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Tom Boonen is playing down his chances of becoming the first Belgian to win his country's home tour for 19 years after taking victory on the opening stage of the race yesterday, beating Danilo Napolitano of the LPR team at the end of a spectacular sprint.
"I'm on good form and am feeling well but I'm not thinking about the classifications. I want to take this race a day at a time. This was by no means an easy win. Napolitano was very tough competition. He is a very fast rider, one that surprised me at the Tour of Picardy too," said Boonen.
"During the last lap of the final circuit one of the screws in my saddle broke as I went over a hole in the road but thankfully I was still able to carry on my sprint. I'm sure the public will have enjoyed watching this great final sprint," said the Belgian, who now has nine wins to his credit this season.
- 2004 Olympic champion Paolo Bettini has given his backing to a fund-raising event for charity. The Quick Step star has decided to put up for auction the painting by Gi Di Batte celebrating his Athens 2004 Olympic gold medal win. All money raised by the auction will be donated to the European Institute of Oncology, Milan for cancer research.
If you'd like to take part in the auction, all you have to do is go www.ebay.it and insert the words 'quadro Bettini' into the search engine. Alternatively, you can click on this link and you will be taken directly to the page:
"When the painter Gi Di Batte gave me his painting featuring myself I decided that this would be an ideal opportunity to raise more money for the Institute's cancer research," says Bettini. "I believe we professional athletes have an important role in society with regard to public opinion - that of making people aware of some of the troubles in today's world. I believe this is our greatest victory ever."
- Recycling.co.uk's Chris Newton and his nearest rival Malcolm Elliott (Trinity Capital) are turning the RBD Insurance RAS in Ireland into a race of their own. After two wins against Elliott in as many days, Newton was narrowly beaten by the Sheffield rider in the first bunch sprint of the race yesterday.
A break of seven riders broke clear on the 162km stage from Lisdoonvarna-Templemore and it looked likely to stay ahead all the way to the finish line until a well organised chase by the Newton's Recycling.co.uk team foiled the move, with the last rider caught with only 100 metres remaining. Newton still leads the race overall from Elliott by eight seconds, with the third-placed rider Morten Hegreberg of Norway (Sparebanken Vest) at 2-16.
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