Advertisements

Paris-Nice stage 8: Voeckler singing in the rain, Martin wins overall

Stage 8: Nice to Nice, 124km

The ‘Race to the Sun’ ended in extremely wet conditions in Nice, but French national champion Thomas Voeckler brought a little sunshine to the afternoon as he soloed to victory in the closing kilometres of the final stage of Paris-Nice, recording his second win of the week. Yellow jersey Tony Martin finished safely in a bunch containing most of the major contenders 1:22 behind, confirming the biggest win of the 25-year old German’s career to date. It was a day when most of the big names opted to ride safely rather than take unnecessary risks, with more than 50 riders choosing to abandon.

Voeckler won his second stage of the race with some brave descending

On another day, Martin might have found his overall lead coming under serious attack, but after Saturday’s incident-filled stage discretion proved to be the better part of valour for the major players, who all have bigger fish to fry later in the season. Instead a breakaway of 11 was allowed to form, including Europcar‘s Voeckler, Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana), Julien El Fares (Cofidis) and Diego Ulissi (Lampre).

The escape group was never allowed an advantage of more than 3:10 and was gradually whittled down over the day’s five climbs and descents. By the closing ascent of the Col d’Èze, only Voeckler and Ulissi remained at the front. The Frenchman attacked on the wet and treacherous descent into Nice with his customary aggression, dropping Ulissi and building enough of an advantage down the final straight to soft-pedal down the finish on a rain-soaked Promenade des Anglais with his arms upraised in celebration.

Tony Martin had few problems defending the yellow jersey (image courtesy of highroadsports.com)

Ulissi finished on his own, 23 seconds behind, with Euskaltel-Euskadi‘s Samuel Sánchez, the only top rider to have attacked, finishing with El Fares and López 1:06 down. It was enough to allow Sánchez to leapfrog AG2R‘s Jean-Christophe Péraud into fifth overall.

2000 winner Andréas Kloden (RadioShack) and Bradley Wiggins (Sky) finished alongside Martin to maintain second and third places respectively. (Wiggins’s high finish and second place in the time trial also earned Britain important world and Olympic qualification points.)

Cofidis‘s Rein Taaramae was fourth and also won the best young rider classification. Heinrich Haussler (Garmin-Cervélo) took the points competition, while Rémi Pauriol successfully defended his lead in the mountains classification. In total only 89 riders finished the race, out of 176 starters.

Stage winner Voeckler admitted he had taken a lot of risks, but that it was worth it to have won his second stage:

It’s a great overall result. I really took a lot of risks in the descents. I thought I was too old for such risks but I’ve still got it. Of course I thought about last year when I lost on the line and that’s why it was better to finish on my own. Two stage victories is super.

I was not very lucky on Paris-Nice in recent years but this time I had good legs and it helps. I prefer to win two stages than finishing 10th or 11th. That’s the swashbuckling cycling I love, it’s fun.

Overall winner Martin was delighted by a win which, added to his triumph in the Tour of Algarve three weeks ago, sets him up well for the Tour de France:

It’s so great. It’s the biggest success ever in my career. I’m so happy but I need some time to think about it and I’m just thrilled to win now.

Yesterday, it was super cold, really dangerous in the descents and I’m very happy that I didn’t crash. I was not sure about my win today because there were strong riders in the front but everything ended fine.

It’s a fantastic start of the season, which gives me so much confidence for the next races. I’ll be ready for the season. For sure it’s my biggest goal to have a good Tour de France. I hope I can do it. I think I’m ready for it.

