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Hunter in a hurry

Robbie Hunter got his Tour of Murcia off to a fine start with a first stage victory in Spain on Wednesday.

It was the Garmin-Transition team cyclist’s first win of the season and also the United States team’s first stage win in Europe.

The 32-year-old South African clocked 4hr 15min 40sec over the 166.5-kilometre stage in San Pedro del Pinatar.

He ousted Rabobank’s Graeme Brown and HTC-Columbia rider Vicente Heynes in the sprint finish. In doing so he prevented Brown winning the Tour’s first stage three times in a row.

“Over the last climb of the day the field started to split and the speed was really high,” Garmin-Transitions director Johnny Weltz told cyclingnews.com. “The break was caught with 20 km to go. In the cross wind the field split into several groups but we had our key hitters up there: [David] Zabriskie, Robbie [Hunter] and Danny [Pate].

“As we approached the finish more people got dropped in the cross wind and the reduced group was a perfect scenario for us where Robbie rounded up the day with a clear victory!”

All of the general classification favourites such as defending champion Denis Menchov (Rabobank), Team RadioShack’s Lance Armstrong and Andreas Kl├Âden, Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) and David Zabriskie (Garmin-Transitions) arrived at the finish in the 55-rider strong lead group.

Hunter now goes into Thursday’s second stage wearing the race leader’s jersey. He faces a tough challenge to retain that jersey as the tour races 169.8km from Calasparra to Caravaca de la Cruz. The Category One Alto de San Juan will be tackled twice, although the field will have 40km of downhill and flat ground after the second crossing to regroup by the finish line.

“It’s not the biggest race in the world but its good to be winning in the new colors,” Hunter said on his Twitter feed. “Gotta say thanks to Lance Armstrong and his guys, they did a lot of work in the front to rip the bunch to pieces. They rode real impressively!”

Hunter was not the lone South African doing duty in Spain. Riding in the same team as Armstrong, Team Radioshack’s Darryl Impey took fifth spot with the same time as Hunter while Team Sky rider John-Lee Augustyn placed 19th. Armstrong himself ended 46th.


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