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Dierckxsens wins French opener, Gonzalez vs. Sevilla on the track
By Andrew Hood
The French racing season opened Tuesday with Ludo Dierckxsens (Landbouwkrediet) winning the GP d’Ouverture La Marseillaise, 150km from Gardanne to Aubagne near Marseille. The race was marked by a long breakaway by nine riders that took advantage of favorable winds to build an insurmountable lead that was more than half-an-hour by the finish. In the closing kilometers, Magnus Backstedt (Credit Agricole) attacked, only to be joined by Dierckxsens, who beat the Swede to the line.
Most teams who competed on Tuesday will stay on for the 33rd Etoile de Besseges, which enters the Bouches region of southern France in the Rhone Valley on Wednesday. Last year, Robbie McEwen started his phenomenal season with a win there.
Etoile de Besseges (2.3), Feb. 5-9:
Stage 1, Feb. 5, Saint Cannat to Sainte Tulle (153 km)
Stage 2, Feb. 6, Marseille-Marseille circuit course (150 km)
Stage 3, Feb. 7, Nimes to Les Flumades (160 km)
Stage 4, Feb. 8, Ales to La Grande Combe (154 km)
Stage 5, Feb. 9, Branoux les Taillades to Besseges (148 km)
Teams: AG2R, Alessio, Big Mat, Brioches La Boulangere, Cofidis, Credit Agricole, FDJeux.com, Flanders-iTeamNova, Jean Delatour, Landbouwkrediet-Colnago, Lotto, Marlux, Palmans-Collstrop, Fatka and Vlaanderen-T Interim.
Davis wins stage 3 of Majorca Challenge
Australian Allan David (ONCE) one the third stage of the Majorca Challenge on Tuesday, 169.5km around Puerto de Alcudia that included four Cat. 2 climbs. Davis won a sprint finish from Erik Zabel (Telekom) on a day marked by rain and snow. The Majorca challenge continues tomorrow with a 166.3km stage from Manacor to Porto Cristo. -AFP
Setmana Catalana course set
Organizers for the Setmana Catalana (March 24-28) in Spain’s Cataluyna region released details for the 2003 edition of the stage race this week although exact distances will be released at a later date. Four-time defending Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong has penciled-in this race as part of his program for this season. Armstrong is expected to make his season debut at the Tour of Murcia (March 5-9) and might start at Milan-San Remo (March 22). This year’s course starts as it always does in Lloret de Mar, a bustling resort town along the Mediterranean Sea, not far from Armstrong’s Spanish base in Girona. The second stage will be along the coast from Lloret de Mar to Empuriabrava, featuring a Cat. 1 climb at the Sant Pere de Rodes. The third stage starts in Castello d’Empuries and ends in Parets del Valles. Stage 4 runs from Parets del Valles, over the Coll del Pal to Baga. The finale winds from Baga to Vic.
Gonzalez vs. Sevilla in track duel
Former teammates and rivals Aitor Gonzalez and Oscar Sevilla are going to square off next weekend in the most unlikely of places: the track. Neither Gonzalez nor Sevilla have ever raced in the track, but the pair will face off during an event held in Anoeta in Spain’s Basque Country. The duo will compete in three events, a sprint and two individual pursuits, reports the Spanish sports daily AS. The pair ended the 2002 Vuelta a España on less-than-friendly terms, with Gonzalez usurping leadership of the Kelme team to win the overall title. Sevilla was demoted to playing the role of helper and even got bumped off the podium on the final-day time trial. Gonzalez left Kelme to join Fassa Bortolo, but even that’s still uncertain as the UCI tries to unwrangle a contract dispute between Fassa Bortolo and the former Acqua & Sapone team (now Domina Vacanze), which claims it penned a deal with Gonzalez midway through the 2002 season.
Belgian Olympian diesAndré Noyelle, Olympic gold medalist at the 1952 Helsinki Olympic Games, died at 71 after a long illness, the Belgian wires reported Tuesday. Noyelle raced professionally from 1953 to 1966, winning such races as GP de Fourmies and GP Pino Cerami.