By Antonio J. Salmerón
Cold temperatures did not stop thousands of fans from attending the second edition of the Critérium Ciudad de Murcia yesterday in Spain. Race organizer Meta 21 held multiple events that were contested by some of cycling's best – Alejandro Valverde, Samuel Sánchez, Stefano Garzelli, Joaquím Rodríguez, Francisco Mancebo, Oscar Sevilla, Ángel Vicioso, Iñigo Cuesta – and a large selection of local cyclists.
The event began with a ceremony of presentation of the 27 professional cyclists, in addition to the U23 and elite riders. It was followed by a ceremonial ribbon cutting with local authorities and last year's winner, Valverde.
The first race was noted by the lively performance of Relax-GAM's Oscar Sevilla. He made it clear that the points race victory would be his, which is what ended up happening, but not without fight from the local riders. A team time trial was next. It was won by a quartet of road national champion Rodríguez (Caisse d'Epargne), national track medallist Eloy Teruel Rovira (Grupo Nicolás Mateos), 2005 San Sebastián winner Constantino Zaballa (Caisse d'Epargne) and U23 rider Pedro Jose Fructuoso (Agüera).
However, the media focused on face-to-face between Valverde and the Peugeot 205 national rally-car piloted by Alfonso Pérez Sánchez. The winner of the 2006 Liège-Bastogne-Liège took top honours. He completed two rounds of a near 700-metre city circuit in three minutes and six seconds, while Pérez Sánchez completed five rounds (to offset differences) with a time of three minutes and 53 seconds.
In the elimination it was José Joaquín Rojas (Caisse d'Epargne) who won in the sprint against his team-mate Valverde. Thanks to finishing second in the elimination and second behind Sevilla in the points race, 'The Green Bullet' won the overall competition of the Critérium Ciudad de Murcia.