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Not surprisingly, there was elation in the Phonak camp after Oscar Pereiro wrapped up the prologue of the Tour of Romandy yesterday evening. Pereiro, 10th in the Tour de France last year, often saw his options limited when Tyler Hamilton was leading the team, but since the American's doping-enforced departure, the 27-year-old Spaniard is set to get a lot more backing, starting this week in Romandy.
That 10th place at the Tour came despite being dropped by his team-mates in the team time trial when he punctured. Phonak finished just a handful of seconds behind US Postal, but Pereiro lost considerable time. Ironically, after Hamilton abandoned the race, Pereiro came through to finish as Phonak's top rider, and how much better that 10th place might have been.
"Oscar was never the team's designated leader last year but often finished as the team's leading rider," Phonak manager John Lelangue told L'Equipe, adding: "Sometimes he should surely have been protected." Directeur sportif Jacques Michaud said that "we still don't know how far he can go. He can adapt to any challenge, although he lacks a little something in the high mountains." Friday and Saturday's summit finishes in Romandy how accurate Michaud's assessment is.
- Joseba Beloki finished dead last on his return to the pro peloton in the prologue of the Tour of Romandy. However, the good news for the Spaniard, his Liberty Seguros team and his fans was that the problem was not physical but mechanical. His bars came loose on the circuit and he had to change bikes.
- Recycling.co.uk team captain Russ 'Fonzy' Downing won yesterday's first road stage of the Ruban Granitier Breton. Downing was in a breakaway from 16km with seven other riders, and then attacked with 25km to go. "It was a crazy move, but it paid off in true Fonzy style!" said Downing. The result moved Downing into second place in the overall standings, just one second behind Australian Sam Lee, although Downing later admitted he would have taken the lead as well if he hadn't started his celebration so early.