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Etoile de Besseges, Mallorca Challenge, Armstrong's new deal
By Andrew Hood
Italian sprinter Fabio Baldato spoiled the Frenchies’ party Wednesday in the opening stage of the five-day Etoile de Besseges in southern France. Alessio rider Baldato covered the 153.5km stage from St. Cannat to Sainte Tulle in 3 hours, 47 minutes and 6 seconds, edging French rider Franck Bouyer (Brioche La Boulangere) and Mickael Skelde (EDS-Fakta) to score the win. The race continues Thursday with a 150km circuit course in Marseille.
Galvez scores second victory in Mallorca Challenge
Kelme’s Isaac Galvez snagged his second victory in Wednesday’s mass sprint in the fourth stage of the Mallorca Challenge. Australian Allan Davis (ONCE) held the lead with one day left in the season’s first stage race. Galvez, who won the opening stage Sunday at the Trofeo Mallorca, held off Fabrizio Guidi (Coast) and Erik Zabel (Telekom) to take the victory. Thursday’s final stage between Magaluf and Palmanova covers 149km and features five Cat. 2- and 3-rated climbs.
Dekker has faith in Freire
Two-time world champion Oscar Freire has already made a positive impression on his Rabobank teammates. Erik Dekker told the Spanish sports daily AS he believes Freire can win the overall World Cup title.
“Oscar is already prepared to triumph in the World Cup, including this season, why not? Or next year,” Dekker said during the Mallorca Challenge, currently underway in Spain. “He has gained the experience in races such as Flanders and Liège. He has the competition in his legs.”
Dekker, winner of the 2001 overall World Cup title, said he would help Freire any way he can. “I will try to convey all of my experience in the Classics and help him any way possible.”
Freire returned the compliments. “Until he fell last year at Milan-San Remo, Dekker was one of the best. He had two impressive seasons (2000, 2001). There will be enough races and situations for both of us. We are compatible and we will complement each other.”
Bartoli returns to training
Italian star Michele Bartoli received the okay from team doctors to return to training, Fassa Bortolo team officials said. Bartoli crashed during a training ride in Spain on January 6 and fractured a bone in his pelvis. After a visit to the San Rossore clinic, Bartoli was given the green light to get back on the bike. No word yet on when he will start racing.
New British pro team unveiled
A new British pro team is hoping for big things in the 2003 season, with sites set on the national English calendar and some European racing this year. Team Edurasport.com-RBS Principia will be based out of Varese, Italy, but includes a roster of mostly Anglo riders, a team press release said.
“Our aim is to offer young British riders the chance to race on the continent,” said director sportif Harry Lodge. “Sixty-percent of the team is under 25 and they are supported by some very tough and experienced pros.”
The squad is backed by Endura Clothing and RBS, importers of Danish frame manufacturer Principia, as well as a public membership program. The team will hold a launch party on February 7 and begin its 2003 campaign in the Menton-Savonna race in Italy later in the month.
Armstrong pens deal with Subaru
Subaru announced Monday it has signed four-time defending Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong to a five-year, $12 million endorsement deal, USA Today reported this week. It’s a major endorsement coup for Armstrong, who continues to shine as one of America’s top athletes. “You can’t ride a bike everywhere you go,” Armstrong told USA Today. “If you want to go hiking in some out-of-the-way mountain canyon, you’ll probably need a car to get there.” Last month, Armstrong shot a series of TV spots in San Francisco and commercials from the $180 million ad campaign will begin airing in mid-April. Armstrong already has long-term endorsement deals with Coca-Cola, Bristol-Myers Squibb, the U.S. Postal Service and Nike.