By Gregor Brown
Angelo Furlan scored a double yesterday by taking stage one and the overall lead of the Etoile de Bessèges. The 29 year-old Veneto rider topped the sprint into Palavas-les-Flots ahead of Cavendish and Marzoli. By doing so he has given his French team reassurance, after signing him this last fall, and boosted his own confidence.
"On paper it seemed like an easy stage," he recalled to tuttobiciweb.com. "But the selection was made thanks to the wind and rain. We [Crédit Agricole] were present in the sprint of around 80 to 85 riders. I went into the last curve in eight position. It was very probable that out of all [of the riders] I was the one who had preserved the most energy [during the day]."
Not since the 2004 Coppa Bernocchi, when he road for Alessio-Bianchi, has Furlan been on the podium's top step. In 2005 the ProTour began and he spent the year with Domina Vacanze. He mustered two top-five spots in the Tour de France but at the end of the year the team disbanded, partly to form Milram, and Furlan took a step down to join Gianni Savio's Professional Continental team, Selle Italia-Serramenti Diquigiovanni.
"They were two hard years that I just went through," he continued. "I cannot reprimand myself regarding the decisions. Unfortunately, every time that I would arrive in top form, like the 2005 Tour, there would be a bad crash or some other devious episode, leaving everything compromised.
"Here, at Crédit Agricole, I again have found a new way to approach cycling. I feel recharged with trust; at the team camp I felt in favour of all the riders signed. Here the courteousness and good spirits are never lacking."
His 2007 plans are for a solid build up to the Milano-Sanremo, followed by racing the Giro d'Italia. "I am a rider that in order to find my form I have to race a lot. My upcoming schedule consists of the Tour Méditerranéen and, with the Milano-Sanremo approaching, I will also race the Tirreno-Adriatico. Then we will continue with the other races that lead up to the Giro d'Italia, an important goal for us."
Furlan took a moment to thank his compatriot, Pietro Caucchioli. "This victory I dedicate to myself but also to Caucchioli," he said to La Gazzetta dello Sport. The riders, both of whom are from near Verona, have known each other for many years, racing together on Alessio for four seasons. "He put my name into the team's list. I believe in good manners and education, and he demonstrated to me an ideal environment."