Mattan’s controversial Ghent; Valverde Basque win

While rising Spanish superstar Alejandro Valverde (right) was winning at the Tour of the Basque Coun

Cycling: Tour of Mallorca / Stage 1
VALVERDE Alejandro ( Esp )
Etape Rit
While rising Spanish superstar Alejandro Valverde (right) was winning at the Tour of the Basque Coun

PIC BY TDWSPORT.COM He has been around a long time and his successes have been rare, but Nico Mattan (Davitamon-Lotto) of Belgium pulled off perhaps the biggest win of his career this afternoon, winning ProTour race Ghent-Wevelgem in a gripping finale. Mattan overtook a flagging Juan Antonio Flecha (Fassa Bortolo) in the finishing straight to exuberantly seal his success. But there was plenty of controversy surrounding his win as TV replays revealed just how expertly Mattan had slipstreamed race vehicles and motorbikes to close the gap on Spanish rider Flecha. Although Mattan was congratulated by Flecha on the line, it was clear that the presence of a flotilla of vehicles, who should have long been pulled out of the race route, might have influenced the result. “The important thing is to win – it doesn’t matter how,” said Mattan. “When Flecha attacked it was impossible for me to go with him but he was always in my sight and I never gave up catching him. But I won with my legs, not thanks to the motorbikes.” But as the dust settled, Fassa’s management launched a furious attack on the race commissaires. Fassa team manager Giancarlo Ferretti said: “I think this race should be expelled from the ProTour. The judges clearly aren’t good enough to make it a fair race.” Flecha said it was “not a fair result.” But UCI judge Roberto Ariznavaretta defended the decision. “The result stands,” he said. “We ordered the cars to get out of the way, but if they don’t listen, what can we do? That’s cycling.” Maybe – but as Flecha and Ferretti watched Belgium celebrate a second home win in three days, they were left asking themselves, was it fair…? 67th Gent-Wevelgem results 1 Nico Mattan (Bel) Davitamon-Lotto 208km in 4.57.23 2 Juan Antonio Flecha (Spa) Fassa Bortolo 0.02 3 Daniele Bennati (Ita) Lampre-Caffita@ 9 secs 4 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Fassa Bortolo @ s.t. 5 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Credit Agricole@ s.t. 6 Baden Cooke (Aus) Francaise des Jeux @ 16 secs 7 Tom Steels (Bel) Davitamon-Lotto 0.18 8 Simone Cadamuro (Ita) Domina Vacanze 9 Erik Zabel (Ger) T-Mobile 10 Stuart O’Grady (Aus) Cofidis – Valverde wins Basque stage as team-mate Osa retains race lead The fast-rising star of Spanish cycling, 24-year-old Alejandro Valverde, won the third stage of the Tour of the Basque Country on Wednesday afternoon in Vitoria. Valverde, already a winner of a stage of Paris-Nice in March, took another prestigious win, from a group sprint, ahead of riders who had split the main bunch on the undulating run-in to the finish. Valverde sprinted clear of Giovanni Lombardi of CSC to seal stage victory in the Spanish race. His team-mate and compatriot, Aitor Osa, retained the overall race lead. Tour of the Basque Country, stage three, Ortuella-Vitoria, 176km 1 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Illes Balears 2 Giovanni Lombardi (Ita) CSC 3 Bjorn Leukemans (Bel) Davitamon-Lotto 4 Angel Perdiguero (Spa) Phonak 5 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Liquigas-Bianchi General classification after three stages ÿ 1 Aitor Osa (Spa) Illes Balears 2 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Liquigas-Bianchi 0.02 3 Patrice Halgand (Fra) Credit Agricole 4 Davide Rebellin (Ita) Gerolsteiner 5 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-Caffita 0.05