World Champion Oscar Freire (Rabobank) and Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo) have both managed to notch up that all-important first victory of the season with wins in the first stage of the Challenge Illes Balears and GP Costa Degli Etruschi respectively. Both races finished in bunch sprints, with Freire overcoming Isaac Galvez and Vicente Reynes (both Illes Balears), and Petacchi beating Luciano Pagliarini (Liquigas) and Francesco Chicchi (Fassa Bortolo). It was the first race of the season for both riders, and they join top sprinters Robbie McEwen, Tom Boonen, Mario Cipollini and Tom Steels with victories in 2005.
Meanwhile, across the other side of the world in the Tour de Langkawi in Malaysia, Panaria sprinter Graeme Brown finished off an incredible tour for him and his team by winning the final stage in Kuala Lumpur, ahead of his teammate Guillermo Bongiorno. It was Brown's fifth stage win (he also had two second places) in the 10 day race, while Bongiorno came away with two wins and three second places - the team only missing three stage wins. Brown has now gotten his season off to a flying start, and hopes to be competitive with the other top sprinters at the Giro d'Italia, his major appointment this season.