By Andrew Hood
Rik Verbrugghe won the opening prologue Tuesday in the Tour of Romandie, the top race of the week in Europe. The Lotto racer posted a time of 4:13 in the prologue course in Geneva, Switzerland, edging two national riders to take the leader’s jersey.
The six-day race through the Romandie region of Switzerland is the final warm-up before the May 11 start of the Giro d’Italia and many of the Giro contenders are here honing their form.
1. Rik Verbrugghe (B), Lotto, 4:13
2. Alexandre Moos (Swi), Moos, at 0:01
3. Martin Elmiger (Swi), Phonak, at 0:02
4. Saulius Ruskys (Ltu), Gerolsteiner, at 0:03
5. Laszlo Bodrogi (H), Mapei, same time
6. Haimar Zubeldia (Sp), Euskaltel, at 0:04
7. Inigo Cuesta (Sp), Cofidis, at 0:05
8. Marcus Zberg (Swi), Rabobank, s.t.
9. Dario Frigo (Swi), Tacconi, at 0:06
10. David Millar (GBr), Cofidis, s.t.
The week ahead: The Tour of Romandie highlights the week in racing as the World Cup moves over to make room for the major stage races. The Swiss race is the final warm-up before the May 11 start of the Giro d’Italia and many of the Giro contenders are racing in the Romandie race, Dario Frigo and Danilo Di Luca among them.
Wednesday is the Rund um Henninger Turm Frankfurt, one of the most important races in Germany. Trophee des Grimpeurs in France is the ninth leg of the French Cup series and the Giro Dell’Appenino in Italy are also Wednesday.
Many of the classics riders will wind down their spring season with a final push at these races. The Vuelta a Castilla y Leon in northern Spain (May 2-6) is attracting many Spanish teams and U.S. Postal Service as well. U.S. Postal Service will also be present at Four Days of Dunkirk (May 8-12) in northern France.
American Watch: Lance Armstrong’s fourth place at Amstel Gold on Sunday was the big news over the weekend. The three-time defending Tour de France champion made the final group and finished fourth to conclude his classics run. Next up for the Texan after a short break will be Midi-Libre (May 22-26) and Dauphine Libere (June 9-16).
Armstrong said he is comfortable with his rate of progress this season.
“I feel fine. It’s hard to compare from previous years, but I’m satisfied where I am,” Armstrong said in a team press release. “The next two months will dictate whether or not I can win the Tour again. I need to really focus, lose some kilos, and not have any problems.”
Other Americans racing at Amstel Gold:
27. Christian Vande Velde, at 0:53
33. David Clinger, at 4:23
36. Fred Rodriguez, at 5:11
74. George Hincapie, at 11:36
DNF: Floyd Landis
At the Scheldeprijs Vlaanderen/G.P. de L’Escaut on April 24:
17 Fred Rodriguez (USA) Domo-Farm Frites
46. Ryan Guay (USA) Navigators Cycling Team
94. Christopher Baldwin (USA) Navigators Cycling Team.
Speaking of the Navigators, the team continues making waves in Europe and races next the Trophee de Grimpeurs (May 1) and the Four Days of Dunkirk next week. The team scored fifth at the Tour of Vendee with Australian Tom Leaper. Navigators’ Kirk O’Bee got a nice write-up in the latest issue of the French Velo Magazine following his victoryat the Coupe de Rennes on April 7 and five days later the GP Cerami.
Hincapie, Rodriguez and USPS phenom Tom Boonen were also featured in a three-page spread in the magazine about their assault on the classics.
Levi Leipheimer (Rabobank) and Kevin Livingston (Telekom) are racing this week at the Tour of Romandie.
U.S. Postal Service won the team competition at the Tour of Rioja, which ended Tuesday following the strong performances by Steffen Kjaergaard, 7th at 12 seconds back, and Roberto Heras, 14th at 7:01. Michael Barry was 30th at 9:26, David Zabriskie 48th at 25:22 and Dylan Casey 92nd at 34:03 back. The team will race at the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon this week.
In mountain biking news, Roel Paulissen beat Filip Meirhaege and Bart Brentjens in the opening round of the Europa Cup series Sunday in Belgium. The five-race series began last year, with Italian Mirko Pirazzoli winning the men’s title and Frenchie Laurance Leboucher taking the women’s title. The schedule for the upcoming races: Graz, Austria, May 12; Sigriswil, Switzerland, June 9; Brulon, France, July 28; Sestriere,Italy, Aug. 25.