Hello and welcome to our live coverage of stage three of the 65th Paris-Nice.
The "Race to the Sun", that gets a new "coverage companion" today with the start
of the other early season Pro Tour stage race, Italy's Tirreno-Adriatico -
updates from the "Race of the Two Seas" opener will be added to this ticker -
continues its southward run towards the sea with journey of 215 km from Limoges
to Maurs la Jolie in the Corrèze and Lot areas of central France. The stage map
is available here,
and the stage profile
With three third category climbs in a row in the opening kilometres, but
notably the second category Côte du Fangas not too far from the finish, today's
stage - the longest in the whole race - is quite unlikely to end in a bunch
sprint, and if two different breakaway groups (four riders each) got close to
making it to the line the past two days, wannabe escapees have got even higher
chances to succeed on the way to Maurs.
With so many kilometres to be covered today, it was no wonder that the action
got started earlier than in past stages. But just like in previous legs, it
didn't take long (in fact only a couple kilometres) for attacks to go: a
multi-ethnic quartet formed up front as the Italian veteran Fabio Baldato
(Lampre-Fondital), aged 38, Russia's Alexandr Kolobnev (team CSC) and the German
waterboy Heinrich Haussler (Gerolsteiner) made the first move and were
soon joined by the only French member of today's lead group: Nicolas Vogondy of
Agritubel. They took over a minute out of the field by the km. 9.5 check, and
the gap ballooned up to 10 minutes and 20 seconds at km. 84, then the pack
finally put in some kind of chase and brought the margin down to nine and a half
minutes (well, that's a start at least, isn't it?) at the Saint Pantaleon de
Larche feeding zone (km. 99/116.5k to go).
In the process, Haussler collected several useful KOM points as he took first
at the Cote de St Hilaire mountain prime (Cat. 3, km. 14.5) and the following
Cote de la Grande Renaudie (Cat. 3, km. 48.5), making it three in a row at Cote
de la Pouege (Cat. 3, km. 59). The German had to settle for second place just at
the Lubersac Hot Spot Sprint (km 54.5), won by Vogondy.
But the Liquigas bring-em-back machine wasn't exactly keeping a frantic pace
at that point in the stage, and the gap was still hovering around nine minutes
with 81.5 km. to go. But as the race progressed the pursuivants got their legs
going faster, and the advantage of Baldato, Kolobnev, Hassler and Vogondy
dropped quickly to under six minutes as the race hit the town of Saint-Céré (km.
161) at the foot of the Côte du Fangas.
1500 CET We join the race in progress
with Baldato, Kolobnev, Hassler and Vogondy still away on the hills, 1 km from
the Côte du Fangas summit, the peloton, led by Liquigas and Lampre, five and a
half minutes behind, and Holland's Remmert Wielinga of the "red bird" team
Saunier Duval-Prodir that just attacked the field and gained a few hundred metres over them.
1506 CET Heinrich Haussler was first over
the top of the second category Côte du Fangas too. His performances on all four
climbs on today's menu put the German atop the KOM standings, and with no more
difficulties to come before Maurs, we can tell you for sure that he'll be wearing the King
of the Mountains jersey at the end of the stage. The peloton, led by super-rouleur Roman Kreuziger, have made further gains on the lead quartet in
the meantime, bringing the gap down to 04'25". They are also trailing Remmert
Wielinga (fifth place getter and one-point scorer at the mountain prime) by
1509 CET Team CSC's Alexander Kolobnev
won the Intermediate Sprint at Sousceyrac, with the line 37.5 km away. Remmert Wielinga realized that his efforts were taking him nowhere, and
he wasn't even getting the TV exposure he may have expected. The Dutch youngster
sat up and is waiting for the pack to catch him.
1512 CET By the way, Nicolas Vogondy,
thirty-eight seconds down on Pellizotti at the stage start (with Kolobnev at 46"
and Haussler a further three seconds back), is the virtual GC leader on the
road. But we tend to think he will not be any more at the stage finish...
1515 CET Gap update: the lead quartet
maintain an advantage of just 03'15" with 31 k go.
1522 CET First updates from the
Tirreno-Adriatico: we've got a quartet in the lead also on Italian roads, with
Salvatore Commesso as one of the escapees (Italy's Priamo and Giuseppe Muraglia,
the latter being the winner of the recent Clásica Almeria, as well as Spain's
Albizuri, are the other riders away ...), and Petacchi's Team Milram driving the
peloton charge. The biggest news so far in the stage was about Nicholas Roche
though: the young Irishman fell on a descent, along with Vladimir Efimkin and some other riders, and
reportedly broke his collarbone. We wish Stephen Roche's son a full and quick
1525 CET Nothing new on French roads
instead: Baldato, Kolobnev, Hassler and Vogondy stay up front, their advantage
is getting smaller and smaller, and also some Milram (working for Germany's
Siedler) and Quick Step men are moving towards the front of the peloton to give
their help to the chase.
1530 CET The front quartets are working
well together both at Paris-Nice (that's Baldato, Kolobnev, Hassler and Vogondy) and
Tirreno-Adriatico (Commesso, Priamo, Muraglia and Albizuri), but the bunch is
trying hard to catch them in both cases. The gap at Paris-Nice has recently
dropped to about 02'40".
1532 CET AG2R joined the chasing machine
at P-N. Stage 1 winner Jean-Patrick Nazon is confident that he can say something
also today, or so it seems. As a consequence the gap fell under the two-minute
mark. Less than 20k to go for the breakaway quartet. And soon also for the
stretched peloton, that's picking up the pace.