Stage 8 result:

1. Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) 3:15:58

2. Diego Ulissi (Lampre-ISD) +0:23

3. Julien El Fares (Cofidis) +1:06

4. Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) +1:06

5. David López Garcia (Movistar) +1:06

General classification:

1. Tony Martin (HTC-Highroad) 34:03:37

2. Andréas Klöden (RadioShack) +0:36

3. Bradley Wiggins (Sky) +0:41

4. Rein Taaramae (Cofidis) +1:10

5. Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) +1:13

Links: Paris-Nice official website, Steephill.tv

Paris-Nice posts

Stage 1: De Gendt wins cat-and-mouse finish

Stage 2: Henderson escapes crashes, dedicates win to earthquake victims

Stage 3: Goss swerves and sprints to yellow

Stage 4: No doubting Thomases as Voeckler and de Gendt grab glory

Stage 5: Klöden edges out Sánchez

Stage 6: Martin powers to time trial victory and overall lead

Stage 7: Di Gregorio digs deep in Great Escape

Advertisements

Paris-Nice stage 7: Di Gregorio digs deep in Great Escape

Stage 7: Brignoles to Biot-Sophia Antipolis, 215km

Television images of Rémy di Gregorio‘s face in the final kilometre laid bare how deep he was having to dig to preserve his dwindling lead over his fast-closing pursuers. But it was worth it in the end as the French Astana rider clung on for a narrow victory on the longest – and also the windiest, wettest and most crash-strewn – stage of this year’s Paris-Nice.

This year’s Paris-Nice has been a consistently exciting race, and this penultimate stage from Brignoles to Biot-Sophia Antipolis was arguably the best of the lot. It started with a minute’s silence for the victims of the Japan earthquake and tsunami, and then set off in conditions which could almost have been designed to reflect that terrible disaster in microcosm, with rain and gale force winds not exactly in keeping with the ‘Race to the Sun’.

With five climbs to negotiate and concerns about the wet and windy conditions no doubt prominent in the peloton’s minds, they were reluctant to let a breakaway go in the early stages as the bunch repeatedly stretched, broke and reformed on the climbs. Eventually, on the run up to the Côte de Cabris – the first of two back-to-back first-category climbs – Karsten Kroon (BMC) and Eric Berthou (Bretagne-Schuller) finally broke clear, building a gap of 6:50.

With the peloton closing in having negotiated the final slippery descent of the Côte de Gourdon, Kroon dropped Berthou shortly after starting the first of two 18km loops of Boit-Sophia Antipolis. Nonetheless, the pack gently pulled him back in, finally completing the catch with 13km left.

Di Gregorio attacked immediately, and only Leopard-Trek‘s Linus Gerdemann made a concerted attempt to bridge the gap, but he was eventually drawn back in by the Movistar-led peloton. With two kilometres left the stage hung in the balance, with di Gregorio’s lead a fragile 18 seconds.

Then, near catastrophe. As the Frenchman pushed himself, he slipped on a white cross-walk marking. His rear wheel kicked wildly out to the left and then snapped back to the right, dislodging his right foot from its pedal, but he somehow managed to stay upright and continue on without losing time.

Di Gregorio's attack 13km from the end was rewarded with a stage win

At the kilometre flag, Movistar’s Xavier Tondó then launched a counter-attack of his own, but he was unable to shake the other leading contenders, with the yellow jersey of Tony Martin remaining glued to his rear wheel. The attack also meant that di Gregorio’s lead was rapidly eroded, but the Frenchman dug deep into his reserves and clung on to claim victory by a slender five seconds. It was his first stage win since the 2006 Tour de l’Avenir.

Tondó was passed on the approach to the finish by first Samuel Sánchez – second for the second time in three days – and then Sky‘s Rigoberto Uran. Second-placed Andréas Klöden and race leader Martin arrived two seconds later, with the other key GC men close behind.

Several other riders were less fortunate on the greasy roads. Lieuwe Westra, Heinrich Haussler (twice), Tejay van GarderenVladimir Gusev and Konstantin Sivtsov were deposited on the tarmac in separate incidents, while Robert Kiserlovski ended up under a parked lorry after coming off his bike. And several other big names, including Fränk Schleck (Leopard-Trek), Peter Sagan (Liquigas), Nicolas Roche (AG2R-La Mondiale), Romain Feillu (Vacansoleil) and Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step) abandoned either before or during the stage.

Di Gregorio was ecstatic afterwards:

For sure, I was missing moments like this. I waited so long to win a beautiful stage like this. It took a lot of work and a lot of questioning. I’m glad to offer this victory to those who kept believing in me. It was close, but to win like this you must take measured risks. With 100 metres to go, it was a real relief.

