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Laas wins first stage of two-day Tour of Estonia

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Young and ambitious Estonian national team hopes to snatch the victory at the Tour of Estonia from two pro-continental teams, one of which includes only stage one diabetics.

Tour of Estonia, now in its third year, started today with a 197-kilometer stage from Tallinn to Tartu and finishes on Saturday with a 150-kilometer Tartu Grand Prix. The tour is a prelude to the biggest cycling event in the Eastern-Europe, the 34th Tartu Rattaralli, taking place on Sunday, where best riders from Tour of Estonia compete alongside thousands of everyday cyclists.

This year, the tour, although only two days long, involves a record 18 teams, including two pro-continental teams, 13 continental teams and Estonian, Finnish and Swedish national teams.

The two pro-continental teams, Novo Nordisk and Rusvelo, are the obvious favorites, with Novo Nordisk being the only team in the world where all the members are diabetics.

"Our team is different from others but the difference is not as big as you might expect," said Novo Nordisk rider Ben Dilley. "All of our riders are first stage diabetics. Of course we have to measure blood sugar levels during training and races and we also have special team doctors, but all in all, we race the same way as all the others."

However, according to race director Indrek Kelk, German and Danish teams, as well as the young and ambitious Estonian national team, are also the ones to watch.

Unfortunately, the first stage in the Old Town of Tallinn had to be cancelled due to lack of funds, race director Indrek Kelk said.

But two legendary stages remain. The tour started on Friday morning in front of Hotel Ülemiste. An 8-man breakaway escaped with 20 kilometers to go and managed to stay in front until the end, with 21-year-old Estonian cycling hope Martin Laas taking a stage win in Tartu, after being nearly run over by a car in the finishing straight. Laas was followed by Ionnis Tamouridis (Synergy Baku) and Gustav Höög (Sweden).

The second stage will take place on Saturday on the streets of Tartu.

You can also follow a live blog, in Estonian and in English, on Tour of Estonia webpage.

On Sunday, the pros will join 4,000 recreational cyclists for the 34rd Tartu Bicycle Race. The event can be watched live on Club Tartu Marathon webpage.

Editor: M. Oll

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