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Young Guns: 2007 News Roundup #3 (02/27/2007)
By Fabio
Date: 2/27/2007
Young Guns: 2007 News Roundup #3 (02/27/2007)
Our coverage of the stars of tomorrow's bike racing goes on. And gets more consistent with the season kick-off on Italian soil: Lombardy, Tuscany, Veneto and the Marche region played host to no less than eight contests over the past week-end. France hosted some more contests too, with riders from the former USSR stealing the limelight, and Spain saw ... Olano back to the top of a race podium (and some more great cycling action).

They're up and running in Italy too! A few days later than their colleagues in France and Spain, the Italian "young gun" peloton got back in the saddle and fired the starting shot of the season, with the traditional opener Coppa San Geo taking place in Lombardia - and two more races in the lands of Veneto and Tuscany respectively - this past Saturday Februray 24th. The bunch filling the roads of the 83rd edition of the contest moved their legs on a demanding course of 157 km. between Patione and another town in the Brescia area, Salò. The Garda lakeside town played host to the finish line also in the 1992 edition, when they got the last foreign winner, Fabian Hannich of Germany. Fifteen years later a non-Italian contender regained the highest step on the podium: Croatia's National RR champion Hrvoje Miholijevic, a former professional rider who lately switched from Perutnina Ptuj to the Loborika team (based in the Istrian peninsula) was the toughest in the three-man sprint that decided the challenge, ahead of the Italians Ermanno Capelli (Unidelta) and Davide Ricci Bitti (Finauto). Cyclocross specialist Davide Malacarne showed that he can have something to say on the road too and drove the first chase group across the line, snatching fourth place.

The race was a hectic affair since the early kilometres, with attacks going basically since after the flag was dropped. Italian Pirazzini (Palazzago) stole the show soon, with Poland's Marek Imiela (Norda-Atala) and Slovenia's Kristjan Koren as later co-protagonists of the first serious move. But the main teams on the road (Zalf, Parolin and Pagnoncelli) were very attentive, and the trio got chased down. The (first) decisive move came as the race hit the Colle Sarniga, where Miholjevic gave a first display of his excellent form as he made the gap along with Ricci Bitti and Marco Bandiera (Zalf-Desirée). Capelli, his Unidelta teammate Maurizio Girardini and a few more athletes (among whom were Zalf's Enrico Zen and Russia's Maxim Belkov) countered and regained the lead group. The second winning move came in the final descent to the line, as Capelli attacked and Miholjevic and Ricci Bitti followed. The trio held onto a small lead, and victory became a matter of two Italians and a Croat.

In the final straight Capelli and Ricci Bitti look busier trying to prevent each other from being first across the line rather than going for the win, and the former had his sprint impeded by the latter; the smart guy from Croatia thanked the two Italians for such unexpected gift and pushed his 53x12 to the first win of his "new" career. Which he hopes may soon come to a end though: as the same Miholjevic confessed in after-race interviews, his primary objective is to get back to the professional cycling circus as soon as possible - better if by the end of June. With local favourite Giovanni Carini, coming from a successful French campaign, not living up to expectations and never being a factor, the Salò tifosi were hoping for a "home win" by Mr. Capelli; they must have been a bit disappointed as the Unidelta rider eventually missed the target, but nevertheless Ermanno sounded satisfied with the performance he carried out.

83rd Coppa San Geo (Patione to Salò, 157 km): Top 10 Places
1. Hrvoje Miholijevic (Cro - Loborika) - 04h01' (39.087 kph)
2. Ermanno Capelli (Ita - Unidelta-Bottoli-Acciaierie Arvedi) - s.t.
3. Davide Ricci Bitti (Ita - Finauto) - s.t.
4. Davide Malacarne (Ita - Zalf-Desirée Fior) - at 05"
5. Cristiano Fumagalli (Ita - Filmop) - s.t.
6. Emanuele Fornasier (Ita - Marchiol) - s.t.
7. Damian Walczak (Pol - Norda) - s.t.
8. Maxim Belkov (Rus - Finauto) - s.t.
9. Enrico Zen (Ita - Zalf-Desirée Fior) - s.t.
10. Massimo Iannetti (Ita - Gruppo Lupi) - s.t.

Once upon a time there was a certain young fastman from Argentina who used to demolish opposition in field sprints at the end of U23 races, especially in Northern Italy. His name was (still is) Richeze, Maximilan Richeze. But he switched to the pro ranks, where he occasionally does the same thing again. A bit later in time, there was a certain young fastman from Argentina who used to demolish opposition in field sprints at the end of U23 races, especially in Northern Italy. His name was (still is) Richeze, Roberto Richeze. And as you might have suspected, he was (is) Maximilian's brother. But he moved to the pro ranks, where he occasionally does the same thing again (well, maybe). In times like these, there's a certain young fastman from Argentina who is used to demolish opposition in field sprints at the end of U23 races, especially in Northern Italy. His name is Richeze ... Mauro Abel Richeze !! And as you might have suspected, he's Maximilian and Roberto's brother ... Continuing the family tradition of giving opponents a privileged view of their backsides, and of their arms raised across the line, the guy sprinted two his second victory of the season (a few days past he opened his 2007 account in a small race in his homeland) in Saturday's 14th Memorial Giuseppe Polese. This challenge of 102.2 km. (shorter and easier than the San Geo) took place around the Venetian town of San Michele di Piave near Treviso, and was featured by a good amount of attacks and counterattacks, all of which were eventually chased down.

Giuseppe Vella of the Palazzago team, a "sophomore" in the U23 scene, made the headlines first, but fellow Italians Michele Zanardo (Bata), Filippo Bonente (Ceramiche RB) and Samuele Zago (Permac) got across to join him. No way for the quartet to get a free pass to the line from the peloton anyway. The same thing occurred to the next boy on the move, Gianni Da Ros of the Marchiol team: he attacked with two laps of the 14-lap race circuit to go, but was reeled in quite quickly. So that all efforts came down to a field sprint, contested at over 60 km/h. A dangerous one as a few riders hit the tarmac and/or barriers, and guys like Roberto Longo (Mantovani) suffered some injuries: the boy is set to become a pro with Lampre the next summer, but no doubt he wasn't off to a pleasant start to the season. Things took a much better turn for the new sprinting talent from South America, and also for his podium companions, both from the Veneto region of Italy: Andrea Pinos (Basso Piave Tms Spinazzè) and Michele Merlo (Velo Club Mantovani Rovigo); all of them were praised by a special bystanders, local colleague Mirco Lorenzetto, coming all the way from his first win as a professional cyclist (in a Tour Mediterranéen stage). But many of today's losers are going to be given a quick opportunity for redemption in either of Sunday's two races on Venetian soil.