1534 CET - At T-A in Italy, escapees
Commesso, Priamo, Muragalia and Albizuri maintain a slender lead of 01'13" on
the Milram-led peloton. And things are not that different in France, where the "Fab
Four" still clear can boast their advantage of 01'35" with 18 kilometres left.
1537 CET - Petacchi sits comfortably
inside the peloton at TIRRENO-ADRIATICO. His teammates are doing the (Italian) job for
him. AleJet will come into action after Priamo, Commesso, Albizuri and Muraglia
are brought back. At PARIS-NICE his fellow topsprinter Tom Boonen looks in
better form than in past days. The peloton is just 15 km. from the finish in
1540 CET - Boys from Lampre and Robbie
McEwen's Lotto are adding their efforts to the chase at TIRRENO-ADRIATICO. And
this ain't good news for the three Italians and the Spaniard in the breakaway.
While back at PARIS-NICE, the gap is around the minute. It's just a matter of
time before Vogondy, Haussler, the legendary Baldato and Kolobnev are pulled
back into the pack.
1543 CET - Gap update at PARIS-NICE: 40
seconds with slightly over 11 kilometres to go. The escapees got this, and
realized any further cooperation in the front group is pointless:
Alexander Kolobnev attacks.
The three other fugitives don't even have the legs to counter such move from
the Russian. We have got one man in the lead at PARIS-NICE now: Alexander Kolobnev
of Team CSC; Baldato, Haussler and Vogondy are about to be caught by the
peloton, currently led by the whole Bennati-Armada (aka Lampre-Fondital).
1547 CET - Kolobnev is not giving up his
hopes: the Russian holds onto a lead of 20 seconds on his former breakaway
companions, with the peloton a further few seconds back.
1548 CET - Vogondy, Baldato and Haussler have been pulled back. Kolobnev ... not yet! The Russian lost just three small
seconds to the flying field in the space of 1,500 metres. He still has some
gasoline left in his legs after staying clear for over 200 km!!
1550 CET - 4.6 km to go. Kolobnev leads
the bunch by thirty seconds at PARIS-NICE. Curiously enough, the four fugitives
and the peloton at TIRRENO-ADRIATICO share the SAME GAP!!
1552 CET - But we're much closer to the
line at PARIS-NICE. 2K TO GO!! And Kolobnev
still has some margin on the chasers. 24 seconds. The down hills action played
into Kolobnev's hands.
1554 CET - LAST KM FOR THE RUSSIAN
Alex can do it!Yes, he still has enough of a lead - 300 metres to go
100M .. 50 ...
4 hours 59:35 was Alex Kolobnev's winning time.
Tom Boonen won the bunch sprint for second place ... and raised his
arms as he had won the stage!!! the Belgian perhaps hadn't realized there was a certain Russian ahead of him. A Russian that also raised his fists across
the line, and definitely with more reasons than Tom Boonen had.
The Quick Step rider just beat Bennati for second place, while Hayman, Nazon,
Paolini, Lorenzetto, Gaztanaga, Jufre and Feillu filled the other top 10 spots in
the stage classification.
Franco Pellizotti keeps the overall lead by two mere seconds on Daniele Bennati, with David Millar in third at 06".
1600 CET - Now on with TIRRENO-ADRIATICO,
where the four escapees where just chased down by the peloton as the last lap of
the final circuit inside Civitavecchia began. 3K to go here. Needless to
say, the Milram leadoutmen are all up front, ready to take AleJet all the way to
the sprint in the best possible position.
Danilo Napolitano, Thor Hushovd, Robbie McEwen and Stuey O'Grady as well as some other sprinters are ready to
give Petacchi a run for his money though. And also Bettini and Freire are in the
front places as the peloton goes under the red pennant of the last km
602 CET - Velo and Sacchi get into
action, they're Petacchi's last leadout men. The sprints starts at
TIRRENO-ADRIATICO and ... McEwen makes a wicked and early move, and holds off the peloton, such that ....
ROBBIE MCEWEN WINS!!!
The smart Aussie took everyone by surprise with a move about 400m from the
Fast Freddy Rodriguez kept a damn high pace on the last turn, and gave Robbie
a perfect leadout. McEwen came off the last turn in first place, and nobody
proved capable of catching him in the few hundred metres remaining. Petacchi
even stopped pushing as he realized that he wasn't going to pass the Aussie in any
way. The combination of Fred & Robbie did a hell'uva job today. Fast Freddy set
up an excellent sprint finish for his team leader, and McEwen just finished off the job.
1610 CET - So, again: Alexander Kolobnev
held his chasers at bay by a dozen seconds to win today's stage at PARIS-NICE.
And Robbie McEwen took line honors at Tirreno-Adriatico making a smart
move with about 350m to go, taking all other sprinters (to start with Petacchi)
by surprise. The Aussie must say a big thank you to Freddy Rodriguez, who gave
him a perfect leadout.
McEwen also captured the first overall leader's mantle in Italy, while Franco
Pellizotti saved his yellow jersey by only two seconds in France.
Tirreno - Adriatico Stage 1 Result &
1.Robbie McEwen (Predictor Lotto)
2. Oscar Freire (Rabobank)
3. Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole)
4. Bernhard Eisel (T Mobile)
5. Stuart O'Grady (Team CSC)
6. Alessandro Petacchi (Milram)