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By Andrew Hood
Spanish rider Toni Colom took another win for the new Illes Balears team Tuesday after out-sprinting David Blanco (Valencia-Kelme) in Tuesday’s opening stage of the Tour of Valencia. Colom, who won the Ruta del Sol race in 2002 while riding for Fuenlabrada, delivered the overall but unofficial title at the Mallorca Challenge earlier this month to open the Spanish racing calendar. “It’s nice to actually win the stage instead of just take the leader’s jersey like I did at Mallorca,” Colom said. “It was very rainy at the start of the stage but we’re going to keep fighting. I’m maybe not quite as strong as I was at the Mallorca Challenge because now there are riders coming in fresh.” Heavy rains welcomed the riders for the start of the stage. World champion Igor Astarloa (Cofidis), Joseba Beloki (Boulangere) and Angel Casero (Kelme) were all missing. Kelme is still waiting for racing licenses from the UCI for Casero and some other riders while Beloki is nursing a sore knee. The course hit a 25km circuit four times over a Category 3 climb that broke up the bunch coming into the finale. Valenciana-Kelme tried to blow open the race with aggressive attacks but Colom was strong enough to stay in position. “It wasn’t an easy victory,” Colom said. “I picked the wrong gear on the final sprint and it cost me a lot to catch Blanco. It was a hard sprint coming up the rising finish.” The race continues Wednesday with the 148.5km second stage from Xabia to Calpe. 61st Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana(UCI 2.3)
Stage 1, Xabia-Xabia
1. Toni Colom (Sp), Illes Balears, 149.2km in 3:25:10
2. David Blanco (Sp), Valenciana-Kelme, s.t.
3. Grischa Niermann (G), Rabobank, at 0:03
4. Jose Martinez (Sp), Relax-Bodysol
5. Iñigo Cuesta (Sp), Cofidis, all s.t.107. Christian Vande Velde (USA), Liberty, at 7:26
Petacchi nips the Lion King
Alessandro Petacchi 1
Mario Cipollini 0 At least that’s how the score stacks up after the first clash of the season between Italy’s two superstar sprinters. The Fassa Bortolo star held off the Lion King in a much-anticipated showdown to win the first stage of the Giro della Lucca on Tuesday. Angelo Furlan (Alessio-Bianchi) came through third to complete an Italian sweep. Cipollini and Petacchi haven’t gone head–to-head since last year’s Giro. Tuesday’s battle was just the first salvo in what’s sure to be a fight between Cipollini and Petacchi, both of whom have set their sights on Milan-San Remo before heading to the Giro. Petacchi was the fastest man in the sprints last year, winning a record four or more stages in each of the grand tours. It was supposed to be Cipollini’s year in the spotlight wearing the rainbow jersey, but Super Mario crashed out of the Giro and never regained his form. Dean Podgornik went on the attack early, but was brought back by the hard-working Domina Vacanze boys with 25km to go. Two riders crashed with 5km to go, but that didn’t slow down the sprint finish when Petacchi came through ahead of Cipollini. The second stage on Wednesday is 173km ride from Massarosa to Lido di Camaiore in a race ideal for another sprint battle. 6th Giro della Provincia di Lucca(UCI 2.3)
Stage 1, Viareggio to Capannori
1. Alessandro Petacchi, Fassa Bortolo, 174km in 4:24:14 (39.510kph)
2. Mario Cipollini, Domina Vacanze, s.t.
3. Angelo Furlan, Alessio-Bianchi, at 0:01
4. Gabriele Balducci, Saeco
5. Georg Totschnig, Gerolsteiner, all same time
Gaumont tells all
Philippe Gaumont — the French cyclist who was arrested by French authorities last month and then fired by Cofidis last week after admitting he took EPO – told L’Equipe that cyclists are “not criminals.”
“When I started with the pros I was naive. I didn’t care about money and I had only heard of doping,” Gaumont said in an interview. “But after six months in the pack, you see it. I began to understand that winning big races was a possibility, but it was usually the result of certain illicit practices. Without realizing it, you get drawn in.”
Gaumont said there are still a lot of riders doping in the peloton, despite efforts to clean up the sport following the 1998 Festina scandal that blew the lid on organized doping within the ranks.
“Everyone wiped clean their conscience by saying the problem was in one team. Doping became a little taboo, but that didn’t banish it from the peloton,” he said. “I think doping still exists and quite a bit of it. But the riders who came after 1998 had the chance to be free of it. I sincerely think that there are clean riders. They just need to stay strong in their heads and not give in.” McEwen hurts knee in crash
Robbie McEwen (Lotto-Domo) crashed in the finale of Sunday’s Classic Haribo in France and injured his knee, the Belgian wires reported. Despite the injury, McEwen is expected to start this weekend’s races at Het Volk and Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne in Belgium.
Liberty finalizes schedule
Liberty Seguros continues to be cycling’s phantom team. After starting the Mallorca Challenge, the team skipped Ruta del Sol to hold a training camp in northern Spain and it won’t race this week’s Tour of Valencia or the Tour of Murcia in early March.
Instead, the team will race Paris-Nice with Isidro Nozal as the team captain and Tirreno-Adriatico with Igor González de Galdeano leading the way. Roberto Heras will make his season debut at Setmana Catalana set for March 22-26. All the major names are expected to line up at the Vuelta al País Vasco in early April.
Paolo Savoldelli (T-Mobile) won’t take the start Tuesday in the Tour of Valencia in Spain after coming down with the flu. Savoldelli returned to Bergamo to be treated by a doctor and will try to make it back for the Tour of Murcia.
Pecharroman on the mend
Josè Antonio Pecharroman (Quick Step) is on the mend and X-rays reveal the Spanish rider didn’t break his right wrist as originally feared in his spill in Stage 3 of last week’s Ruta del Sol.
Pecharroman will work with his physiotherapists and return to racing in about 10 days, the team reported.
Juan Miguel Mercado has come down with the flu and won’t make the Valencia start either.
“I’ve had a bad sore throat and stomach problems over the last few days. I’m better now but it would be stupid to risk taking part in the Valenciana straightaway,” he said. “I’ll start training again tomorrow but without overdoing anything.”
Laszlo Bodrogi isn’t well either. The Hungarian Champion, who has just returned from two days of bad weather at the Haut Var and the Classic Haribo, is also suffering with flu symptoms and will miss a few days of training.
In other Quick Step news, Johan Museeuw and teammates Tom Boonen, Wilfried Cretskens, Kevin Hulsmans and Servais Knaven are previewing the Het Volk course today. Museeuw is defending champion and the team is keen to win again.