The Race to the Sun. A look at the reactions and ambitions of T Mobile, Team CSC, The Discovery Channel, Liquigas, Lampre Fondital, Saunier Duval and Team Milram.
Paris Nice 2006 c. Fabio
The stages :
Prologue - Sunday, March 11: Issy-les-Moulineaux, ITT, 4.7 km
Stage 1 - Monday, March 12: Cloyes-sur-le-Loir - Buzançais, 186 km
Stage 2 - Tuesday, March 13: Vatan - Limoges, 177 km
Stage 3 - Wednesday, March 14: Limoges - Maurs, 215.5 km
Stage 4 (Queen Stage)- Thursday, March 15: Maurs - Mende, 169.5 km -
Stage 5 - Friday, March 16: Sorgues - Manosque, 178 km
Stage 6 - Saturday, March 17: Brignoles - Cannes, 200 km
Stage 7 - Sunday, March 18: Nice - Nice, 129.5 km
Total: 1260 km
Paris Nice 2006 c. Fabio
T Mobile Reports
Patrik Sinkewitz spearheads the T-Mobile Team roster at Paris-Nice (March 11 to 18), the so-called ‘race to the sun’ that opens the ProTour season. "It's very early in the cycling season, but Patrik is already in good form. He is our man for the overall", says Rolf Aldag, the T-Mobile Team sporting director.
The eight-day stage race kicks-off this year with a 4.7 km prologue in Issy-les-Moulineaux on the southern outskirts of Paris on Sunday, and ends with its traditional finish on the 'Promenade des Anglais' waterfront in Nice a week later.
Aldag: "Patrik has been on the track in recent days to test his position on the bike in time trials, so he should be well prepared for the prologue opener."
The 26-year-old Sinkewitz will have the support of seven team mates on the 1260km north-south trek across France. The in-form Roger Hammond arrives fresh off a strong performance in the 'Le Samyn’ one-day race on Wednesday, where he was unlucky to just miss the podium. And the New Zealand sprint specialist Greg Henderson is fit again after recovering from a light cold - and he will be gunning for stage wins on the first three typical sprinters' stages.
Chrono specialist Bert Grabsch has high ambitions for the opening prologue, while Axel Merckx, Jakob Piil, Michael Barry, Hammond and youngster Marcus Burghardt will provide the support for captain 'Sinki', and seek opportunities to get away in breaks. "We will have a motivated team here, and each of these riders have already shown well in their races so far this season," says Aldag.
This year, the race will take a new turn as the peloton will pass France's central mountain range, using the Central Massif on its western side instead of heading straight towards the Côte d'Azur on the eastern side. After the first three sprinters' stages, the second part of the week will offer opportunities for breakaways and climbers.
The first decisive climb will be the climb up the airport of Mende on stage four, which has been re-named 'Montée Laurent Jalabert' since the Frenchman won a Tour de France stage there in 1995. The final stage, which takes the peloton through the hinterland of Nice also includes its share of tough climbs - and the GC could go all the way to the wire.
20 teams will start the event: all ProTour teams, except Swedish-Belgian outfit Unibet.com, as well as French Pro Continental squad Agritubel.
Among the pre-race favourites are the Tour of California winner Levi Leipheimer (Discovery Channel), 2005 Paris-Nice winner Bobby Julich (CSC) and Australian stage race specialist Cadel Evans (Predictor-Lotto). Tom Boonen (Quick Step) also starts and the big Belgian is likely to be a real force in the sprinters’ stages. (gl)
The T-Mobile roster in brief:
Michael Barry (31/Canada), Marcus Burghardt (23), Bert Grabsch (31), Roger Hammond (33/Great Britain), Greg Henderson (30/New Zealand), Axel Merckx (34/Belgium), Jakob Piil (33/Denmark) and Patrik Sinkewitz (26).
Sporting directors: Brian Holm (44/Denmark) and Allan Peiper (46/Australia)
Paris Nice 2006 c. Fabio
Team CSC Prepare
After having been threatened by cancellation, due to the recently resolved conflict in professional cycling, Paris-Nice has now found its way back on the calendar and Team CSC is ready.