14th Memorial Giuseppe Polese (S.Michele di Piave, 102.2 km): Top 10 Places
1. Mauro Abel Richeze (Arg - Modal San Donà) - 02h16'45" (44.841 kph)
2. Andrea Pinos (Ita - Basso Piave Tms Spinazzè) - s.t.
3. Michele Merlo (Ita - Mantovani Rovigo) - s.t.
4. Alex Buttazzoni (Ita - Marchiol Famila Ima Liquigas) - s.t.
5. Andriy Kutalo (Ukr - San Marco Concrete Caneva) - s.t.
6. Marco Boz (Ita - Cyber Team Panni) - s.t.
7. Norberto Castelli (Ita - Trevigiani Dynamon) - s.t.
8. Andrea Peron (Ita - Molino di Ferro Giorgione) - s.t.
9. Valentino Borghesi (Ita - Moro Bicycle Line Scott) - s.t.
10. Andrea Fusaz (Ita - Permac Brisot Bibanese) - s.t.

Starters: 159. Finishers: 128.

If the red-checkered jersey of Croatia's National RR champion conquered the top step of the formerly all-Italian fortress named Coppa San Geo, and all local sprinters had to surrender to the power of the Richeze dynasty in Veneto, riders from the home country had their slice of glory in Tuscany, home region of Saturday's Firenze Empoli one-day race. And the whole nation as one is thankful to Luca Scinto - a former great domestique turned successful Direttore Sportivo - and his Finauto-Neri-Lucchini-Zoccorinese boys, who entered the team name in the winning list of the contest for the first time after four failed attempts, and even wrapped up the podium by scoring an impressive 1-2-3 with Sicilian race winner Cristian Benenati, Tuscany's own Francesco Ginanni as well as Giuseppe Di Salvo.

The Finauto crew made their intentions clear right from the early kilometres, as they led the chase (with some help from "home team" Maltinti) to first escapee Giuseppe Alibrio (Ciaponi-Fanini) whose adventure off the pack lasted a couple laps only. Once the generous guy was pulled back, a more solid breakaway of five formed, with four Italians and one Belgian hopeful: 1988-born Dennis Vannendert. All of them were chased down by lap seven, and the young talent from Benelux was the last one to wave white flag. But as the next climb, Le Casette, separated the men from the boys, only five tough riders were capable of staying up front: Uladzimir Autka of Belarus (Promociclo-Publy Sport), Federico Canuti (Bedogni-Natalini) and the above mentioned trio of Finauto that made Luca Scinto happy. Di Salvo got dropped while taking in the last ascent, but fought his way back to the leading quintet in the descent to the line. Then Finauto created their masterpiece in the last thousand metres, as Benenati made the right move, his two teammates stopped any attempts to chase him down, and the Sicilian could power to the line while Ginanni and Di Salvo filled the other podium spots.

The winner couldn't help but being happy and thanking his team mates, manager and sponsors, and expressed all of his satisfaction at being part of such a strong racing machine. Which we're definitely going to hear from again and again, and again, in the season that just began. Watch out for more masterpieces from the Scinto Boys, some of whom could well make it to the pro ranks - the way Finauto's former star rider Giovanni Visconti recently did - quite soon.

20th GP Firenze- Empoli (134 km): Top 10 Places
1. Cristian Benenati (Ita - Finauto-Neri Lucchini) - 03h29' (38.469 kph)
2. Francesco Ginanni (Ita - Finauto-Neri Lucchini) - at 08"
3. Giuseppe Di Salvo (Ita - Finauto-Neri Lucchini) - s.t.
4. Uladzimir Autka (Blr - Promociclo-Publy Sport) - s.t.
5. Federico Canuti (Ita - Bedogni-Natalini) - s.t.
6. Enrico Peruffo (Ita - Filmop-Sorelle Ramonda-Parolin) - at 13"
7. Bernardo Riccio (Ita - Filmop-Sorelle Ramonda-Parolin) - s.t.
8. Massimo Pirrera (Ita - Bedogni-Natalini) - s.t.
9. Enrico Montanari (Ita - Finauto-Neri Lucchini) - s.t.
10. Marco Belli (Ita - San Marco-Concrete-Caneva) - s.t.

Starters: 194. Finishers: 97.

Much of the Coppa San Geo field was in the saddle again twenty-four hours later for the second battle of the season on Lombard soil: the 37th Trofeo Caduti di Soprazocco. Hrvoje Miholjevic wasn't around, but nonetheless we got close to having another winner from Eastern Europe. Just close, as in the end Finauto's Russian talent Maxim Belkov was denied victory by Salvatore Mancuso, a young Sicilian living in the same Lombard hamlet of Soprazocco, who made "home team" Unidelta happy by scoring a "home win" on "home roads", and taking a welcomed revenge after team leader Cappelli lost to the Croatian National RR champion in the season opener sprint.
Unidelta regained the top step of the podium five years after Antonio Bucciero (recently back to the pro ranks) outsprinted Mario Serpellini and Claudio Corioni in the days of 2002. Mancuso, starting his third season amongst the U23s, got back to victory almost one year after his last success, in a prestigious stage race in Italy (Giro Pesche Nettarine). His past season was not victory-packed, but now that Unidelta's former fastman Francesco Gavazzi has turned a professional rider, there must be more room for the Sicilian to show off his sprinting talent, and perhaps one day he'll follow Gavazzi into the pro scene.

The "Trofeo" was held in cold and rainy weather conditions, which prompted several riders from going on the attack. Sure we had a few moves going early and later, but the good one came with just 3 km. remaining: Pagnoncelli's Gabriele Orizzonte and Giovanni Carini, Russians Reschetko and Belkov, plus Gabriele Pastori, Abram, Gian Mario Pedrazzini and Giuseppe De Maria went clear. Along with them was the future race winner too. Maxim Belkov, showing off his excellent condition also in the San Geo, was the first to start the sprint, and he was faaaaast, so fast it looked like he was going to leave all of his challengers behind, so fast that even the race speaker awarded him the status of race winner. But he spoke a bit too early: the Russian ran out of gas in the very last metres and Mancuso, who handled his legs better, came around him to take the win.

Pagnoncelli's star rider Giovanni Carini got back into limelight after his San Geo Cup no-show, and rode to another podium performance. But he missed Mancuso's move, and had to settle with third place. It seems the man in orange lost his winning ways in his French campaign, but we can be sure that the man is gonna be given plenty of opportunities for redemption in his homeland too.

