Local rider Fernando Herrero of the Viña Magna-Cropu team was the race opener winner and first GC leader of the Circuito Montañés Internacional, a seven-stage cycling adventure that got underway Wednesday in the Cantabria region of northern Spain. Herrero took the honours as he outsprinted two breakaway companions, Vicente Perales of Caja Castilla La Mancha and his own teammate Diego Gallego, at Torrelavega, hometown of reigning world road champion Oscar Freire.
The all-Spanish podium trio consisted of the remainders of a broader breakaway group that went clear early into the 159.2-km. opening stage, going from Cantabria's main city Santander to Freire's territory. The first attack, coming after the gun, was launched by Russian Nikolai Trousov (Lokomtiv) and Dimitri Champion of the French National Team, who quickly built a lead of more than a minute. Later in the race, a group of eleven rode away from the field: Herrero, Gallego and Perales, as well as fellow Spaniards Victor García (Alfus Tedes), José Antonio Redondo (Würth-Liberty Seguros U23 Team), Juan Javier Estrada (Soctec Construcciones) and Javier Mejías (Saunier Duval U23), Italians Danilo Colombo and Davide Bragazzi, Australian Humbert Ashley (Podenzano-Tecninox) and Holland's Michael Elijzen (Rabobank Continental Team) halved the gap by km. 32, with the main peloton a further minute behind.
Later on, the first chasing group - with Herrero and Redondo showing the best legs there -, closed the gap on the two frontrunners, and the newly formed leading bunch was joined also by Spiuk's Pedro Romero. The Alto de Bielva, second climb of the day, split the peloton, with just half a dozen riders remaining up front, all of them from the host country: Herrero, Gallego, Perales, Victor García, Redondo and Romero. Their advantage over the main field, led by the Russian squad Lokomotiv, was yo-yoing between 01'20" and 01'50"; but the skirmishes were continuing up front, with the leading sextet being down to just three riders on the way to Torrelavega, where Herrero received the prize of his efforts. And became the second ever athlete from Cantabria able to wear the overall leader's mantle, after his almost namesake José Luis Herrera stayed atop the GC for a few days in the 1997 edition.
The main bunch came in half a minute behind, and was led home by Basque fastman Unai Elorriaga of the Alfus Tedes team. Australian Rabo-boy William Walker was the best-placed English-speaker in the stage classification; six riders from the U.S. Under 23 National Team, under the guidance of Noel De Jonckheere, are also attending this event; you can find their stage one results down in the page.
Stage 1 Results & GC after Stage 1: Top Places & Selected Riders
1. Fernando Herrero (Spa - Viña Magna-Cropu) - 03h36'26"
2. Vicente Perales (Spa - Caja Castilla La Mancha) - s.t.
3. Diego Gallego (Spa - Viña Magna-Cropu) - s.t.
4. Unai Elorriaga (Spa - Alfus Tedes) - at 31"
5. Marcel Sieberg (Ger - Team Lamonta) - s.t.
6. Oscar Grau (Spa - Viña Magna-Cropu) - s.t.
7. Maurizio Bellin (Ita - Podenzano-Tecninox) - s.t.
8. Marc de Maar (Hol - Rabobank Continental Team) - s.t.
9. Jean Mespoulede (Fra - France) - s.t.
10. Carlos Coloma (Spa - Alfus Tedes) - s.t.
11. Angel Gutiérrez (Spa - Supermercados Froiz) - s.t.
12. José Manuel Cuesta (Spa - Soctec Construcciones) - s.t.
13. José Joaquín Rojas (Spa - Würth-Liberty Seguros) - s.t.
14. William Walker (Aus - Rabobank Continental Team) - s.t.
15. Simone Meda (Ita - Podenzano Tecninox) - s.t.
67. Humbert Ashley (Aus - Podenzano-Tecninox) - s.t.
72. Keith Jennings (USA - US U23 National Team) - s.t.
83. Thomas Darby (USA - US U23 National Team) - s.t.
89. Paul Brousse (Fra - French National Team) - s.t.
124. Kevin Bouchard-Hall (USA - US U23 National Team) - at 15'34"
126. Nick Reistad (USA - US U23 National Team) - s.t.
127. Edward King (USA - US U23 National Team) - s.t.
130. Todd Eriksen (USA - US U23 National Team) - s.t.
The race continues Thursday with the second stage covering 171.5 km. between Renedo de Piélagos and Laredo.