Steels Wins Stage 1 of Etoile des Besseges
Tom Steels (Landbouwkrediet-Colnago) has won Stage 1 of the Etoile des Besseges. The Belgian veteran took a bunch sprint from Jo Planckaert (Mr. Bookmaker-Palmans) and Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole) to win a 139-km circuit race around Marseille in 3:43:03. Steels has taken the overall lead in the first stage race on the French cycling calendar.
The racing began early. At 30 km, Stuart O'Grady (Cofidis) attacked on the Petit Galiban. Gorka Gonzalez (Euskaltel) joined the Australian, and the pair forged an eight-minute lead before the peloton, led by Credit Agricole and Ag2r-Prevoyance, began to chase.
Baden Cooke (La Francaise des Jeux.com), Laurent Brochard (Ag2r-Prevoyance), Lorenzo Bernucci (Landbouwkrediet-Colnago), Rene Jorgensen (Alessio-Bianchi), Peter Farazijn and Janek Tombak (both from Cofidis), and Yannick Talabordon (Auber 93) left the peloton in pursuit of the fugitives. With 10 km left, the chasers caught O'Grady and Gonzalez on the Carpiagne climb. Brochard put in a solo attack, but the bunch reeled him in in the last 500 m. The stage came down to a sprint, which Steels won.
In the overall, Steels leads Planckaert and O'Grady by 0:04. Stage 2 will be a 149-km circuit race around Palavas. Will Steels keep his lead? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!