37th Trofeo Caduti di Soprazocco (158 km): Top 15 Places
1. Salvatore Mancuso (Ita - Unidelta-Bottoli) - 03h55' (40.340 km/h)
2. Maxim Belkov (Rus - Finauto-Neri Lucchini-Zoccorinese) - s.t.
3. Giovanni Carini (Ita - Pagnoncelli-NGC Perrel) - s.t.
4. Giuseppe De Maria (Ita - Italfine-Podenzano-Juvenes) - s.t.
5. Gabriele Pastori (Ita - Italfine-Podenzano-Juvenes) - s.t.
6. Eugeny Reschetko (Rus - Eurobyke-Oliver Ogar) - s.t.
7. Andriy Buchko (Ukr - Progetto Ciclismo-OTC Doors) - s.t.
8. Davide Ricci Bitti (Ita - Finauto-Neri Lucchini-Zoccorinese) - s.t.
9. Gian Mario Pedrazzini (Ita - Concrete San Marco-Caneva) - s.t.
10. Gabriele Orizzonte (Ita - Pagnoncelli-NGC Perrel) - s.t.
11. Sergey Rudaskov (Rus - Gavardo Tecmor) - s.t.
12. Athos Pedretti (Ita - Team Schivardi-Colombina) - s.t.
13. Luca Zanasca (Ita - Italfine-Podenzano-Juvenes) - s.t.
14. Michele Gaia (Ita - UC Cremasca Bergamasca) - s.t.
15. Alessandro Bisolti (Ita - Saclà-Sesto Autoveicoli-Ab Isolanti) - s.t.

Unidelta's fabulous Sunday began on their home roads of the Brescia area, and continued in the Veneto region of Northern Italy as they scored also in the 7th Gran Premio Brefer. To make things even better, the ace up their sleeve in this race was a very young (19) gun who sprinted to victory at his own debut in the U23 ranks. Edoardo Costanzi used to rock the sprints as a Junior, and didn't lose his winning antics after switching to a bigger class. The only things that changed were the names of his victims: the first ones of his new career were local riders Gianni Da Ros (Marchiol Famila) and Manuel Belletti (UC Trevigiani), who almost came around him in the very last meters, but Costanzi held on and was awarded with his biggest joy in the saddle to date (but bigger ones will come, you betcha …). His coach - and former pro rider - Bruno Leali was understandably on cloud nine at the end of such perfect week-end, but his new teenage winning machine sounded humble and well aware that all biggest challenges are still ahead of him: "I just couldn't believe it when I heard the race speaker screaming out my name as the winner. But this victory doesn't change anything. I know that there's so many things I still have to learn".

7th GP Brefer (Castello Roganzuolo-S.Fior, 101 km): Top 10 Places
1. Edoardo Costanzi (Ita - Unidelta-Bottoli) - 02h18' (43.736 km/h)
2. Gianni Da Ros (Ita - Marchiol Famila Ima-Liquigas) - s.t.
3. Manuel Belletti (Ita - Trevigiani Dynamon-Banca Veneta) - s.t.
4. Simone Ponzi (Ita - Zalf-Desirée Fior) - s.t.
5. Francesco Martinetti (Ita - Team Tata) - s.t.
6. Matteo Busato (Ita - Fausto Coppi-Gazzera-Videa) - s.t.
7. Michele Merlo (Ita - VC Mantovani Rovigo) - s.t.
8. Cristiano Fumagalli (Ita - Filmop-Sorelle Ramonda-Parolin) - s.t.
9. Paolo Tomaselli (Ita - GS 93 Promosport) - s.t.
10. Gian Luca Massano (Ita - Team Tata) - s.t.

Revenge is a dish better served cold. And even better if served after being kept in a refrigerator a whole long year. Twelve months after young sprinting sensation (now busy with his first strokes in the pro ranks with Gerolsteiner) Oscar Gatto humbled five of them on the final straight, the Team Parolin guys returned to the 25th Gp Lavi-Circuito di Paderno with just one goal: revenge. Also known as victory in this case. And revenge (victory) it was, even if the man who accomplished such task was a newcomer to the team, and not a past victim of Gatto's skills. Marcello Pavarin was the toughest in the five-man sprint that determined the winner.

After a previous attempt by Manuele Boaro (Zalf) and Jacopo Guarnieri (Marchiol) was nullified, the winning breakaway of five came into action, containing Pavarin as well as Enrico Cecchin (Zalf), Maurizio Zonca (Palazzago), Mario Ghione (Pool Cantù) and Thomas Tiozzo (Mantovani Rovigo). It wasn't a true attack though, as Checchin and the other fab four just put the pace up a little bit with 15 laps of the circuit to go and, both because of the "lazy" attitude of the peloton and the impact of the pouring rain on the race dynamics, they slowly but steadily built a decent gap. So that they had taken a minute out of the bunch by the 10-km-to-go check, and when the field finally put in some kind of reaction, it was just too late. The fugitives held onto a margin of 11 seconds, and Pavarin made the most out of his sprinting abilities to beat Checchin and all other frontrunners, making Team Parolin's revenge on the mighty Zalf (the squad Oscar Gatto was racing for twelve months ago, btw) complete.

25th GP Lavi - Circuito di Paderno U23 (90 km): Top 10 Places
1. Marcello Pavarin (Ita - Filmop-Ramonda-Parolin) - 02h08'40" (41.969 km/h)
2. Enrico Cecchin (Ita - Zalf-Désirée Fior) - s.t.
3. Maurizio Zonca (Ita - Palazzago-Ab Isolanti-Saclà) - s.t.
4. Mario Ghione (Ita - Pool Cantù-NGC-Tad Pharma) - s.t.
5. Thomas Tiozzo (Ita - Mantovani Rovigo) - s.t.
6. Alessandro Formentelli (Ita - Palazzago-Ab Isolanti-Saclà) - at 11"
7. Bernardo Riccio (Ita - Filmop-Sorelle Ramonda-Parolin) - s.t.
8. Nicola Galli (Ita - Pool Cantù-NGC-Tad Pharma) - s.t.
9. Andrea Piechele (Ita - UC Trevigiani Dynamon) - s.t.
10. Alessandro Bernardini (Ita - Bata) - s.t.

Starters: 121. Finishers: 76.

He was "best of the rest" the day before, in the Tuscan season opener Firenze-Empoli, and missed the podium - by a whisker - only because of the Team Finauto magic. But on Sunday the Italy-based Belarusian Vladimir (Uladzimir) Autka, racing for the mighty Promociclo Publy Sport (whose HQs are located in AleJet Petacchi's hometown La Spezia) was simply the best. And opened his 2007 account in the rainy 45th Gran Premio La Torre around the Florence area city of Fucecchio.

The awful combination of adverse weather conditions and a very challenging parcours took toll on the peloton (featuring 200 riders at the startline, but much less guys at the finish), and only two guys proved capable of staying up front in the late kilometres, after all previous moves were chased down: Autka and Marco Stefani (Maltinti-Solgomma), Tuscan RR champion in the U23 class the past season. But despite his class the Italian had to give up as Autka forced the pace on a slightly uphill section near the line. The "Scinto Boys" of Finauto had to settle with driving the "first losers" group across the line, and take the lowest step on the podium with Giuseppe Di Salvo, who scored his second straight third-place result.

