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Igor Astarloa - first race in blue

By Monika Prell

Basque cyclist Igor Astarloa will debut in the Tour Méditerranéen that starts on Tuesday in Gruissan. The 2003 world champion will defend for the first time the colours of his new team, Milram, his seventh team since his begin in professionals in 2000. According to the Spanish newspaper Marca, he will be the leader of his team, assisted by his teammates Mirko Celestino, Andriy Grivko, Brett Lancaster, Mirco Lorenzetto, Elia Rigotto, Fabio Sabatini and Carlo Scognamiglio.

The Tour Méditerranéen will have only one Spanish team, Caisse d'Epargne, who will participate with four French riders, French champion Florent Brard, Eric Berthou, Mathieu Perget and the new professional Sébastien Portal; one Italian, Marco Fertonani, and three Spanish cyclists, Iván Gutiérrez, Joaquím Rodríguez and David López García.

There is also the participation of Tyler Hamilton for Tinkoff Credit Systems. The American will continue his racing after having fulfilled his two-years doping sanction. For the sprints there are cyclists such as Australian Bradley McGee, Italian Daniele Bennati and Briton Jeremy Hunt, winner of the recent Grand Prix La Marsellaise.

The Tour Méditerranéen consists of six stages, starting with a team time trial on Wednesday. The most selective stage will be held on Friday, finishing on the famed Mont Faron.