April 05, 2004
Valverde takes first Basque stage
Alejandro Valverde took today's first stage of the Tour of the Basque Country, ahead of Liberty Seguros's Angel Vicioso and Gerolsteiner's Davide Rebellin. The Daily Peloton notes that American Levi Leipheimer of Rabobank and US Postal's Jose Azevedo both were in the select group that contested the finish, and both finished in the top 10.
The stage victory was a rare piece of good news for Kelme which has been rocked by allegations from former rider Jesus Manzano that he was subjected to widespread doping while with the team.
The story also notes an important drop-out:
While Valverde was celebrating, his fellow Spaniard Joseba Beloki retired before the end after failing to keep up with the pace.
Three months is a pretty short time to go from unable to hang with the laughing group to leading the pack. If I were Beloki (and would that I were), I would be looking past the Tour to the Olympics or the World's.
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