sprinter Danilo Hondo (Gerolsteiner) won his second stage in a row in the Niedersachsen Rundfahrt in Germany on Thursday.
Hondo finished ahead of compatriots Dennis Kraft (Action) and David Kopp (Lamonta), who came through third. With two stage victores, Hondo will wear the race leader’s jersey going into Friday’s third stage.
Niedersachsen Rundfahrt (GER 2.3) Stage 2, Duderstadt to Gottingen, 161km
1. Danilo Hondo (G), Gerolsteiner 3:53:42
2. Dennis Kraft (G), Action
3. David Kopp (G), Lamonta
4. Simoni Cadamuro (I), De Nardi
5. Steven De Jongh (Ned), Rabobank, all s.t.
Edo on the go in Portugal
Spanish sprinter Angel Edo (Milaneza) won the opening stage of the GP MR Cortez Mitsubishi stage-race in Portugal to take the leader’s jersey.
7th GP MR Cortez Mitsubishi (POR 2.3), Stage 1, Torres Vedras circuit, 160km
1. Angel Edo (Sp), Milaneza-Maia 3:52:54
2. Pedro Lopes (Por), L.A. Pecol same time
3. Francisco Lara (Sp), Costa de Almeria-Paternina , at 0:20
4. Carlos Torrent (Sp), Costa de Almeria-Paternina , at 0:24
5. Claudio Faria (Por), Asc-Vila Do Conde, all s.t.
No Jan at Liège
Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile) will not race Sunday’s World Cup race in Liège-Bastogne-Liège, raising speculation about the condition of the 1997 Tour de France champion.
Team officials admit Ullrich is not at his best form at the moment, and the German pulled out of Wednesday’s Flèche Wallone semi-classic on the second of three passages at the feared Mur de Huy climb.
“Jan is not at the moment in a form that would enable him to play a leading role in such a race,” T-Mobile spokesman Olaf Ludwig said.
The 30-year-old German remains confident, however, he’ll be ready to take on five-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong in July. Ullrich, a Tour winner in 1997, has been slowly building his form and will race in Germany later this summer to hone his strength. ‘His focus points for the Tour de France are now the Tour of Germany and the Tour of Switzerland,” said T-Mobile team sporting director Mario Kummer.
Sprinter hangs it up
Dutch sprinter Jeroen Blijlevens (Bankgiroloterij) has retired at age 32, the Dutch news agency ANP reported Thursday.
Blijlevens – who was kicked out of the 2000 Tour de France for throwing a punch at American Bobby Julich — was once one of the most feared sprinters in the bunch, racking up 71 career victories including four stages in the Tour de France. But recent struggles with form triggered thoughts of hanging up the cleats.
“It’s been impossible to recover the level of form you need to win races,” Blijlevens said. “I made my decision last week after the Grand Prix de l’Escaut (Scheldeprijs) when an analysis revealed again a blood virus for the past two years.”
Blijlevens best years came with TVM (1994-1999), when he won four Tour stages (1995, 1996, 1997 et 1998), five stages in the Vuelta a España and two in the Giro d’Italia, including two days in the race leader’s maglia rosa in 1999.
He jumped from Polti (2000), to Lotto in 2001 to Domo in 2002 before joining Bankgiroloterij in 2003. Since 2000, he’s only won four races.
Blijlevens’ career was also marked by low points, including the mass abandonment by the TVM team from the scandal-plagued 1998 Tour days after TVM team director, Cees Priem, and doctor, Andrei Mikhailov, were charged with “transporting poisonous substances and the possession of dangerous merchandise” by French authorities in the growing Festina scandal.
In 2000, he was removed from the Tour after throwing a punch at Julich after the finish-line sprint into Paris. Eyewitnesses said Blijlevens hit Julich after accusing the American of blocking him during the sprint finish of Stage 20 in Troyes, France. Blijlevens was also fined 200 Swiss francs by Tour officials and removed from the official results despite finishing the final stage.
Astarloa signs with Lampre
Reigning world champion Igor Astarloa has penned a deal to join the Lampre team, according to a report in the Spanish daily MARCA.
Freed by Cofidis to join another team since the French team has become embroiled in a doping scandal, Astarloa was entertaining offers from several teams, including his former Saeco team as well as Quick Step.
The Division II Relax-Bodysol team was also interested in signing Astarloa with the hopes of earning a berth in July’s Tour de France as well as guaranteeing a place among the top teams expected to be named to the UCI’s Pro Tour.
By selecting Lampre, it’s likely the Spanish rider will start the Giro d’Italia in May.
Quick Step training for LBL
Paolo Bettini (Quick Step) said he will start Sunday’s Liège-Bastogne-Liège despite abandoning Wednesday’s Flèche Wallone. The two-time World Cup champion said he was tired from his effort in last weekend’s Amstel Gold Race and wanted to save his strength for the more demanding Liège race.
The team was scheduled to ride the final 100km of the Liège course, covering the section from Trois Ponts to Ans. Quick Step for LBL: Paolo Bettini, Davide Bramati, Laurent Dufaux, Nick Nuyens, Luca Paolini, Patrik Sinkewitz, Bram Tankink, Jurgen Van Goolen
Hondo wins German sprint
German rider Danilo Hondo won Wednesday’s opening stage of the four-day Niedersachsen Rundfahrt in Germany to give Gerolsteiner another victory to go with Davide Rebellin’s win at Flèche Wallone. Racing today
Racing continues in Germany with the 161km second stage of the Niedersachsen Rundfahrt (GER 2.3) from Duderstadt to Göttingen. … Damiano Cunego (Saeco), winner of the opening two stages, will be looking to defend his jersey in the 165km third stage of the Giro di Trentino (ITA 2.2) from Roncone Breguzzo to Fiavè … Racing returns to Portugal with the 160km opening stage for the GP MR Cortez Mitsubishi (POR 2.3) on a circuit course in Torres Vedras.