45th GP La Torre (Fucecchio, 94 km.): Top 10 Places
1. Uladzimir Autka (Blr - Promociclo-Publysport) - 02h22' (38.630 km/h)
2. Marco Stefani (Ita - Maltinti-Solgomma) - at 05"
3. Giuseppe Di Salvo (Ita - Finauto-Neri-Lucchini-Zoccorinese) - at 50"
4. Giuseppe Ascione (Ita - Promociclo-Publysport) - s.t.
5. Teddy Turini (Ita - Danton Caparrini Vibert) - s.t.
6. Mirko Selvaggi (Ita - Mastromarco-Chianti Sensi-Vangi) - s.t.
7. Massimo Pirrera (Ita - Bedogni G.Praga-Natalini) - s.t.
8. Simone Tassini (Ita - Valdarno Cycling Toscana) - s.t.
9. Fabrizio Lucciola (Ita - Maltinti Solgomma) - s.t.
10. Mirco Battaglini (Ita - Mastromarco Chianti Sensi-Vangi) - s.t.

Young guns are off and running also in the Marche region of Eastern Italy, home to the second edition of the Gran Premio d'Apertura, organized by the Società Ciclistica Monturano Civitanova Cascinare. This comparatively easy journey of 120 km. around the town of Fermo (in the Ascoli Piceno province) saw some early and not-that-early attacks go, but none of them - not even the one put in by Colombian climber Quintero Norena - prospered; it all ended in a sprint of twelve men, those who finally succeeded in making the gap in the last lap, as they broke clear on the Monte Urano slopes.

It was a contender from Danilo Di Luca's nearby Abruzzo region who had the fastest legs: Davide D'Angelo of the Monturano "home team" came first across the line, with younger teammate Alessio Abbruzzetti as runner-up, and the Ukrainian Olexandr Surutkovych (one of the top athletes of the traditionally powerful Aran World Team) giving the podium some international flavour, while the Futura Team-Matricardi pair of Paolo Ciavatta and Mirco Roganti filled the other top five spots. Surutkovych started the sprint with the line just 100 metres away, but he was passed by the two Italians, and D'Angelo eventually snatched a comfortable victory. And a long-awaited one too, after the string of top placings his scored the past season. Worthy of mention is also the performance of Francesco Lasca, from the Tuscan team Bedogni-Monsummanese, at his first time with the pros and able to lead the first chase bunch across the line. Okay, he missed the winning move, but showed some talent nonetheless. Watch out for this boy in weeks (months, years?) to come ...

2nd GP Apertura Fermo (Fermo, 120 km.): Top 10 Places
1. Davide D'Angelo (Ita - Monturano-Civ. Cascinare) - 02h51' (42.105 km/h)
2. Alessio Abbruzzetti (Ita - Monturano-Civitanova Cascinare) - s.t.
3. Olexandr Surutkovych (Ukr - V.C. Aran World-Cantina Tollo) - s.t.
4. Paolo Ciavatta (Ita - Futura Team-Matricardi) - s.t.
5. Mirco Roganti (Ita - Futura Team-Matricardi) - s.t.
6. Amerigo Novembrini (Ita - Massi Team) - s.t.
7. Anton Sintsov (Rus - GS Montegranaro-Marini Silvano) - s.t.
8. Davide Battistella (Ita - Futura Team-Matricardi) - s.t.
9. Alain Van der Velde (Hol - Vega-Acqua & Sapone) - s.t.
10. Luca Iattici (Ita - Team Valdarno) - s.t.

Friday can be an excellent day for young gun cycling too. At least that's what they were thinking at Le Cannet-Rocheville, near Cannes, when the Velo Club Rochevillois organizers picked Friday, February 23rd as the right time for the 13th Souvenir Vietto-Gianello to run. Named after two great French riders of the 1930s and 1940s, mountain goat René Vietto and Italy-born Dante Gianello, this demanding race of close to 120 kilometres from le Cannet to the top of the Tanneron climb saw Velo Club La Pomme Marseille (the team Fumiyuki Beppu, Nicolas Roche, Mark Scanlon and many other future well-known pros used to race for) smash opposition and ride to their second win of the season out of two events taking place in southeastern France.

One week after Julien Antomarchi opened the "apple team" account at Grand Prix de Peymeinade (see our first roundup, link down in the page), it was Thierry Aupont who took the mighty bikeknights from the Mediterranean to victory ahead of Morgan Chedomme of their Paris-based rivals Aubervilliers 93. France's Fritsch, Herbretau and Sartis, all of whom racing with different outfits, filled the other top five spots.

The tough slopes of Massif de l'Esterel (a kind of Mediterranean "Grand Canyon" with its red rocks) and Marjoris - climbed twice - broke the field apart prior to the final ascent to the line. The group up front contained some former pros (Fritsch, Delalande, Mèdèric Clain, Nicolas Inaudi) but up against them were the "Apple Armada", that proved up to che challenge: the VC La Pomme guys chased down all wannabe attackers and at the same time kept Hupont under protection. Until the decisive move came on the last climb, as former FdJ and Saunier Duval professional rider Nicolas Fritsch attacked and both Chedomme and Hupon followed his move. Fritsch's most experienced legs made him the main suspect to take the win in case of a three-man sprint, and Hupond was well aware of it, so he broke away with 500m to go. That was the right move: Hupond went clear solo and made it to the line, whereas Fritsch had to settle with third place only, behind his other breakaway mate too. Riders from the U.K. didn't have their best ever performance instead: England's Adam Illingworth came in 38th, 06'32" behind the winner, and Kieran Page finished thirty spots further behind.

13th Souvenir Vietto-Gianello (Rocheville to Tanneron, 119.8 km): Top 20 Places
1. Thierry Hupont (Fra - VC La Pomme Marseille) - 03h09'40"
2. Morgan Chedomme (Fra - CM Auber93) - at 05"
3. Nicolas Fritsch (Fra - AVC Aix-en-Provence) - at 07"
4. Loic Herbreteau (Fra - CR4C Roanne) - s.t.
5. Yvan Sartis (Fra - France Police) - s.t.
6. Jonathan Balbuena (Fra - VC La Pomme Marseille) - s.t.
7. Pierre Lebreton (Fra - US Domontoise) - at 37"
8. David De Vecchi (Fra - France Police) - s.t.
9. Frédéric Dalalande (Fra - France Police) - at 58"
10. Médéric Clain (Fra - Saint Cyr Tours) - s.t.
11. Cédric Le Bris (Fra - Auber93) - at 01'09"
12. Georges Lestage (Fra - VC Cévenol) - s.t.
13. Arnold Jeannesson (Fra - Auber93) - at 01'35"
14. Nicolas Inaudi (Fra - Charvieu-Chavagneux) - at 02'06"
15. Daniel Martin (Fra - VC La Pomme Marseille) - s.t.
16. Nicolas Ligier (Fra - France Police) - at 02'50"
17. Thierry David (Fra - VC La Pomme Marseille) - at 02'55"
18. Mickaël Giraud (Fra - VC Cavaillon) - at 03'57"
19. Stéphane Tempier (Fra - UC Gapençais) - at 04'36"
20. Cédric Ravanel (Fra - Chamonix VTT) - at 05'14"

"With such great legs of mine, why should I settle for one win only?" This is what Bastien Delrot must have been thinking after opening his season account in round four of the Circuit des Plages Vendéennes series. Easier done than said: a couple days past his winning move on the way to Saint Julien des Landes, the ESEG Douai team leader delighted us with another stellar performance, and powered to victory also in Saturday's damn tough (less than fourty line-crossers out of 200 starters) leg five around Chantonnay.

