Thor Hushovd (Cervelo) won the opening time trial in the Volta a Catalunya stage race in Spain on Monday.
The Norwegian sprint star powered around the short 3.6 kilometre course in Lloret de Mar to take the win from second-placed Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d’Epargne) by just one second. New Zealander Greg Henderson (Columbia-Highroad) came in third, two seconds adrift of Hushovd.
“This is actually a surprise for me,” Hushovd said. “After the Classics period I had a rest and tried to build up my form again, but I’m really happy with this win.”
It’s Hushovd’s third win of his relatively low-key season so far, having already taken a stage of the Tour of California and victory in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.
Valverde’s presence at the ProTour ranked race creates an uncomfortable situation. The Spaniard was recently sanctioned by the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI), and banned from racing in Italy for two years due to his alleged part in the Operacion Puerto doping scandal.
CONI say that they have matched DNA from blood samples taken from Valverde during last year’s Tour de France stage in Italy with bagged blood found in the Madrid laboratory of Dr Eufemiano Fuentes.
Valverde may face further sanctions and a worldwide ban from competition. The Spaniard has always maintained his innocence.
The Volta a Catalunya runs from May 18 to May 24 and comprises of seven stages. Last year it was won by Spaniard Gustavo Cesar (Karpin Galicia). Previous winners include Sean Kelly (1984 and 1986) and Robert Millar (1985).
Stage one: Lloret de Mar, time trial, 3.6km
1. Thor Hushovd (Norway) Cervelo in 4-47
2. Alejandro Valverde (Spain) Caisse d’Epargne at 1sec
3. Greg Henderson (New Zealand) Columbia-Highroad at 2sec
4. Matthieu Ladagnous (France) Francaise des Jeux at 3sec
5. Sylvain Chavanel (France) Quick Step at same time
6. Jussi Veikkanen (Finland) Francaise des Jeux at same time
7. Dominique Cornu (Belgium) Quick Step at same time
8. Niki Terpstra (Netherlands) Milram at 4sec
9. Daniel Oss (Italy) Liquigas at same time
10. Brett Lancaster (Australia) Cervelo at same time.
Explaining the Valverde case
Official race website: www.voltacatalunya.cat