By Andrew Hood
CSC-Tiscali captain Laurent Jalabert is expected to return to racing in late April for the first time since he abandoned Milan-San Remo witha virus.Jalabert, who won a stage and finished third overall at Paris-Nice,will also race at GP Midi Libre, May 22-26. Lance Armstrong confirmedhe will start the race as well as part of preparations for a run at a fourthconsecutive Tour de France. It will be Armstrong’s debut at Midi Libreand continues his efforts this season to add variety to his pre-Tour racingschedule.The stages:
May 22: Salses-le-Chateau-Carcassone
May 23: Carcassone-Villefranche-de-Rouergue
May 24: Onet-le-Chateau – Rodez
May 25: Saint Leons-Sete
May 26: Anduze-L’Esperou-Mont AigoualVuelta Ciclista a AragonWith two stages ending with Category 1 climbs, climbers will be thefavorites for Wednesday’s start of the five-day Vuelta Ciclista a Aragonin Spain. The first and third stages feature mountain-top finishes, whilethe second and fourth stage are filled with medium climbs. The sprinters,those that make it, will have the leftovers on the final day finishingin Zaragoza.The teams starting the race include: Euskaltel, ibanesto.com, Kelme,ONCE, Jazztel, Relax-Fuenlabrada, AG2R, Cofidis, Coast, Telekom, Acquae Sapone, Alessio, Mapei, Phonak, U.S. Postal Service and LA Pecol.Armstrong had originally planned to start here, but his Tour de Francepreparation was going so well he decided to race in Sunday’s Liege-Bastogne-Liegeinstead.Last year’s winner Juan Carlos Dominguez (Phonak) will be lookingto repeat and comes to the race in top form. Other favorites include AitorOsa (iBanesto.com), fresh off his victory at Vuelta al Pais Vasco,the Italian Leonardo Piepoli and Coast’s Fernando Escartin,who is honing his form for the upcoming Giro d’Italia.Fleche WalloneMapei confirmed its lineups for upcoming races. For Fleche Wallone,Mapei will have Paolo Bettini as team leader, with support fromDario Cioni, Fabien De Waele, Cadel Evans, Paolo Fornaciari, Oscar Freire,Andrea Noè and Luca Paolini.The race marks the return for world champion Freire, who was forcedto miss Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix suffering from tendonitis. Forthe Vuelta a Aragon, the team will bring Elia Aggiano, Davide Bramati,David Cañada, Pedro Horrillo Muñoz, Miguel Martinez, EddyRatti, Gerhard Trampusch and Charly Wegelius.The race will mark the return of mountain bike gold medalist to theroad scene since early in the season.