The U Nantes team riders, still looking for their first joy of the 2007 season, started the fireworks with Tarmo Raudsepp. But the Estonian was later caught by close to a dozen athletes, amongst whom was the future winner. A series of tentative attacks and counter-attacks followed in the lead group, until five guys remained at the front with half a dozen kilometres left: Raudsepp, his French teammate Alexandre Naulleau, Delrot, Matthieu Jeannes, and a strong former pro such as Franck Perque. But when Naulleau attacked two km. later, on the final ascent to the line, just Bastien could follow.

The U Nantes strongman tried to drop Delrot by his wheel. And tried again. And again. But he just couldn't. Such efforts took his toll on his legs and the ESEG Douai man could easily pass him in the last few metres and take an easy win by a four second margin. Franck Perque came in at 25 seconds to clinch the other top three place. His two shows in a row lifted Delot up to spot number two in the series overall, still led - by a 25-point margin - by another dual stage winner, Mathieu Drujon.

Circuit Pl. Vendéennes #5 (Chantonnay, 133.7 km): Top 20 Places
1. Bastien Delrot (Fra - ESEG Douai) - 03h34'12" (37.451 kph)
2. Alexandre Naulleau (Fra - Team U Nantes Atlantique) - at 04"
3. Franck Perque (Fra - CC Nogent-Sur-Oise) - at 25"
4. Tarmo Raudsepp (Est - Team U Nantes Atlantique) - at 33"
5. Matthieu Jeannes (Fra - Brest Iroise Cyclisme) - s.t.
6. Cyrille Patoux (Fra - VC Rouen 76) - at 03'15"
7. Gxenaël Teillet (Fra - POCCL) - s.t.
8. Quentin Bacon (Fra - VC Rouen 76) - s.t.
9. Franck Vermeulen (Bel - VC Rouen 76) - at 03'21"
10. Michal Pawlyta (Pol - Poland's Army Team) - at 05'07"
11. Thibault Mace (Fra - Vendee U Pays de la Loire) - at 05'14"
12. Clement Mahe (Fra - Brest Iroise Cyclisme) - at 05'29"
13. Damien Pinot (Fra - Océane Cycle Poitevin) - at 05'32"
14. Kevin Sanchez (Fra - POCCL) - s.t.
15. Bertrand Goupil (Fra - Blois CAC 41) - s.t.
16. Olivier Migne (Fra - Vendee U Pays de la Loire) - s.t.
17. Benoit Legrix (Fra - VC du Bocage de Vire) - s.t.
18. Pierre Rousseau (Fra - Océane Cycle Poitevin) - s.t.
19. Gregorie Chevillon (Fra - POCCL) - s.t.
20. Clement Calado (Fra - VS Chartrain) - s.t.

Starters: 200. Finishers: 38.

Sunday, Soviet Sunday - Part One. Riders from the former republics of the USSR dominated all three races going in France this past Sunday. The most prestigious was definitely the Grand Prix Souvenir Jean Masse, reserved for U26 riders, that kicked off the cycling Coupe de France in its young gun version, similarly to what the Tour de Haut Var did among the pros. Winner of the 140-km. battle held on an undulating parcours (with the Montée des Termes, Col du Juillet and Col de Régage difficulties) around Marseille was a Moldovan rider of the local team Velo Club La Pomme: the "apple boys" tallied their third win of the season as Ruslan Sambris powered to his first success of the year, finishing 25 seconds ahead of a first chasing peloton led by Mickaël Szkolnik and Julien El Farès.

Sambris showed his mettle in the early kilometres, and made the break along with "serial escapee" (but never a winner, and obviously neither today) Sébastien Turgot of Vendée U, Laurent Beuret of SCO Dijon, Sylvain Boullin (CC Etupes), Marc Denonfoux (CR4C Roanne), Mickaël Roly (EC Montmarault-Montluçon) and his own compatriot Alexandr Pliushin (Mol - Chambéry CF). The group got caught while taking in the Régage, 40 km from the line. But when the race hit such climb again, a front group of 15 formed. And Sambris was inside. So was another top rider from VC La Pomme, Yoann Bagot, that sped off on his own; the first group reacted and cut the gap significantly down as the line was getting nearer.

Once it became clear that Bagot's move was doomed to failure, the apple boys resorted to Plan B. And Plan B worked: Sambris (not exactly riding his legs off in the previous chase) got away from the group, reached and quickly dropped his teammate, and continued on his winning trip towards the line. "I had two goals today: I wanted not to fall, and I wanted to win the race" he said after he crossed the line. Looks like the man from Chisinau, top three finisher in the 2005 L-B-L Espoirs, achieved both. And took VC La Pomme to the top of the Coupe de France Team Standings (the next round of the series is set to run at Boucles du Sud four weeks from now). La Pomme's first winner of the season, Julien Antomarchi, fell short of the top ten, while his Aussie teammate David Tanner came in 49th, over 8 minutes behind Sambris.

GP Souvenir Jean Masse (Marseille, 140.5 km): Top 20 Places
1. Ruslan Sambris (Mol - La Pomme Marseille) - 03h33'00" (39.436 km/h)
2. Mickaël Szkolnik (Fra - Albi Velo Sport) - at 25"
3. Julien El Farès (Fra - AVC Aix-en-Provence) - s.t.
4. Laurent Beuret (Fra - SCO Dijon) - s.t.
5. Sébastien Besqueut (Fra - VC Lyon Vaulx-en-Vel) - s.t.
6. Yoann Lucas (Fra - Team U Nantes-Atlantique) - s.t.
7. Blel Kadri (Fra - Albi Velo Sport) - s.t.
8. Kalle Kriit (Est - Roue d'Or St Amandoise) - s.t.
9. Rein Taaramae (Est - Roue d'Or St Amandoise) - s.t.
10. Sebastien Ivars (Fra - Chámbery CF) - s.t.
11. Julien Antomarchi (Fra - VC La Pomme Marseille) - s.t.
12. Matthieu Converset (Fra - CC Etupes Le Doubs) - s.t.
13. Jean Charles Senac (Fra - Chámbery CF) - s.t.
14. Tanel Kangert (Est - Roue d'Or St Amandoise) - s.t.
15. Yoann Bagot (Fra - VC La Pomme Marseille) - s.t.
16. Benjamin Giraud (Fra - AVC Aix-en-Provence) - at 45"
17. David Han (Fra - SCO Dijon) - at 01'05"
18. Sebastien Turgot (Fra - Vendee U-Pays de la Loire) - at 01'10"
19. Brice Feillu (Fra - CC Nogent-Sur-Oise) - s.t.
20. Arnaud Godet (Fra - CA Mantes La Ville 7) - s.t.

