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Lampre sprinter Danilo Napolitano won Wednesday's first stage of the Tour of the Mediterranean between Marseille and Marignane, where Erik Zabel (Milram) picked up what is already is fifth runner-up position of the season and Australia's Mark Renshaw (Crdit Agricole) was third.
Napolitano was quick to thank his team for setting him up for the victory. "I was only thinking about winning on the last lap," he told AFP. "My victory was down to the team, who knew just how to go about setting me up for it."
A sprint had seemed unlikely when French riders Sandy Casar and Cdric Vasseur went clear early in the stage and built a lead of more than six minutes. But the pair were hampered by a strong Mistral wind blowing down the Rhone valley and were caught a couple of kilometres from the finish.
Napolitano is unlikely to retain his lead even into tomorrow afternoon. Thursday features a split stage, with the traditional summit finish on Mont Faron in the morning and a team time trial in the afternoon. The likely successor to 2005 Med winner Jens Voigt, who crashed out of the Majorca Challenge (see below) today, will no doubt become clear.
Stage 1, Marseille-Marignane
1 Danilo Napolitano (Ita) Lampre-Fondital 103.7km in 2.35.33 (40kph)
2 Erik Zabel (Ger) Milram
3 Mark Renshaw (Aus) Crdit Agricole
4 Andrus Aug (Est) Acqua e Sapone
5 Mauro Santambrogio (Ita) Lampre
6 Isaac Galvez (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne
7 Kenny van Hummel (Hol) Skil-Shimano
8 Alexandre Usov (Blr) Ag2r
9 Marco Zanotti (Ita) Unibet.com
10 Gabriele Balducci (Ita) Acqua e Sapone
1 Danilo Napolitano (Ita) Lampre-Fondital 2.35.23
2 Zabel 0.04
3 Renshaw 0.06
4 Aug 0.10
7 Van Hummel
- Paolo Bettini (Quick Step) won today's fourth leg of the Majorca Challenge, beating local rider Toni Colom (Illes Balears) and race leader David Bernabeu in a three-up sprint in Port de Soller. Colom started the decisive move from a large group on the final climb of the day, the Puig Mayor, and was quickly joined by the Italian, the race leader and Bernabeu's Comunitat Valenciana team-mate Julian Sanchez. Colom did all he could to shake off the others on the tricky descent from the Puig Mayor, but Bettini and Bernabeu refused to be budged, and the Italian underlined his early season by taking the sprint.
"After several good results finally the victory arrived," said Bettini. "I knew my condition was good but I didn't expect me to ride so strongly. Considering how much I suffered last year at the beginning of the season, this win has really a sweet taste. Next Tuesday I would like to race also a good Trofeo Laigueglia. With today's victory I will surely start that race with high ambitions."
There was no significant change in the overall standings.
Last year's Tour of the Med winner Jens Voigt will spending the rest of CSC's stay in Majorca training after crashing today. "I lost quite a bit of skin on the left side of my body and sustained some deep cuts in my hand and around my knee, but the doctors were able to stitch it all back together," said Voigt, who is on his way back to full fitness after damaging a shoulder before Christmas. "Luckily I didn't hurt my shoulder but I'm now at the point where the only thing on my body which isn't hurting is my bad shoulder," he added drily.
Stage 4, Soller-Port de Soller
1 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quick Step-Innergetic 150.6km in 3.47.10 (39.78kph)
2 Antonio Colom (Spa) Illes Balears
3 David Bernabeu (Spa) Comunitat Valenciana
4 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Illes Balears 0.25
5 Frank Schleck (Lux) CSC
6 Jesus Del Nero (Spa) 3 Molinos Resort
7 Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Liquigas
8 Angel Gomez (Spa) Saunier Duval
9 Rodrigo Garcia (Spa) Kaiku
10 Josep Jufre (Spa) Davitamon-Lotto
- A breakaway also decided today's stage of the Tour de Langkawi. Agr's great start continued as Laurent Mangel proved the canniest and quickest rider in an 11-man break, beating Australian Gene Bates into second place. There was no notable change overall, where South Africa's David George kept a near two-minute lead.
Stage 6, Shah Alam-Tampin
1 Laurent Mangel (Fra) Ag2r Prvoyance 187.7km in 4.16.53 (43.84kph)
2 Gene Bates (Aus) LPR
3 Yohann Le Boulanger (Fra) Bouygues Telecom
4 Gregory Habeaux (Bel) Landbouwkrediet
5 Shinichi Fukushima (Jpn) Japan
6 Jos Miguel Elias (Spa) Relax-Gam 0.04
7 David McCann (Ire) Giant Asia 0.05
8 Massimo Iannetti (Ita) LPR 0.08
9 Ruben Bongiorno (Arg) Panaria 0.11
10 Steffen Radochla (Ger) Wiesenhof
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