Stage 1, Auxerre – Paray-le-Monial, 191km
This should be the sprinters’ best opportunity with just two Category 3 climbs to hinder them. Expect Fassa Bortolo and Lotto-Domo to bring in any escapees for a big showdown at the finish between in-form Alessandro Petacchi and Robbie McEwen. Other Aussies Stuart O’Grady and Baden Cooke could sneak a victory.
Good afternoon welcome to our live report of the race in progress; don't forget to hit the F5 button to refresh the page.
Coverage by Locutus and podofdonny
67 kilometres to go and Stéphane Augé the Credit Agricole rider is on a long solo break away (Fra) he had a maximum lead of over ten minutes but this is coming down all the time. He has been in the lead for 80 kilometres. The peloton has net yet begun to chase in earnest.
Over the top of Côte de Saint-Honoré-les-Bains, Auge has a lead of around 4'30'' - Auge has been a professional since 2000 and he has ridden for Festina, Jean Delatour and now Crédit Agricole.
The peloton looks comfortable and not at all worried.
Auge had two victories in 2000 - he won the first stage of the Tour de Poitou in Charentes and in 2002 he won the 6th stage of the Deutschland Tour, into Oberstdorf.
It's a beautiful day in France for a long breakaway. The sun is shining and the weather looks extremely comfortable.
Saeco is on the front driving the chase, not too hard though. They have five men at the front, clearly trying to set up their man, Ivan "lead shorts" Quaranta.
Quaranta has made it over the smallish climbs today. That is actually quite the accomplishment for him. In a straight up sprint to the line, he has a burst that few can match.
58 km. Auge looks to be laboring. His teammate Stuart O'Grady will like his chances. He has shown a return to form so far this season, and should be up to challenge Robbie McEwen (Lotto-Domo) and Baden Cooke (FDJeux.com) in the battle with Quaranta.
O'Grady started the day just 5" behind overall leader Mattan (Cofidis); if O'Grady gets a high placing, he could pull on the leader's jersey at the end of the day.
Auge looks to be just riding tempo now. He's still moving along at a good clip, but the jig is clearly up. The Saeco train looks good on the front. The Lotto-Domo boys are there too, setting up their man McEwen on the front of the peloton.
53 km. The sprinters' teams won't want to bring Auge back too fast. If they do, they'll have to contend with too many counterattacks. The Saeco and Lotto boys are still there on the front, but the peloton no longer has a sharp point. Clearly they've backed off the chase a bit.
50 km to go. Auge left the peloton at around 23 km into the stage; he's been out there alone a long time. Auge's lead has now dwindled to under three minutes.
In my coverage yesterday, I failed to mention the outstanding ride by former Paris-Nice winner Frank Vandenbroucke (QuickStep-Daviamon). He came across in 17th only 10" behind Mattan. With his great ride in the recent Het Volk, Frank looks like he's really found his old form again. This could mean big trouble for the rest of the peloton.
After all his struggles over the last few years, there are a lot of people who would love to see the troubled Belgian return to the top of the sport. He has Richard Virenque and Kurt van de Wouwer on his team as well. If these experienced climbers work to help him (big if), he could do some damage in the next few days.
45 km to go. Auge's lead is now under two minutes. A Saeco rider and a Mileneza rider attack to contest the final KOM points for the day. Earlier in the day, O'Grady picked up a 2" bonus to move him to within 3" of Mattan and 1" of Hamilton.
There is one more sprint bonus on offer today. If O'Grady could snatch first or second there, he could be in the leader's jersey without even contesting the day's finale.
Auge has just been swept up by the peloton. He raises his tempo to try to catch onto some wheels. He gets lots of pats on the back from the riders as he slides back into the pack. A Telekom rider is on the front, likely working for their sprinter Danilo Hondo.
We Americans (Locutus speaking here) are feeling a bit cocky with the 2nd place of Tyler Hamilton (CSC) in the Paris-Nice prologue and Lance Armstrong's 2nd place in the Tour of Murcia's final time trial yesterday.
40 km to go. A Cofidis man launches an attack now, and a small breakaway is trying to take shape. The sprinters' teams are going to have a rough time trying to keep it all together...they caught Auge too far from the finish.
The peloton is strung out single file: the hammer is now down. The attacks, counterattacks, and chases are lighting up the road. Koos Moerenhout of Lotto-Domo is sitting on the Cofidis rider. A Jean Delatour man is there as well. The group of three has a small gap, and only the Cofidis man is working. He now sits up, realizing that resistance is futile, and the peloton sweeps them up again.
38 km left. The all-important final sprint bonus is now approaching. There are lots of attacks coming everywhere. It's hard to keep track. I wouldn't be surprised to see O'Grady launch to try to get a bonus. AG2r, FDJeux.com, and Jean Delatour keep sending men on the attack. I wonder if Jean-Marie LeBlanc is noticing?
Eddy Seigneur (Jean Delatour) gets a small gap. He's off the front and flying through the relatively flat and winding roads. The White (er, Yellow) Jersey of Nico Mattan (Cofidis) is near the front, watching closely to make sure no big rivals launch an attack.
The Australian Champion's Jersey of Stuart O'Grady attacks! The "Red Thunder from Down Under" is leading a charge of a few men off the front to try to get some time at the bonus sprint and snatch the Yellow Jersey from Mattan's back!
The Yellow Jersey would be a great prize for Stuey, but I must say that the Aussie Champion's jersey looks way cooler. It matches his team colors so well!
