Qatar 4: 'Lion King' Cipo roars again

ario Cipollini won Thursday's fourth stage of the Tour of Qatar, proving that he's not finished yet

ario Cipollini won Thursday's fourth stage of the Tour of Qatar, proving that he's not finished yet
PICTURE BY TDWSPORT (click for larger image) There's certainly still life in the old 'Lion King' yet. Liquigas' Mario Cipollini, at nearly 38 years old one of the sport's elder statesmen, showed young Belgian scamp Tom Boonen (Quick Step) a thing or two - not to mention a clean pair of heels - in winning the fourth stage of the Tour of Qatar on Thursday. It was the Italian's first race win since he took a stage at the Tour de Georgia in the US in April last year, and should help to prove to some doubters that, although perhaps past his best, he's not past it per se. He did it in style, too, beating double stage winner Boonen, with Davitamon-Lotto's Aart Vierhouten in third, and leaving other top sprinters like Robert Hunter (Phonak), CSC's Fabrizio Guidi and Damien Nazon of Crdit Agricole in his wake. Cipollini was one of the 55 riders who rode clear of the rest just a few kilometres after the start, with Vierhouten's team-mates Robbie McEwen and Fred Rodriguez the only top sprinters who missed the party, but were content to take things easy and live to fight another day. In the end, the front group came home over half an hour ahead of what could only just be considered the peloton, with the 122 riders who started the day's stage split into two virtually equal groups. All of the jersey competition wearers - Lars Michaelsen in the yellow leader's jersey, Boonen in silver as leader of the points classification and the blue jersey of best young rider on Michaelsen's team-mate Matti Breschel's shoulders - were present. And by leaving the only real danger overall, Rodriguez, behind, who started the day in fourth place, 1.36 down on Michaelsen, and with Boonen more than five minutes down, now in fourth place overall behind Breschel and fellow CSC rider Fabrizio Guidi, the general classification is all but decided. "The only thing that could stop me winning now is a mechanical problem or a crash," Michaelsen bravely told procycling on his way to the podium to collect his second yellow jersey of the race. "In fact, today I did puncture after 60km, but quickly got back on, but then found that my back brake was rubbing, so had to go back to the car to get the mechanic to fix that, so I was beginning to wonder if it was going to be an unlucky day. But I feel good, and I feel confident, so hopefully everything will go okay." Stage winner Cipollini was all smiles as he quipped that it was "one for the older generation over the youngsters". "It's an important win for the team and for the sponsor, and of course I'm pleased to have got my first win of the season," said Cipollini, who turns 38 in March when he will turn his attentions to trying to win Milan-San Remo [see separate story]. "It was a very, very fast race today, but I'm feeling good, and will give it a go again tomorrow," the Italian continued, before adding with a grin: "It wasn't bad for a nearly 38 year old against a 24 year old, was it? It's a double victory in that respect!" Results 1 Mario Cipollini (Ita) Liquigas 169km in 3.31.37 (ave 47.9 kph) 2 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step 3 Aart Vierhouten (Hol) Davitamon-Lotto 4 Bjorn Schroder (Ger) Wiesenhof 5 Robert Hunter (SA) Phonak 6 Erki Putsep (Est) Ag2r 7 Angelo Furlan (Ita) Domina Vacanze 8 Alexandre Usov (Blr) Ag2r 9 Francisco Ventoso (Spa) Saunier Duval 10 Rony Martias (Fra) Bouygues Telecom Overall 1 Lars Michaelsen (Den) CSC 2 Matti Breschel (Den) CSC 1.14 3 Fabrizio Guidi (Ita) CSC 1.28 4 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step 5.21 5 Maarten Tjallingii (Hol) Marco Polo 5.43 6 Thomas Eriksen (Den) CSC 8.50 7 Giovanni Lombardi (Ita) CSC 8 Magnus Backstedt (Swe) Liquigas 12.27 9 Manuel Quinzato (Ita) Saunier Duval 12.30 10 Marco Bos (Hol) Shimano-Memory Corp 32.06
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