Coupe de France: Team Standings after Round 1
1. VC La Pomme Marseille 150 pts.
2. RO Saint-Amandoise 118 pts.
3. Albi VS 116 pts.
4. AVC Aixiois Aix-en-Provence 82 pts.
5. SCO Dijon 73 pts.
6. Chambéry CF 65 pts.
7. U Nantes-Atlantique 60 pts.
8. VC Lyon-Vaulx-en-Velin 52 pts.
9. CC Etupes 31 pts.
10. Vendée U-Pays de la Loire 22 pts.

Sunday, Soviet Sunday - Part Two. If a 22-year-old Moldovan delivered on the Mediterranean, a young Estonian replied on the Atlantic shores of Western France. Sunday's round six of Circuit des Plages Vendéennes at Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie turned hunting reserve for Gert Joeaar, that finally clinched a much-awaited victory for the home boys of Vendée U-Pays de la Loire. Prior to the start, storms on the Vendée coast put the race in jeopardy, but as the sun made its way back it all went as scheduled. The rainy weather vanished, but the strong winds didn't, and marred the peloton for most of the race. Regardless of them, Geert Joeaar made the winning move along with France's Franck Bigaud (CG Orléans), Guillaume Malle (USSA-Pavilly Barentin), Freddy Ravaleu (VC Rouen 76) and Jean-Marc Runavot (US Saint-Herblain), plus the Belgian Bram Deprez (Team Cycling Lombarden). And the Estonian was the best in the six-man sprint that determined the winner. With just a couple legs to go, Mathieu Drujon (Auber 93) maintains the lead in the circuit overall, with Bastien Delrot (ESEG Douai) still as his most dangerous GC threat and Julien Gonnet (SuperSport 35-ACNC) in third place.

Circuit Plages Vendéennes #6 (Saint Gilles): Top 20 Places
1. Gert Joeaar (Est - Vendée U Pays de la Loire)
2. Bram Deprez (Bel - Team Cycling Lombarden) - at 02"
3. Freddy Ravaleu (Fra - VC Rouen 76) - at 10"
4. Guillaume Malle (Fra - US Ste Austreberthe Pavilly Barentin) - s.t.
5. Jean-Marc Runavot (Fra - USSH) - at 13"
6. Franck Bigaud (Fra - CG Orleans) - s.t.
7. Yohan Poirier (Fra - CC Perigueux) - at 01'10"
8. Guillaume Blot (Fra - US Ste Austreberthe Pavilly Barentin) - s.t.
9. Cyrille Patoux (Fra - VC Rouen 76) - s.t.
10. Cyrille Noel (Fra - Super Sport 35-AC Noyal Chatillon) - s.t.
11. Julien Gonnet (Fra - Super Sport 35-AC Noyal Chatillon) - s.t.
12. Gaylord Cumont (Fra - US Ste Austreberthe Pavilly Barentin) - s.t.
13. Mickaël Boulet (Fra - CC Erneen) - s.t.
14. Franck Bisiaux (Fra - ESEG Douai) - s.t.
15. Clement Mas (Fra - VC Rouen 76) - s.t.
16. Alexis Bodiot (Fra - CC Nogent-sur-Oise) - s.t.
17. Mickaël Diguet (Fra - UC Sabolienne) - s.t.
18. Anthony Murillo (Fra - UC St Pierre DES Corps) - at 02'10"
19. Franck Charrier (Fra - CC Nogent-sur-Oise) - at 02'20"
20. Kevin Reza (Fra - Vendée U Pays de la Loire) - s.t.

Sunday, Soviet Sunday - Part Three. With small Moldova and Estonia stealing the show elsewhere, how could Big Russia let them go without a response? And Russians responded event thrice in the Trophée de l'Essor Basque, held in the south-western corner of France. Not that the Equipe Nationale de Russie is new to dominating this race: the trio of Kolesnikov, Khatuntsev and Trofimov destroyed opposition twelve months ago. And the recidive athletes from Moscow and surroundings did it again this past Sunday. First as Yuri Trofimov and Andrei Kluyev powered clear on the final ascent to the line, the Col d'Ibardin, in the morning's first half-stage. The former outsprinted the latter for victory, while Valeri Valinin pipped Andrew Jackson of Britain (at his second “place four performance” in the space of just a few days) for the other podium spot.

Trofimov and Kluyev figured in the top three of the second half-stage too, but just as "first losers" to Vasili Khatuntsev. Season opener winner Alexandre Blain (AVC Aix-en-Provence) and in-form Andrew Jackson tried it hard to get away from the Russians on the difficult parcours. But it turned out to be a pointless. Jackson paid for his attacking efforts and got lost in the final part of he half-stage, dropping to spot number nine in the Trophée overall, that saw Trofimov move up two places - from the 2006 edition - into first and, needless to say, Kluyev and Khatuntsev besides him on the podium.

Trophée de l'Essor Basque - Leg 1: Top 10 Places
1. Yuri Trofimov (Rus - Russian Nat. Team) - 01h55'22"
2. Andrei Kluyev (Rus - Russian Nat. Team) - at 03"
3. Valeri Valinin (Rus - Russian Nat. Team) - at 01'18"
4. Andrew Jackson (GBR - CG Orléans) - s.t.
5. Alexandre Blain (Fra - AVC Aix-en-Provence) - at 01'20"
6. Johan Mombaerts (Fra - CA Castelsarrasin) - s.t.
7. Lionel Suhubiette (Fra - Entente Sud Gascogne) - at 01'24"
8. Mickaël Damiens (Fra - GC Blagnac) - s.t.
9. Oscar Puyol (Spa - Azpiru-Ugarte) - at 01'27"
10. Loïc Herbreteau (Fra - CR4C Roanne) - at 01'39"

Trophée de l'Essor Basque - Leg 2: Top 10 Places
1. Vasili Khatuntsev (Rus - Russian Nat. Team) - 01h35'11"
2. Yuri Trofimov (Rus - Russian Nat. Team) - at 12"
3. Andrei Kluyev (Rus - Russian Nat. Team) - at 55"
4. Alexandre Blain (Fra - AVC Aix-en-Provence) - at 01'03"
5. Ivan Seledkov (Rus - Russian Nat. Team) - at 01'13"
6. Mickaël Damiens (Fra - GC Blagnac) - s.t.
7. Valeri Valinin (Rus - Russian Nat. Team) - s.t.
8. Julen Gonzalez (Spa - Azpiru-Ugarte) - at 01'48"
9. Loïc Herbreteau (Fra - CR4C Roanne) - s.t.
10. Roman Maximov (Rus - Russian Nat. Team) - s.t.

