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Ag2r's extremely impressive start to the season continued when 32-year-old Cyril Dessel won today's fourth stage of the Tour of the Mediterranean in Menton. The Frenchman finished six seconds clear of Rinaldo Nocentini (Acqua e Sapone) and Alexandre Botcharov (Crdit Agricole) in the upmarket resort after displaying superb descending skills from the 900-metre summit of the Col de la Madone.
There was some element of luck in Dessel's inheritance of the leader's jersey from Ivan Gutierrez, as it seemed that Francaise des Jeux's Thomas Lovkvist would take that prize until he was halted on the descent by a puncture. The young Swede had been leading the stage at the summit of the Madone with Botcharov, but by the time the neutral service vehicle had reached him on one of the Madone's first hairpins and provided a new wheel his hopes of leadership had gone.
Luck is clearly in short supply at Francaise des Jeux just now. Last night team boss Marc Madiot ran out of petrol on the autoroute, and all this after Philippe Gilbert had refused to wear the no.13 at the start of the race.
The victory was just the second of Dessel's career, and came after a 2005 season when he was hit by appendicitis. He admitted after his victory he has been training hard over the winter to make up for the disappointment of last year.
Stage 4, St Laurent du Var-Menton
1 Cyril Dessel (Fra) Ag2r Prvoyance 87.3km in 2.20.17 (37.34kph)
2 Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) Acqua e Sapone 0.06
3 Alexandre Botcharov (Rus) Crdit Agricole
4 Pietro Caucchioli (Ita) Crdit Agricole 0.19
5 Leonardo Bertagnolli (Ita) Cofidis 0.23
6 Ivan Gutierrez (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne 0.35
7 Paul Crake (Aus) Naturino 0.42
8 Laurens Ten Dam (Hol) Unibet.com 0.58
9 Brad McGee (Aus) Francaise des Jeux 1.01
10 Thomas Lvkvist (Swe) Francaise des Jeux
1 Cyril Dessel (Fra) Ag2r Prvoyance 8.05.27
2 Botcharov 0.03
3 Caucchioli 0.09
4 Gutierrez 0.21
5 Nocentini 0.27
6 Lvkvist 0.47
7 Bertagnolli 1.12
8 David Loosli (Swi) Lampre 1.32
9 McGee 1.43
10 Remmert Wielinga (Hol) Quick Step 1.59
- Great Britain sprinter Mark Cavendish came his closest yet to a stage win at the Tour de Langkawi when he finished second to Crdit Agricole's Sbastien Hinault on a short but rain-hit stage to Segamat. The wet conditions and twisting run-in made the last kilometre particularly tricky, but the Briton seemed to have mastered everything and everyone until he pulled his foot out of the pedal when quickly making up ground on Hinault, who went on to take the victory. There was no notable change overall, which sees South Africa's David George leading by almost two minutes going into Saturday's 16km time trial.
Stage 8, Yong Peng-Segamat
1 Sbastien Hinault (Fra) Crdit Agricole 72.7km in 1.33.33 (46.63kph)
2 Mark Cavendish (GB) Great Britain
3 Samuele Marzoli (Ita) LPR
4 Gabriele Missaglia (Ita) Selle Italia
5 Hassan Suhardi (Mas) Malaysia
6 Erki Ptsep (Est) Ag2r
7 Roger Beuchat (Swi) LPR
8 Anthony Ravard (Fra) Bouygues Telecom
9 Yohann Gene (Fra) Bouygues Telecom
10 Steffen Radochla (Ger) Wiesenhof
Dessel takes Med stage and leadClose
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