The race holds a number of proud traditions for the team with victories in 2004 and 2005, and sports director Alain Gallopin sees plenty of opportunities in this the 65th edition of La Course au Soleil – The Race Against the Sun.
The race begins with a short technically demanding prologue in Issy-les-Moulineaux, close to the headquarters of the race-organizers in the Southern part of Paris, and finishes the following Sunday with a tough stage in the area around Nice, which presents the opportunity for a very exciting finale of the 1260-kilometer race.
”It's quite an interesting route and I think we have a very strong line-up. From my point of view we have two possible captains in Fränk Schlek and Bobby Julich, as well as a number of riders, who can provide them with the necessary back up along the way - and maybe even make some attacks as well. With the experience that Bobby has with this race and the form, which Fränk demonstrated in Valencia we ought to be very much in competition for the jersey,” determines Team CSC's Alain Gallopin, who is studying each separate stage closely at the moment.
”Anything can happen during the mountain stages in Massif Central, and I imagine that fourth stage to Mende will give us a taste of the end result in Nice. It finishes in a very steep thee-kilometer climb, which should be good for Fränk and Bobby. But on the whole I'm expecting the stages in the final weekend to be the ones to decide the race. Regardless it will be extremely difficult to control the race ahead of the last stages, but I think the sprinter teams will attempt to keep the peloton together till then anyway,” adds Gallopin.
Soon we will begin the 65th edition of Paris-Nice, the first stage race of the season often called the "race to the sun" as very cold temperatures in the beginning usually lead to very nice weather once we get to the south of France. For the Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team, our goal is very simple: we are sending a very strong team – as are all the Pro Tour teams – and we have to go there to win.
Normally Alberto Contador would be our designated team leader. Paris-Nice is a Spring goal of his, and he's in good shape and very motivated, especially after his recent stage win at the Tour of Andalucia. But the team we're bringing is very strong and a lot can happen in the first few stages that could alter who we ride for. Our plan is to be an attacking and aggressive team that takes the race to the peloton. I want to see our riders in all the key breaks, and so in addition to Contador I expect to see strong performances from the likes of Levi Leipheimer, Tom Danielson, Stijn Devolder, and Yaroslav Popovych.
Where will the real battle occur? Look to Stage 4, the road to Mende, the same route that we used in the Tour de France two years ago. If all things are stable by then, I expect Contador to fly and be very good that day. Speaking of battles, many of you are aware that there has been a lot of controversy regarding Paris-Nice and the riders / teams participating. As far as I am concerned, the controversy is over and it is good that everyone is willing to talk; the atmosphere is a lot better than it was just 10 days ago.
It's our first big challenge on the European Pro Tour, thank you for your support and we will race to win! - Johan
Team :Alberto Contador, Tom Danielson, Stijn Devolder, Levi Leipheimer, Sergio Paulinho, Yaroslav Popovych, Tomas Vaitkus, Matt White
Paris Nice 2006 c. Fabio
Liquigas at Paris-Nice with Pellizotti and Paolini
Team manager Amadio: «We aim at stage wins and Pellizotti for the final ranking»
Franco Pellizotti and Luca Paolini will be the Liquigas' attacking men at the Paris-Nice. The green-blue team will be directed by Dario Mariuzzo and Mario Scirea, featuring also Patrick Calcagni, Murilo Fischer, Roman Kreuziger, Ailaksandr Kuchynski, Matej Mugerli and Alessandro Vanotti.
General manager Roberto Amadio relies on the team's ability to play «a role of protagonist. Pellizotti and Paolini turned out well from the Tour of California, and Fischer could aim at a stage win too. Our purpose is one stage while Pellizotti, already ninth in California, could enter into the "top ten" also at the Paris-Nice».
Lampre-Fondital will be in the next days in France in order to take part in Paris-Nice (11-18 March).
The cyclists of Blue-fucsia team will be: Fabio Baldato, Daniele Bennati, Claudio Corioni, David Loosli, Massimiliano Mori, Daniele Righi, Tadej Valjavec and Patxi Vila. In the staff there will be sport directors Guido Bontempi and Maurizio Piovani, supported by doctor Andreazzoli, mechanics Biron, Camibè and Pengo, masseurs Benvenuti, Pizzini and Napolitano.