Trophée de l'Essor Basque - Final GC: Top 20 Places
1. Yuri Trofimov (Rus - Russian Nat. Team) - 03h30'45"
2. Andrei Kluyev (Rus - Russian Nat. Team) - at 46"
3. Vasili Khatuntsev (Rus - Russian Nat. Team) - at 01'38"
4. Alexandre Blain (Fra - AVC Aix-en-Provence) - at 02'11"
5. Valeri Valinin (Rus - Russian Nat. Team) - at 02'19"
6. Mickaël Damiens (Fra - GC Blagnac) - at 02'25"
7. Ivan Seledkov (Rus - Russian Nat. Team) - at 02'51"
8. Loïc Herbreteau (Fra - CR4C Roanne) - at 03'15"
9. Andrew Jackson (GBR - CG Orléans) - s.t.
10. Lionel Suhubiette (Fra - Entente Sud Gascogne) - at 03'21"
11. Roman Maximov (Rus - Russian Nat. Team) - at 03'42"
12. Iidar Zakirov (Rus - Russian Nat. Team) - at 03'42"
13. Julen Gonzalez (Spa - Azpiru-Ugarte) - at 03'57"
14. Johan Mombaerts (Fra - CA Castelsarrasin) - at 04'00"
15. Jonathan Mouchel (Fra - AVC Aix-en-Provence) - at 04'18"
16. Aleksei Shmid (Rus - Russian Nat. Team) - s.t.
17. Jakob Sdrezinski (Fra - CD Charente) - at 04'19"
18. Iozu Gonzalez (Spa - Azpiru-Ugarte) - at 04'34"
19. Serguei Shcherbakov (Rus - Russian Nat. Team) - at 04'35"
20. Ugaitz Artola (Spa - Azpiru-Ugarte) - at 04'42"

Westward to Spain, whose Under 23 and Elite-2 season began one week ago with the Circuito del Guadiana opener in Extremadura. But got into full action this week-end with four events – scattered across the country - on the menu.

The main one was the Trofeo Guerrita, a tough challenge of 151 km. starting and finishing at Alcantarilla, in the Murcian Community, and leg two of the Copa de España point-based series. 140 riders lined up for the start, and the first skirmishes came in the Alcantarilla urban circuit. Early escapees Alberto García Oblanca (Seguros Bilbao), Xabier Aranguren (Café Baqué), Javier Chacón (Andalucía Caja Sur, winner of the Spanish Cup 2006), Francisco Javier Iruela (Caja Castilla La Mancha) and Ventura Angulo (Alfus Tedes), as well as Francisco Torrella (Comunidad Valenciana) and the Costarican Andrei Amador (Lizarte) were later joined by José Canovas (Soctec-Huevar del Alfarafe), Esteban Parra (Alfus Tedes), Francisco Javier Iriarte (Seguros Bilbao), Belgium's Marcel Six (Comunidad Valenciana), and the Cafemax pair of Joaquin Soler and Cuban Luis Alberto Romero.

Such 13-strong breakaway, with so many different teams inside, unsurprisingly gained over two minutes on the bunch. The main peloton reacted on the Alto de Cuestas del Marqués slopes anyway. Cooperation came to end in the front group as the unusual Central-American duo of Amador and Romero put in a Savoldelli-ish performance while coming down the Alto de Casas de la Marina and rode away from the break. While some fugitives couldn't stay with the best ones any longer, the local rider Jesús Buendía (Avila Rojas-Ceuta) and J.J. Cano (Cosaor) attacked the field and started their own chase of the leaders. Romero punctured and was caught by a recently-formed small group with Soler, Buendía, Canovas, García Oblanca and Torrella. And Amador the Costarican couldn't go far all by himself either.

The race got (even more) hectic in the last kilometres, with some other riders struggling to regain the front, and eventually Jesús Buendía making a timely move as the race entered the final urban circuit. The Murcian racing for the Andalusian squad desperately tried to save a few seconds on his chasers and he succeeded, crossing the line in first place with a four-second margin on the Basque Francisco Javier Iriarte, while the Castillean José Angel Rodríguez took the sprint for third place, and consequently moved to the top of the Spanish Cup leaderboard. Seguros Bilbao were winners in the Teams Classifications, but it was Soctec-Huevar that stormed to the top of the Teams overall. The Spanish Cup resumes in a week with the Aitzondo Klasika in the Basque Country.

28th Trofeo Guerrita (Alcantarilla, 151 km): Top 20 Places
1. Jesús Buendia (Spa - Avila Rojas) - 03h46'42"
2. Francisco Javier Iriarte (Spa - Seguros Bilbao) - at 04"
3. José Angel Rodríguez (Spa - Caja Castilla La Mancha) - at 10"
4. Joaquin Soler (Spa - Cafemax-Marin) - at 10"
5. Jesús López (Spa - Soctec-Huevar) - at 12"
6. Joaquin Ortega (Spa - Cosaor-Costa) - at 12"
7. José Javier Cano (Spa - Cosaor-Costa) - at 12"
8. Luis Alberto Romero (Cub - Cafemax-Marin) - at 12"
9. José Canovas (Spa - Soctec-Huevar) - at 12"
10. Andrey Amador (Crc - Lizarte) - at 12"
11. Javier Saez (Spa - Café Baque) - at 12"
12. Francisco Torrella (Spa - Comunidad Valenciana) - at 12"
13. Alberto García (Spa - Seguros Bilbao) - at 19"
14. Ruben Calvo (Spa - Dirma-2002) - at 41"
15. Egoitz García (Spa - Seguros Bilbao) - at 42"
16. Juan Carlos Escamez (Spa - Comunidad Valenciana) - at 47"
17. Vicente García (Spa - Universidad Valencia) - at 48"
18. Marcel Six (Bel - Comunidad Valenciana) - at 49"
19. Cecilio Gutiérrez (Spa - Andalucia C.C) - at 49"
20. Pedro José Vera (Spa - Hierros Aguera) - at 49"

Copa de España - GC after Round 2: Top 3 Places
1. José Ángel Rodríguez (Spa - Caja Castilla-La Mancha) - 103 p.
2. Jesús López (Soctec-Huevar del Alfarafe) - 86 p.
3. Pedro José Vera (Spa - Hierros Agüera) - 67 p.

With the Ruta del Sol now over, the Córdoba province of Andalusia hosted an unusual contest on February 25th: the 3rd Subida a la Sierra del Los Califas ("Climb to the Caliphs Range") a short but steepy challenge of 15.2 km. from the streets of Córdoba up to Assuan. Above 400 riders from seven different categories were in attendance, but here we focus on the Elite-2 & Under 23 event. The young gun branch of the Andalucía-Caja Sur professional team made their season debut, and were off to a fantastic start to the season: José Luis Roldán put in a superb first place performance, and his teammate José Manuel Comino finished second overall, and first in the Elite-2 standings. The team had five more riders in the top ten spots, by the way.

Attacks and counter-attacks were launched since the early part, but led to nothing until Juan Pedro Trujillo and another Andalucía-Cajasur athlete, Sergio Carrasco, broke clear in the late part of the ascent to the line, just to be caught by nine chasers in the last thousand metres. As the two guys were reeled in José Luis Roldán counter-attacked and gained some 50 metres. A small advantage, but he managed to keep it all the way to the line and soloed to his first win of the year.

