By Greg Johnson
Australia's Allan Davis is delighted with what he described as a morale-boosting victory in the Volta a Catalunya's third stage. The Discovery Channel rider's first stage victory in a UCI event since January 2006 marks a milestone for the 26 year-old, who has endured a difficult 12 months after being implicated, and subsequently cleared, in Operación Puerto and suffering an injury earlier this season.
"[It was] unexpected, but a very welcome win," Davis told Reuters. "I've been ill since taking second in the Milan-Sanremo with tendonitis, so this is good for the morale.
"Plus we didn't catch a day long-break until 800 metres from the line," added Davis. "I really thought it was going to be too close to catch them."
Prior to his bout of tendonitis, Davis had started the 2007 season on a positive note, with top three places on the Tour Down Under's Stage 5 and the Tour of California's opening stage. His form continued in March were he took a solid fifth position on the Tirreno-Adriatico's seventh stage before going on to take second at the Milano-Sanremo.
"The last year has been very tough," noted Davis. "But at least now I can put that behind me and look towards the future. It's horrible when suddenly your name appears involved in an affair like that and you've always played fairly and by the rules."
While Davis was delighted with the stage's outcome, countrymen Baden Cooke (Unibet.com), who finished in second place, wasn't so enthused about the outcome. "I'm so disappointed", said Cooke. "I was in a perfect position to win the stage, but Allan Davis cut me off in the final metres!"
The two Australians will be fierce rivals over the remaining four stages of the Spanish event, with both currently sitting 27 seconds behind race leader Imanol Erviti (Caisse d'Epargne) on general classification. The pair is also contesting a close battle in the point’s classification, with Cooke currently holding the jersey on 34 points to second placed Davis on 32.
"The odds of me giving a leader's press conference tomorrow evening are pretty small," said Davis. "I'll do my best, it's been fun leading, but I don't think I'm strong enough to hold on."
Until Catalunya, Davis' last UCI stage victory came at his home event – the Tour Down Under – where he won stages two and five, in addition to the overall point’s jersey.