Tony Martin maintained his 36-second advantage on Klöden, but admitted it had been a tough stage:

That was a difficult day.You had to avoid all the crashes. Even when you went around the corners slowly you could find yourself on the ground. I am content that I made it to the finish in one piece.

The race concludes on Sunday with a 124km stage around Nice which includes five categorised climbs, including the first-category Col d’Èze less than 14km from the finish. RadioShack and Sky, on behalf of Klöden and third-placed Bradley Wiggins, are certain to attack, on what could yet prove to be a dramatic final day of Paris-Nice. The one thing it will most certainly not be is processional.

Stage 7 result:

1. Rémy di Gregorio (Astana) 5:46:23

2. Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) +0:05

3. Rigoberto Uran (Sky) +0:05

4. Andréas Klöden (RadioShack) +0:07

5. Tony Martin (HTC-Highroad) +0:07

General classification:

1. Tony Martin (HTC-Highroad) 30:46:17

2. Andréas Klöden (RadioShack) +0:36

3. Bradley Wiggins (Sky) +0:41

4. Rein Taaramae (Cofidis) +1:10

5. Jean-Christophe Péraud (AG2R-La Mondiale) +1:21

Links: Paris-Nice official website, Steephill.tv

Paris-Nice posts

Stage 1: De Gendt wins cat-and-mouse finish

Stage 2: Henderson escapes crashes, dedicates win to earthquake victims

Stage 3: Goss swerves and sprints to yellow

Stage 4: No doubting Thomases as Voeckler and de Gendt grab glory

Stage 5: Klöden edges out Sánchez

Stage 6: Martin powers to time trial victory and overall lead

Paris-Nice stage 6: Martin powers to time trial victory and overall lead

Stage 6: Rognes to Aix-en-Provence, 27km individual time trial

After yesterday’s shock result – where Andréas Klöden won a sprint to claim the yellow jersey – there were no surprises today. HTC-Highroad‘s supreme time-trialist Tony Martin started as the overwhelming favourite to claim victory in the 27km individual time trial and he duly delivered, beating Sky‘s Bradley Wiggins into second place by the convincing margin of 20 seconds.

Vacansoleil‘s Lieuwe Westra, who finished second to Martin in the time trial at the recent Tour of Algarve, set the early benchmark of 34:21 on the difficult down-up-down course which made it difficult for the riders to gauge their effort. He stayed on top of the timesheets for over an hour, briefly threatened by Alexandre Vinokourov, who was faster at the intermediate checkpoint but faded to come in 32 seconds behind. It was not until until Richie Porte – fourth in the time trial at the 2010 World Championships – that he was finally knocked off top spot. The Australian Saxo Bank-Sungard rider recorded 33:53, which would eventually be good enough for third overall.

Tony Martin claimed both the time trial and the yellow jersey (image courtesy of highroadsports.com)

In turn, Porte’s lead fell to Wiggins, who clocked a time nine seconds faster. This resisted all comers until Martin, running fourth-last, blitzed the first half of the course to reach the intermediate point 22 seconds faster than the Briton, and sustained his form to finish 20 seconds quicker.

Matteo Carrara, third overnight, lost 2:32 to Martin and tumbled down the GC to 15th overall. Samuel Sánchez, who would have been wearing yellow had he not lost out to Klöden in the previous day’s sprint finish, was a respectable 16th-fastest, but nonetheless dropped to eighth.

Race leader Klöden was last to go. Although he rode hard, by the checkpoint he was already 26 seconds down on Martin – who had started the day just 10 seconds behind – and continued to lose time over the second half of the course. Nonetheless his time of 34:10 was good enough for fourth on the day and kept him second overall.

In all, only five riders – Wiggins, Porte, Klöden, AG2R‘s Jean-Christophe Peraud and Westra – finished within a minute of the day’s winner.

Martin now finds himself in the yellow jersey, and stands an excellent chance of defending it all the way to Nice on Sunday. He leads Klöden by 36 seconds, with Wiggins a further three seconds back. He told the press later:

It was a good course for me, not too technical and with really good roads, and I knew I could do well on it. I started out full gas, saw I had a good advantage at the time check, and then tried to keep everything under control on the final climb.