“We’ll race with a team characterized by good quality and a lot of experience - Guido Bontempi explained - We want to realize good performances in this race that last year gave us satisfactions such as Vila stage victory and his second place in the overall standing. There will be many strong teams because this is the first very important race in this season: for the overall standing we have Vila and Valjavec; Bennati will work with the aim to prepare in a perfect way Milano-Sanremo, also because he will be able to observe closely his opponents for the Spring Classic”.
The first classic in the UCI Pro Tour calendar, Paris-Nice, starts this Sunday, and the SAUNIER DUVAL-PRODIR team will be there when the flag is dropped. Coached by Joxean "Matxin" Fernández and Sabino Angoitia, the riders in the strong yellow squad will be David Millar, Francisco Ventoso, Iban Mayo, Jesús del Nero, Alberto Fernández, Iker Camaño, Christophe Rinero and Remmert Wielinga.
Paris Nice 2006 c. Fabio
Team MILRAM will start at Paris - Niece from 11 to 18 March 2007. All ProTour teams except for Unibet and Astana will participate in the race that constitutes the beginning of the ProTour season. This decision was made on Monday evening and is a compromise in the quarrel between the three big organisers ASO, RCS and Unipublic on the one hand and the international cycling federation UCI on the other. At a meeting in Belgium both parties agreed on the following points: the ProTour season is to take place as planned, a final solution to the conflict is to be found in regular meetings by 21 September 2007.
Until then, all ProTour teams except for Unibet and Astana will participate in the races organised by ASO, RCS and Unipublic (which are, amongst others, the Giro d’Italia, the Tour de France and the Vuelta a Espana). The organisers have the right to hand out wild cards to teams of their choice. In this choice they will check if wild cards are handed out to Unibet and Astana. The decision here is up to the organisers. The organisers are not obliged to label the races as ProTour races. However, the handing over of the respective jerseys has to be permitted. The UCI will desist from any penalties and foregoes its regulatory role. These agreements are only provisional and valid until 21 October 2007.
The quarrels between the UCI and the three big organisers have been going on since the foundation of the ProTour series. The organisators refuse to accept the ProTour series in order to establish their own criteria in the selection of the starting field. For this reason, the ASO didn’t invite all ProTour teams to its ProTour race Paris - Niece and declared it a „national race“ outside of the UCI calendar. According to the UCI regulations, however, all ProTour teams have to be considered in all ProTour races. The ProTour teams in turn are not permitted to start at „national races“. Consequently, the teams found themselves inbetween the fronts: in case of a participation at Paris - Niece the UCI threatened with revocating the licenses, in case of absence the ASO threatened to disregard the teams in the allocation of the starting places for the Tour de France. In order to avert a break within cycling, the federation of the professional cycling teams, the IPCT, brought all parties together on Monday.
The compromise now allows Team MILRAM to start at Paris - Niece. If there hadn’t been a solution to the conflict, the team probably would have followed the UCI’s allegations. „UCI ProTour teams are not allowed to participate in a race that is listed in a national calendar,“ Gerry van Gerwen, commercial manager of Team MILRAM, says. „If Paris - Nice had dropped out of the racing calendar and been declared a ‚free race’ in the French racing calendar, no ProTour team would have been allowed to start,“ Gerry van Gerwen continues. For the riders the race is of special importance as a preparation for the grand spring classics. (Courtesy Milram)
2006 - Floyd Landis (USA)
2005 - Bobby Julich (USA)
2004 - Jörg Jaksche (GER)
2003 - Alexandre Vinokourov (KAZ)
2002 - Alexandre Vinokourov (KAZ)
2001 - Dario Frigo (ITA)
2000 - Andreas Klöden (GER)
1999 - Michael Boogerd (NED)
1998 - Franck Vandenbroucke (BEL)
1997 - Laurent Jalabert (FRA)
1996 - Laurent Jalabert (FRA)
1995 - Laurent Jalabert (FRA)
1994 - Tony Rominger (SWI)
1993 - Alex Zülle (SWI)