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Robbie McEwen already has a win to his credit from the Tour Down Under and wasted no time in opening his account in Europe on his first appearance of the season on Thursday. The Australian sprinter was a clear winner of the bunch sprint on the first stage of the four-day GP Internacional Costa Azul in Portugal, finishing a clear second ahead of the floundering pack, who were led in by FDJ's Bernhard Eisel. Time bonuses on the line gave McEwen a five-second lead over Eisel going into the second stage.
Stage 1, Setubal-Palmela
1 Robbie Mcewen (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto 158.3km in 4.01.54 (39.26kph)
2 Bernhard Eisel (Aut) Franaise des Jeux 0.01
3 Manuel Cardoso (Por) Carvalhelhos
4 Bruno Neves (Por) Madeinox
5 Huub Duyn (Hol) Rabobank
6 Giosue Bonomi (Ita) Barloworld
7 Pedro Miguel Lopes (Por) LA Aluminios
8 Pedro Soeiro (Por) Riberalves
9 Daniel Petrov (Bul) Maia
10 Sergio Ribeiro (Por) Barbot
- Tom Boonen got the Hasselt six-day off to a high-profile start on Thursday night with a clear victory over Rabobank's Marc Wauters in a 3,000-metre individual pursuit match-up. The world champion recommences his road commitments this Sunday at the start of the Ruta del Sol in southern Spain, where Alessandro Petacchi will be among his rivals.
- There were some interesting comments from riders at the Majorca Challenge following news of the verdict on Roberto Heras. Spanish champion Juanma Garate (Quick Step) said "the laws are there to be complied with and if Heras was unable to demonstrate his innocence then he will have to comply with the result." Former world champion Oscar Freire thought Heras was not the only one who should be blamed, saying: "It's always the cyclists who pay and the teams just sign someone new as if nothing had happened."
But the most outspoken was Phonak's Miguel Angel Martin Perdiguero, who is always a willing source for a quote-hungry hack. "I am against all sanctions," he said. "Life ought to be free for everyone and that should go for cycling as well. This is a cycling put on in a hypocritical society and it is always we cyclists who end up paying the penalty."
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