Yesterday [Thursday] had been a hard ride through the mountains, and I didn’t keep anything back for today, so it was tough going both days. There were no particular tactics, just going all out.

While not taking anything for granted, he was confident that he can defend his lead:

This is one of my best ever victories, especially since I’ve taken the race lead. It’s still early in the season, but it gives me confidence for the races coming up, and for the Tour de France.

Now we have two tough days up ahead of us but I’m sure the boys will be up to the job, and I have quite a significant advantage. I think I can keep the jersey all the way to the finish.

Klöden said he had been too conservative in the downhill sections, but admitted he could not have prevented Martin from seizing the yellow jersey:

I should have taken more risks in the descent. It could have saved me some extra seconds. But it would not have been enough for the victory or to save the yellow jersey. We have to be honest: Martin was just better.

Stage seven is the longest of the race, taking the peloton 215 leg-sapping kilometres from Brignoles to Biot-Sophia Antipolis. The day’s route includes five categorised climbs, including a pair of back-to-back first category cols, the Côte de Cabris and the Col du Ferrier. And the stage ends with two lumpy 18-kilometre circuits around Biot-Sophia Antipolis, with the final 1.5km featuring around 80 metres of vertical gain. There will be plenty of scope for the RadioShack and Sky teams of Klöden and Wiggins to launch attacks against Martin, so his HTC-Highroad team will need to be prepared for a tough day of racing.

Stage 6 result:

1. Tony Martin (HTC-Highroad) 33:24

2. Bradley Wiggins (Sky) +0:20

3. Richie Porte (Saxo Bank-Sungard) +0:29

4. Andréas Klöden (RadioShack) +0:46

5. Jean-Christophe Peraud (AG2R-La Mondiale) +0:55

General classification:

1. Tony Martin (HTC-Highroad) 24:59:47

2. Andréas Klöden (RadioShack) +0:36

3. Bradley Wiggins (Sky) +0:39

4. Rein Taaramae (Cofidis)+1:10

5. Jean-Christophe Péraud, AG2R-La Mondiale) +1:14

Daily live coverage and highlights of Paris-Nice are being broadcast by British Eurosport.

Links: Paris-Nice official website, Steephill.tv

Paris-Nice posts

Stage 1: De Gendt wins cat-and-mouse finish

Stage 2: Henderson escapes crashes, dedicates win to earthquake victims

Stage 3: Goss swerves and sprints to yellow

Stage 4: No doubting Thomases as Voeckler and de Gendt grab glory

Stage 5: Klöden edges out Sánchez

Paris-Nice stage 5: Klöden edges out Sánchez

Stage 5: Saint-Symphorien-sur-Coise to Vernoux-en-Vivarais, 193km

Andréas Klöden edged out Samuel Sánchez in the final sprint from an elite lead group of eight riders to win Paris-Nice‘s toughest mountain stage. The 35-year old RadioShack rider had not won a non-time trial stage for six years, but was doubly rewarded for his victory by taking over the yellow jersey ahead of tomorrow’s potentially decisive individual time trial.

After a number of unsuccessful breakaway attempts on a day featuring seven categorised climbs, Vacansoleil‘s Lieuwe Westra eventually escaped off the front of the peloton. He was soon joined by Arnold Jeannesson (FDJ), David López-Garcia (Movistar), Hubert Dupont (AG2R), Christophe Le Mevel (Garmin-Cervélo) and Romain Hardy (Bretagne-Schuller). The six extended their advantage over the peloton to over four minutes before the pack started to bring the gap back down again.

Andreas Klöden (centre) wins stage five, edging out Samuel Sánchez (image courtesy of Graham Watson)

On the fourth climb of the day, the second-category Col de Montreynaud, Dupont, Westra and López dropped the other three. By the summit of the penultimate Col de Comberon 41km from the finish Westra was left on his own and was soon caught on the fast, technical descent by an FDJ-led peloton of around 60 riders. A seven-man break including four FDJ riders and yesterday’s winner Thomas Voeckler then flew off the front, only to be reeled back in at the foot of the Col de la Mûre, a tough first-category climb , 7.6km in length at an average of 8.3%.

