Jimmy Engoulvent wins the opening time trial by a fraction of a second as the 57th Vuelta a Andalucia Ruta Ciclista del Sol gets under way.
- 1. Jimmy Engoulvent (Fra), Saur-Sojasun, 9:28
- 2. Markel Irizar Aranburu (Esp), Team RadioShack, same time
- 3. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel), Omega Pharma-Lotto, at 0:01
- 4. Levi Leipheimer (Usa), Team RadioShack, at 0:02
- 5. Jerome Coppel (Fra), Saur-Sojasun, at 0:03
Oscar Freire (Rabobank) has already won more races this year than he did in all of 2009, and it’s only February. The Spanish “gato” pounced to his second straight victory in Tuesday’s third stage at the Ruta del Sol (AKA the Vuelta a Andalucia), fending off Grega Bole (Lampre) and Simon Gerrans (Sky) to claim his third win in the 2010 season.
Mark Cavendish will postpone his season debut until the Ruta del Sol in mid-February due to a dental problem that’s delayed his training. The HTC-Columbia ace was expecting to make his 2010 season debut at the Tour of Qatar in early February, but team officials said he will open his campaign at the five-day Spanish race instead.
Davide Rebellin (Diquigiovanni) might want to reconsider his decision to retire at the end of this season. The veteran Italian snagged his second stage win of the week at the Ruta del Sol and almost snuck away with the overall in the fourth and final stage, a 168km leg from Torrox Costa to Antequera. Joost Posthuma (Rabobank) finished nine seconds back of the attacking Rebellin with the rest of the front pack to claim a two-second victory over Xavier Tondo (Andalucía-CajaSur) in the five-day race across Spain’s Andalucía region.
This might be Davide Rebellin’s last season, but don’t tell him that he’s done just yet. The veteran Italian pulled off a thrilling victory in Wednesday’s third stage, a hilly course from Marbella to Benahavis through the hills along Spain’s Costa del Sol, out-kicking a stellar field to win for the first time this season. Rebellin took down Filippo Pozzato (Katusha) and relegated Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) to third in a victory that reveals the classics specialist might have one more trick up his sleeve this April before riding off into the sunset.
Gert Steegmans continues Katusha’s early season haul with the team’s second straight win at the Ruta del Sol in Tuesday’s 164km romp from the foothills near Granada to Córdoba. The big Belgian blasted ahead of teammate and yesterday’s winner Danilo Napolitano to give the Russian-backed squad its seventh win on the 2009 season. Wim Stroetinga (Milram) came through third while Joost Postuma (Rabobank) finished safely in the main pack to retain the race leader’s jersey.
Danilo Napolitano nabbed yet another victory for the upstart Katusha team, this time in the first stage at the Vuelta a Andalucía/Ruta del Sol in Spain. Thanks to a top-notch leadout from teammates Filippo Pozzato and Gert Steegmans, the brawny Italian sprinter easily out-kicked Tom Veelers (Skil-Shimano) to win the 169.2km first stage from La Guardía de Jaén to Humilladero. Jurgen Roelandts (Silence-Lotto) came through third while overnight leader Xavier Tondo (Andalucía-CajaSur) finished out of the top-10 and forfeited the race leader’s jersey.
Ivan Basso (Liquigas) makes his first race appearance on home roads since his Operación Puerto ban as the Italian and Spanish calendars open this weekend. Basso already debuted his 2009 season at the Tour de San Luís in Argentina last month, but will race on Italian roads for the first time since the 2007 Tirreno-Adriatico in Saturday’s GP Costa degli Etruschi.
The long winter wait is over for fans champing at the bit to see some real European bike racing. The 2009 European calendar officially opens this weekend in France with the 26th GP La Marsellaise featuring 17 teams lining up for a 136.8km circuit on Sunday. The loop course around Marseille in southern France tackles some local climbs, including the Col de la Gineste, hard enough to give the adventurous rider a chance to escape the clutches of the main pack. The finish won’t be at Marseille’s glamorous Vieux-Port due to local roadwork and has been moved out toward the university.
Reigning Olympic road champion Samuel Sánchez is keeping his goals close to home in 2009. Instead of making a run at improving on his seventh place performance in last year’s Tour de France (now sixth, following Bernard Kohl’s disqualification), the Euskaltel-Euskadi rider will instead focus on the Vuelta al País Vasco and make a run for overall victory at the Vuelta a España. His lone goal that will take him beyond the friendly roads of Spain will be the world championships on a challenging course in Mendrisio, Switzerland, in late September.