Marco Pantani has revealed that his manager's comment's suggesting he might turn his hand to mountain biking were just a big joke. However Pantani's road career seems less of a laughing matter as he had to pull out of the Tour of Valencia - where he was over 38 minutes down on the leader - due to bronchitis.

Hopefully he'll have some nice medicine to make him feel better.

In the meantime the early season stage race was taken by Fabian Jeker who pipped long time leader Michael Boogerd by just 13 seconds after the final time trial stage.

Over in Belgium, Italian Michele Bartoli took a suprise win in the Het Volk, despite evil winter conditions, and a race which has along history of home winners.