Astana‘s Alexandre Vinokourov drove the pace aggressively on the steep lower slopes, setting up attacks by teammates Rémy di Gregorio and Roman Kreuziger. That was too much for most of the peloton, with yellow jersey Thomas de Gendt soon dropping out of the back, to be joined by sprinters Heinrich Haussler and Matt Goss, and overnight mountains classification leader Rémi Pauriol. The attacks continued up the climb as more riders fell away from the front. Eventually Matteo Carrara instigated the decisive move, dragging first Robert Kiserlovski with him and then Tony Martin, Sánchez, Xavier TondóRein Taaramae and the RadioShack pair of Klöden and Janez Brajkovič. Other GC contenders such as 2009 winner Luis León Sánchez, Richie Porte, Bradley Wiggins and Jurgen Van Den Broeck were all dropped.

This group of eight crossed the summit, 9km from the finish, and safely negotiated a fast downhill section before a gradual rise to the finish in Vernoux-en-Vivarais. Martin led the way to the line, followed by Sánchez and then Carrara, but in the final 350 metres Brajkovič charged forward to lead out Klöden, and he was able to hold off the finish of Sánchez by half a wheel. Carrara was third, Martin fourth.

Winning the stage means that the 2000 overall winner rather than the Spanish Olympic champion has the honour of wearing the yellow jersey tomorrow:

I was 24 when I won this race, now I’m 35. It’s always a big thing to win at Paris-Nice, so I’m very happy today. It’s a surprise for me to beat Samuel Sánchez but I must give a big thank you to Jani Brajkovič. He told me “Get on my wheel, I’ll lead you out.”

Stage six tomorrow sees a 27km individual time trial which may well prove decisive in terms of determining the final general classification. The course starts downhill before rising up the Côte de la Cride, and ends with a long downhill finish in Aix-en-Provence. Klöden, no mean time-trialist himself, identified HTC-Highroad‘s Tony Martin, who currently lies fourth, ten seconds behind, as the most likely threat over the long, undulating course. Aside from Fabian Cancellara (who is racing at Tirreno-Adriatico), Martin can lay claim to be the best time trial specialist currently in the sport. Klöden admitted:

I’ll try to defend the yellow jersey but I can only do my best. Tony is a specialist for time trials. It’ll be hard to beat him tomorrow.

Stage 5 result:

1. Andréas Klöden (RadioShack) 4:59:00

2. Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) same time

3. Matteo Carrara (Vacansoleil-DCM) s/t

4. Tony Martin (HTC-Highroad) s/t

5. Rein Taaramae (Cofidis) s/t

General classification:

1. Andréas Klöden (RadioShack) 24:26:13

2. Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) +0:04

3. Matteo Carrara (Vacansoleil-DCM) +0:06

4. Tony Martin (HTC-Highroad) +0:10

5. Robert Kiserlovski (Astana) +0:10

Daily live coverage and highlights of Paris-Nice are being broadcast by British Eurosport.

Links: Paris-Nice official website, Steephill.tv

Paris-Nice posts

Stage 1: De Gendt wins cat-and-mouse finish

Stage 2: Henderson escapes crashes, dedicates win to earthquake victims

Stage 3: Goss swerves and sprints to yellow

Stage 4: No doubting Thomases as Voeckler and de Gendt grab glory

Paris-Nice stage 4: No doubting Thomases as Voeckler and de Gendt grab glory

Stage 4: Crêches-sur-Saône to Belleville, 191km

Two Thomases – Europcar‘s Thomas Voeckler and Vacansoleil-DCM‘s former race leader Thomas de Gendt – grabbed the glory as, for the second time in this year’s Paris-Nice, a breakaway survived to battle it out for the stage win in Belleville. Voeckler took victory on the day, while de Gendt reclaimed the yellow jersey from Matt Goss.

The day’s break formed after six kilometres, as Voeckler and de Gendt escaped alongside Rémi Pauriol (FDJ), Rémy Di Gregorio (Astana) and Francis de Greef (Omega Pharma-Lotto), establishing a lead of 5:15. Pauriol was targeting King of the Mountains points and led over most of the climbs, while de Gendt gained two three-second bonuses by winning both intermediate sprints. De Greef dropped back into the peloton with 15km remaining, unable to sustain the pace.

