GP des Nations - 1.1
On what turned out to be a remarkable day for the Gerolsteiner team it was 33 year old Uwe Peschel who rolled back the years to take his second victory in this prestigious event. But for mechanical misfortune his team mate Michael Rich would have surely joined him on the podium in what was an emotionally charged day in Le Havre.
Since it was first run in 1932, le Grand Prix des Nations has been a reference point in the world of cycling in general, and time trialing in particular. For many years it was considered to be the "championship of the world" and even the introduction of the time trial event in the World Championships has not altered its status too much.
Where better then, than for a cycling legend to compete in his last time trial before retiring? Laurent Jalabert coped better than most on the hilly, windswept course covering typical “bocage” countryside, and his tenth place meant little to his many fans who lined the course - they were just pleased to be able to shout their farewells to the man who shall forever be remembered as “JaJA.”
Uwe Peschel, Michael Rich (both Gerolsteiner) and Laszlo Bodrogi (Mapei) were the big favourites for the day. Rich however had to cover the last 27 kilometers with a defective shift lever and missed a podium spot by 10 seconds from the day's big surprise, Yuriy Krivtov (Jean Dealtour). Krivtov, a neo-pro who won the Prix des Blés d'Or early in August surprised everyone with a stunning performance and the youngster will certainly be one to watch in the future.
Peschel, who will be 34 in November, and has had his fair share of sickness, bad luck and injury since winning the event in the 1997, was clearly in better climbing form than his rivals on the 33.5 course which was covered twice.
Peschel said, "It was a very difficult course this year, because of the profile, the condition of the roads and it was very windy...but I knew that I was in good form and had enough strength for the full distance of 67 kilometres. Even when Bodrogi led after 16.9 kilometres by 57 kilometres I remained confident." By the half way point his lead had dropped to 8 seconds, "when I heard I had 48 seconds' lead by 51 kilometres, I knew that I had judged the conditions correctly and that my tactics had been good."
Peschel and Rich are now looking towards the world Championships in 19 days time: "It is only natural that now you start to think about the World Championships," said Peschel, "the course will be shorter than today - but the competition may be harder, with the riders coming out of the Vuelta as well as those competing today. I think we will look at the starting list before saying who will be favourite."
Bodrogi will take hope in the fact that the next time he competes against Peschel in Zolder the course is virtually flat - which on todays experience should lead to one of the most exciting World Championship time trials since - er - last year!
1. Uwe Peschel (ALL, Gerolsteiner) les 67 km en 1h24'04" (47,8 km/h)
2. Laszlo Bodrogi (HON, Mapei-Quick Step) à 36 sec.
3. Yuriy Krivtsov (UKR, Jean Delatour) à 54 sec.
4. Michael Rich (ALL, Gerolsteiner) à 1'04"
5. Jean Nuttli (SUI, Oktos-Saint-Quentin) à 1'07"
6. Viatcheslav Ekimov (RUS, US Postal) à 1'10"
7. Christophe Moreau (FRA, Crédit Agricole) à 1'38"
8. Fabian Cancellara (SUI, Mapei-Quick Step) à 1'40"
9. Michael Rogers (AUS, Mapei-Quick Step) à 2'25"
10. Laurent Jalabert (FRA, CSC-Tiscali) à 2'38"