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Following his debut victory for Quick Step last weekend at the HEW Cyclassics Cup in Hamburg, Filippo Pozzato won Saturday's Tour of Lazio semi-classic on the outskirts of Rome.
"This is an important win for me as it shows I've been able to find a certain winning continuity," said 23-year-old Pozzato. "This morning both Luca Paolini and I decided that this race was going to be ours but unfortunately he had to pull out of the race due to breathing problems.
"Around 30 kilometres from the finish line Paolo Bettini pulled up alongside me to tell me to rest assured that the team was ready to bring me up to the final sprint. When a champion such as Paolo is close to you and believes in you everything becomes a lot easier. I want to dedicate this victory to the team and to all of the people that have been close to me during the last few months, months when I have done a lot of work but gathered little. These wins are for them."
Pozzato's season continues with next weekend's San Sebastian Classic, followed by the Deutschland Tour.
1 Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Quick Step-Innergetic 210km in 5.04.59
2 Murilo Fischer (Bra) Naturino
3 Krzysztof Szczawinski (Pol) Flaminia
4 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Liquigas-Bianchi
5 Maxim Iglinski (Kaz) Domina Vacanze
6 Stefano Garzelli (Ita) Liquigas-Bianchi
7 Fortunato Baliani (Ita) Panaria
8 Massimiliano Mori (Ita) Naturino
9 Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) Acqua e Sapone
10 Giuseppe Muraglia (Ita) LPR
- Ag2r's concerted move towards securing the ProTour place set to be relinquished by Fassa Bortolo gathered pace when the French team announced over the weekend that they had secured the signing of the fourth-placed finisher at the Tour de France, Francisco Mancebo. The Spaniard will be joining Ag2r with his close friend and Illes Balears' team-mate David Navas.
Illes Balears team manager Eusebio Unzue admitted at the end of last week that he was resigned to losing Mancebo, despite having offered the 29 year old an extension to his contract. "He knows that we have reached the limit of what we can offer and now he has to decide," Unzue said on Friday. "I don't think he feels sidelined by Alejandro Valverde, it's simply down to the fact that he has received better offers."
Mancebo admitted he has spoken to Cofidis and Quick Step as well as Ag2r, and explained that he wanted both a good contract from the financial point of view and the total backing of a team at next year's Tour. With Tour stage-winner Valverde now very much the star at Illes Balears, Mancebo was always likely to opt for a move. The fact that Ag2r have already signed France's top stage racer, Christophe Moreau, underlines their ambition for next season's Tour.
The dogged rather than spectacular Mancebo encapsulated the problem facing Illes Balears in trying to accommodate two leaders for the Tour, telling AS: "Alejandro Valverde is a very good rider who deserves all that he is achieving. As well as having a higher media profile than me, he is also wins more races, and I am more limited by my characteristics."
- Valverde, meanwhile, seems ever more likely to miss the Vuelta, which starts in less than three weeks. Forced out of the Tour with tendonitis in his right knee, Valverde tested the joint again last week in the high mountains with the Vuelta in mind.
"His knee was fine riding up the first few passes at a steady rhythm, but when he tried to force it on the last climb he felt it again," said Unzue. "It wasn't as bad as at the Tour, but it was bad enough for him to decide to stop."
Valverde is set to undergo a series of tests to see whether his knee has been damaged again. Assuming just minor inflammation of the joint, the Spaniard will undergo another test in the high mountains later this week.
- There were plenty of very unhappy riders and team staff following the conclusion of Sunday's fourth stage of the ENECO Tour. Complaints have been made about dangerously narrow finishing circuits, inadequate signage and a lack of marshals on road junctions.
Yesterday's stage ended in semi-chaos when a group of breakaway riders, including Americans Jason McCartney and Christian Vande Velde, were suddenly stopped 50km from the finish after the peloton had taken a wrong turn behind them. After several minutes where no one seemed to know what was going on, the three leaders, who had initially refused to stop but were forced to by the Dutch police supervising the race, set off again with a lead of four minutes instead of the six they had previously held. The trio were caught before the finish, where one of them, Davitamon's Bart Dockx commented that he would be better off drinking beer in a bar than taking part in the race.
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