31 km to go. Seigneur has a 12" lead, and the O'Grady group looks to have been reabsorbed. A Phonak and Brioches La Boulangere rider have a go now. They are taking turns working together, trying to bridge up to Seigneur. The sprinters' teams seem satisfied to have these not-so-dangerous men up the road.
Franck Renier (Brioches La Boulangere) and Fabrice Gougot (Phonak) are the two riders. They look to be falling slowly back to the peloton now. The Frenchmen are really attacking like rabid dogs today, likely trying to impress the big JML and get a final Tour selection. Oh, and to become national heroes in one of their biggest homefield races.
25 km left. Seigneur takes the sprint points, 26" ahead of the peloton. Here comes the sprint for 2nd! Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo) takes second, O'Grady takes 3rd, Mattan 4th. Mattan now attacks!!
Mattan is still off the front in an attack with Alexis Rodriguez (Kelme) trying to catch Seigneur. What a bummer for Seigneur, as Mattan will surely be chased hard. Saeco, Lotto-Domo, and Credit Agricole are on the front of the peloton in pursuit. The hammer is seriously down now.
20 km to go. Richard Virenque (Quickstep) is now on the attack. Seigneur is now gone back, swept up in the counterattack to Mattan's move. Mattan is back in the pack too.
Sebastien Joly (Jean Delatour) is working with Virenque, and a Cofidis rider is sitting on them both. Now Virenque pushes the Cofidis rider through, but he only does a short turn.
The peloton is not far behind. Still, there will be much swooning in France with the attack of Sir Richard.
This is a good sign for Virenque. If he's found his legs this early in the season, he could really do some damage in the stages to come.
The Cofidis rider is ex-Postman Cédric Vasseur. The gap is 28 seconds. Credit Agricole is leading the chase for O'Grady.
15 km to go. Crédit Agricole doing all the work. Vasseur, Virenque, and Joly are having a good go. It's unlikely to succeed, but it's a brave effort.
The Yellow Jersey of Mattan is visible at the front of the pack near O'Grady. The gap is 30 seconds.
Crédit Agricole still doing all the work; Lotto and FDJeux have a man each in the chain but Crédit Agricole have put all their eggs in one basket to commit the team so early.
The trio of leaders is going all out. They are winding through the streets of a small city en route to the finish.
10k to go through Neuzy (Commune de Digoin).
The Crédit Agricole have dropped off the front now, no team is dominating the peloton at the front - the gap is 25 seconds.
8 km to go. Now Fakta is taking up the chase. !?! They are helped by FDJeux.com.
7 kilometres - the gap 20 seconds. Vasseur, Virenque, and Joly working well together.
5 km The three fuyards press on...The peloton still looks a bit bunched up. No real organization to the chase once again.
Could be a mistake. They would have been better working together. Joly has a gap with under 3km. Virenque and Vasseur look gassed, but they press on in the chase.
2 km The speed still not too high in the peloton, 15 seconds still the gap. No cars between the breakaways and the peloton now. Joly holds his gap. But barely.
12 seconds the gap. Joly is going under the 1km banner. Virenque and Vasseur get swept up by the peloton. Joly will be caught. Fassa Bortolo leading out for Petacchi. It will be a massed sprint - Fassa at the front. O'Grady is there, McEwen and Cooke too.
Boonen attacks! Alessandro Petacchi!!! Petacchi takes a clean win! We'll see where everyone else ended up.
O'Grady was up there, ahead of McEwen. He could be the new leader.
Petacchi showed everyone a clean pair of wheels - he took over the sprint at the perfect moment. McEwen second, O'Grady third.
Hondo fourth with a late surge on the right hand side. Boonen made a charge up the right side to try to surprise the sprinters, without success. Petacchi went straight up the middle, with O'Grady and McEwen trying to come around on the left.
O'Grady's third should be enough to move him into the Yellow Jersey.
René Haselbacher was fourth, my mistake. Haselbacher 4th, Boonen 5th, Hondo 7th. Love the Fassa guy in the bunch celebrating...
It's official: O'Grady is the new leader of the race!! Way to go Stuey!
"Red Thunder" rumbles to the overall lead in the 1st Stage of Paris-Nice!
Alessandro Petacchi: "I was not feeling strong today but my team were very strong for me - I must thank them. It was a tactic today to keep two riders near the front all day to keep and eye for breakaways. But today it is a team victory."
Stage One Results (Unofficial)
1. Alessandro Petacchi (Ita-Fas) 5.13.25
2. Stuart O'Grady (Aus-C.A) s.t.
3. Robbie McEwen (Aus-Lot) s.t.
4. René Haselbacher (Aus-Gst) s.t.
5. Tom Boonen (Bel-Qsd) s.t.
6. Emmanuel Magnien (Fra-Blb) s.t.
7. Danilo Hondo (Ger-Tel) s.t.
8. Werner Riebenbauer (Aut-Fak) s.t.
9. Alexandre Usov (Blr-Pho) s.t.
10. Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa-Eus) s.t.
General Classification after Stage One (Unofficial)
1. Stuart O'Grady (Aus-C.A)
2. Nico Mattan (Bel-Cof)
3. Alessandro Petacchi (Ita-Fas)
4. Laurent Brochard (Fra-A2r)
5. Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz-Tel)
6. Thor Hushovd (Nor-C.A)
7. Tyler Hamilton (Usa-Csc)
8. Emmanuel Magnien (Fra-Blb)
9. Davide Rebellin (Ita-Gst)
10. Philippe Gaumont (Fra-Cof)
Results graciously provided by Cycling4all.com. Watch for full report later!