Sky and Garmin-Cervélo led the chase, with the latter hoping to set up points classification leader Heinrich Haussler for the stage win. However, driven by the single-minded de Gendt, for whom time was more important than victory, the remaining four escapees kept the peloton at arm’s length all the way to the finish.

Voeckler finally won a stage at Paris-Nice, having twice finished second in the last two years

De Gendt was happy to drag the others to the line, setting up a four-up sprint and launching himself for the line from 200 metres out. Voeckler, sitting second wheel, was in prime position though, and the French champion made no mistake in timing his own burst and establishing a clear advantage which Pauriol behind him could not dent. De Gendt hung on for third and four more bonus seconds ahead of the exhausted Di Gregorio.

The peloton arrived 13 seconds after the lead quartet. Haussler tightened his grip on the points competition by winning the sprint for fifth, holding off the fast-finishing Peter Sagan, seemingly recovered from his spectacular crash in yesterday’s final sprint.

As a result, de Gendt regains the yellow leader’s jersey from Goss. Voeckler jumps up to second, ten seconds behind. Pauriol is now third, while Goss slips to fourth, 21 seconds off the lead.

Voeckler was delighted to finally win at Paris-Nice:

I had been waiting for this since 2003. I was second twice in the past [two] years and I tried again yesterday. Today, I said to myself to try my luck far from the finish as the last climb was far from the line. I had good riders with me. It was close, but it was good enough.

In the Tour de France 2004, I swapped the French champion jersey for the yellow jersey and it would be good to do it again on Paris-Nice. But with the time trial on Friday I don’t have the slightest chance to win Paris-Nice. I’m already happy to have won a stage for the team. I will try to win another one. Our week is already good.

De Gendt admitted he had only got himself into the break initially in pursuit of sprint bonuses to reclaim the yellow jersey:

Initially I just wanted to go to take the intermediate sprint bonus seconds. I thought I’d end up with Goss in the bunch, but that I could recover the yellow jersey. Finally we continued to race, and they didn’t succeed in bringing us back.

And he said that if he can survive the climbs tomorrow he will target a place in the top ten:

I hope I’ll recover from that [the effort of driving the break in the closing kilometres] by tomorrow. Stage five is a very serious one. When the climbs have a gradient of 6 or 7%, that’s no problem for me, but we’ll face 10%, so I don’t know if I can survive. I hope I will. I’m also confident of doing a decent time trial. If that’s the case, then I’ll target the top ten.

Stage five to Vernoux-en-Vivarais, which overlooks the Rhône valley, should see some potentially decisive time splits among the leading contenders, with seven categorised climbs including a pair of category ones. The Col de la Croix de Chaubouret, a 9.8 km ascent at an average gradient of 6.6%, features early on. But it will be the Col de la Mûre (7.6 km at 8.3%) which will expose any weakness in riders’ climbing legs. The summit is only nine kilometres from the finish, leaving little time to recover any lost time, and most of the last 5km is uphill too.

Stage 4 result:

1. Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) 5:04:20

2. Rémi Pauriol (FDJ) same time

3. Thomas de Gendt (Vacansoleil-DCM) s/t

4. Rémy Di Gregorio (Astana) s/t

5. Heinrich Haussler (Garmin–Cervélo) +0:13

General classification:

1. Thomas de Gendt (Vacansoleil-DCM) 19:26:46

2. Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) +0:10

3. Rémi Pauriol (FDJ) +0:16

4. Matt Goss (HTC–Highroad) +0:21

5. Rémy Di Gregorio (Astana) +0:24

Daily live coverage and highlights of Paris-Nice are being broadcast by British Eurosport.

Links: Paris-Nice official website, Steephill.tv

Paris-Nice posts

Stage 1: De Gendt wins cat-and-mouse finish

Stage 2: Henderson escapes crashes, dedicates win to earthquake victims

Stage 3: Goss swerves and sprints to yellow

%d bloggers like this: