Hushovd smashes prologue

Thor Hushovd put in an impressive prologue time trial to take the victory in Lloret de Mar by a six second margin over American George Hincapie (High Road). The win was the Norwegian's fourth of the season, and second prologue win after the 10 kilometre start to Paris-Nice in March. José Iván Gutierrez (Caisse d'Epargne) was third, separated by just fractions of a second from Hincapie's Swedish team-mate Thomas Lövkvist and Karpin Galicia's Gustavo Cesar.

Hushovd had the advantage of being one of the last riders off, because while many of the early starters rode on wet roads, by the time the Credit Agricole rider took to the course the streets were dry. "I am very satisfied with this victory," Hushovd said. "Tomorrow it will be very complicated to hold onto the leader's jersey because the stage is very difficult, with several mountain passes. This does not favour me very much."

Gutiérrez was a bit surprised by his third place finish, as he is using the race as a tune-up for the Tour de France. "This course, [which was] so short, was reserved for the sprinters rather than for the time trial specialists," explained Gutiérrez. "Of course I would have liked to win today, but at the same time I have to be realistic. My condition is still far from perfect and the same way I did it last year, I am in Catalunya to look for the ideal condition to be at the top in the Tour de France. If I can win a stage, it will make me happy but as for now I don't think about that. There are some other riders in the team who can do that very well."

The expected challenge from time trial World Champion Fabian Cancellara did not materialize, and the CSC rider finished nine seconds back from Hushovd. "This is Fabian's first race since Paris-Roubaix so his feeling was that it would be nice for the team not to have a leader's jersey to defend straight away. Of course we'd have been happy had he won but it wasn't high on his list of priorities," said Team CSC sports director Dan Frost. "We had an OK start – there wasn't much to go by with such a short prologue, so all we wanted was to get this race going."

Stage 1 - May 20: Riudellots de la Selva - Banyoles, 167.8km

On the first road stage to Banyoles, the riders will get their first taste of the mountains early in the race. First, they'll encounter the category two Alt de Santa Pelaia before heading over rolling terrain en route to the category three Ganga and the big cat. one climb to Alt dels Angels. With some sixty kilometres remaining after the climb, the race could well come back together for a sprint finish on the final three 10 kilometre circuits.


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