3rd Subida a la Sierra de los Califas (Córdoba to Assuan, 15.2 km):Top 10 Places
1. José Luis Roldan Carmona (Spa - Andalucia-Cajasur) - 29'12"
2. José Manuel Comino Tejada (Spa - Andalucia-Cajasur)
3. Juan Pedro Trujillo Hernández (Spa - Massi)
4. Francisco Cordon Toscano (Spa - Andalucia-Cajasur)
5. Juan Carlos Rienda Segura (Spa - Andalucia-Cajasur)
6. Sergio Carrasco García (Spa - Andalucia-Cajasur)
7. Manuel Jesús Jiménez González (Spa - Soctec-Huevar D)
8. Juan José Chinchilla Ramírez (Spa - Andalucia-Cajasur)
9. José Manuel Moreno Pérez (Spa - Andalucia-Cajasur)
10. Miguel Angel Guerrero Manzano (Spa - Ciudad De Oviedo CC)

The 2007 temporada had its starting shot fired also in Catalunya, with the Barcelona's biggest suburb, L'Hospitalet del Llobregat, hosting the start and finish of the 28th G.P. Inauguració "Memorial Joaquim Sabaté". The race was held over a 136-km. route, and saw a Catalan rider as the winner: Àlex Mollà of Vallas Sport-UC L'Hospitalet delighted the crowd with such great result. The Russian Vladimir Shehekundy (sp?) of the Lokomotiv team and another Catalan, Ricard Demiguel, were the remaining top three finishers. The Russian also proved the best Under 23 and Under 21 contender, while Jordi Cervantes (Saunier Duval-Montcada) was crowned King of the Mountains and - to nobody's surprise - Vallas Sport Unió Ciclista L'Hospitalet (that happened to be race organizers too) won the prize awarded to the best team.

28th GP Inauguració (Hospitalet, 136 km): Top 3 Places
1. Àlex Mollà (Spa - Vallas Sport - U.C. L'Hospitalet)
2. Vladimir Shehekundy (Rus - Lokomotiv Moscow) - s.t.
3. Ricard Demiguel (Spa) - s.t.

Okay folks, hold on. Just one more Elite-2 & U23 race, and this whole report is over ... The closing event is no less than the 35th Gran Premio Caja Cantabria, kick-off contest of the season in the northern Spanish region of Cantabria. This journey of 121.1 km. around Santander was won by … Olano! Nope, the man who rocked the field and won one World Champs and one Tour of Spain back in the 1990s (e.g. the legendary Abraham Olano) didn't find back his winning ways and move to Cantabria to kick younger backsides. Being this a youngster-focused roundup, the Olano we're talking about is a certain Mikel Olano, a Basque from the Gipuzkoa province of Euskadi that wears the Azysa-Cetya team jersey. And who won a hotly-disputed sprint by a very slim margins from another Basque warrior, Gorka Ruiz de Gordoa of the Bidelan powerhouse (so to speak …).

The race was initially marred by rain and wind, but those who made it to the line found magnificent sunny skies there. It got off to a frantic start, with some anarchy inside the bunch, and Saunier Duval's Héctor González as first major protagonists: he stayed clear enough kilometres to make the headlines, but couldn't gain more than a hundred seconds on the field, and was caught at Comillas. About 50 km from the line a group of 10 went clear, but the breakaway didn't work well together, and the wind helped the break lose some members. Such that only eight legs were seen up front with 15k left: those of Mikel Olano, his teammate Guillermo Lana as well as Garikoitz Zabaleta (Bidelan) and Adrián Sáez de Arregui, at Caja Rural de Navarra's service.

After the Navarran got dropped and Zabaleta had a flat, victory looked a matter of the strangely-named Azysa-Cetya team only. But the Bidelan guys are true Basque fighters, you know, they don't give up that easily: so it was no surprise that Gorka Ruiz de Gordoa stormed to the front and reached the leading pair. Azysa's victory was now in danger. Thankfully the Navarran team riders up front were outnumbering Ruiz, and with Olano enjoying a great leadout from Lana, the boy with a well-known last name emerged as winner from the tight sprint. David Gutiérrez Palacios (Saunier-Duval U23) was the top local (as in "Cantabrian") finisher, Arturo Ariño (Caja Rural) won the Mountains classification, and the Bidelan-Kirolgi warriors took some - small - solace in finishing atop the teams classification.

35th GP Caja Cantabria (Santander, 121.1 km): Top 20 Places
1. Mikel Olano (Spa - Azysa-Cetya) - 03h12'50"
2. Gorka Ruiz de Gordoa (Spa - Bidelan-Kirolgi) - s.t.
3. Guillermo lana (Spa - Azysa) - at 03"
4. Garikoitz Zabaleta (Spa - Bidelan-Kirolgi) - at 03"
5. Eriz Ruiz de Erentxun (Spa - Bidelan-Kirolgi) - at 04"
6. Adrián Sáez de Arregui (Spa - Caja Rural) - at 01'17"
7. Ander Odriozola (Spa - Bidelan-Kirolgi) - at 01'27"
8. Jagoba Sánchez (Spa - Bidelan-Kirolgi) - at 01'39"
9. David Gutiérrez (Spa - Saunier Duval) - s.t.
10. Eneko Echevez (Spa - Telco-Aldabea) - s.t.
11. Javier Ruiz (Spa - CAI) - s.t.
12. Endika Zarrabeitia (Spa - Debab.) - s.t.
13. Juan Lobato del Valle (Spa - Würth) - s.t.
14. Eugeni Zhadkevich (Rus - Telco-Aldabea) - at 01'44"
15. Iker Aldazabal (Spa - Bidelan-Kirolgi) - s.t.
16. Carlos Oyarzun (Spa - Ciudad de Oviedo) - at 01'47"
17. Mario Gutiérrez (Spa - Saunier Duval) - at 01'48"
18. Iván González (Spa - Bidelan-Kirolgi) - s.t.
19. Jonathan Fernández (Spa - GDS-Hazas de Cesto) - s.t.
20. Jon Gárate (Spa - Caja Rural) - at 01'51"


Young Guns News Roundup # 1 (02/20/2007)

  • Boucles Catalanes
  • Circuit Méditerranéen
  • Route de l'Atlantique
  • Boucles de la Soule
  • Circuit des Plages Vendéennes Round 1 (Perrier)
  • La Tramontane
  • Ronde du Canigou
  • Circuit de la Nive
  • Circuit des Plages Vendéennes Round 2 (Luçon)
  • Grand Prix de Peymeinade
  • 41st Circuito del Guadiana

    Young Guns News Roundup # 2 (02/23 /2007)

  • Circuit des Plages Vendéennes Round 3 (Saint-Urbain)
  • Ronde du Pays-Basque
  • Circuit des Plages Vendéennes Round 4 (Saint-Julien-des-Landes)
  • Le Tour du Labourd

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