UCI ProTour : Contador closed in, but Greipel still leads

Germany’s Andre Greipel (High Road) still leads the UCI ProTour standings after the Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco but the big-name stage race and classics riders have closed in and are now breathing down his neck.

Greipel scored a total of 62 points thanks to dominating the Tour Down Under in Australia but Tour de France winner Alberto Contador (Astana) is now second with 58 points after winning the Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco. Contador scored 50 points for overall victory and picked up eight other points for two stage victories and second place on another.

The hilly stages of the Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco again inspired some exciting racing. Contador won the opening stage and kept the race lead throughout the race before sealing overall success with victory in the final stage time trial.

2007 UCI ProTour winner Cadel Evans (Silence Lotto) finished second behind Contador in the Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco and is now fifth overall in the 2008 standings, with a total of 42 points. The tough Australian snatched victory in the final race of the UCI ProTour last year but seems on target to take the special white jersey much earlier this year.

Other new names moving into the top ten of the individual standings include Holland’s Thomas Dekker (Rabobank) and Italy’s Damiano Cunego (Lampre). Dekker was third overall in the Basque Country and is eighth in the UCI ProTour standings with 37 points. Cunego won the toughest stage in the Basque Country and finished fourth overall. He is now tenth in the UCI ProTour with 33 points.

Contador’s Astana team also won the team competition at the Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco and so moved up from third to equal first in the UCI ProTour team standings with High Road. Both teams have a total of 62 points and the Amstel Gold Race will decide who takes the lead in the competition. Thanks to Stijn Devolder’s success in the Tour of Flanders, Quick Step is third with a total of 54 points. 2007 winner CSC is slightly off the pace in fifth place with 49 points.

Spain extended its lead in the nations standings after the Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco and now has a total of 199 points. Belgium is second with 150 points and Italy is third with 88 points.

AMSTEL GOLD RACE

The UCI ProTour continues at the weekend with the Amstel Gold Race in Holland. The one-day classic criss-crosses the hilly Limberg region of Southern Holland, climbing 31 short climbs during the 257.4km race distance. As in recent years, the finish is at the top of the Cauberg climb in Valkenberg and will give the race a dramatic climax.

The Amstel Gold Race could produce a new UCI ProTour leader on Sunday. Devolder could move up from third to first if he scores at least 12 points, and Evans and three-time former world champion Oscar Freire (Rabobank) could also pull on the white UCI ProTour leader’s jersey. The Spaniard is currently sixth with 40 points after winning last weeks Gent-Wevelgem and a place in the top five would give him enough points
to move past Greipel.

Freire’s Dutch Rabobank are always especially motivated for the big race on their home roads and Freire could give them plenty to celebrate on Sunday

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