|Stage 2, La Clayette – Saint Etienne, 182.5km
Photo copyright A.S.O. 2003
We pick up with live coverage. Four men are off the front of the Credit-Agricole-led peloton. Four men are off the front on a long breakaway on this very difficult mountainous stage: David Canada (Quickstep-Davitamon), Christophe Oriol (AG2r), David Arroyo (ONCE) and one other.
Ivan "lead shorts" Quaranta (Saeco) has abandoned (no surprise) as has Danielle Nardello (Telekom).
38 km left. The other man in the break is Nicolas Jalabert (CSC). Canada is really driving the break...he bridged up to the other three in an impressive solo move. In the pack, O'Grady still looks good in the Yellow Jersey. He is unlikely to do well in the mountains and win the overall in Nice, but his team is leading him out right now and he's hanging tough at the front of the peloton.
Stuey looks good in yellow…it doesn't have that cool green stipe like his other jersey, the Australian Road Champion though.
Andrei Kivilev (Cofidis) has hit the pavement and doesn't look good. That would be a big loss for Cofidis, as he is a very good climber and a leader on their team.
The peloton is 1' 10" behind the main peloton. There is still a large group there, though some splits are starting to show. Canada, Oriol, Arroyo, and Jalabert are still working well. Jalabert seems to be something of a passenger, while Canada is the one doing the biggest pulls. Canada is a very talented climber and overall rider. He could be a threat if they let him too far up the road.
Danilo Hondo (Telekom) has come to the front of the peloton to set a high tempo. Canada has a mechanical! No, wait, he just seems to be cramping! He's pulled off to the side of the road. And Vinokourov now attacks after being led out by his teammate Hondo! It looks like the race is ON in earnest!
I talked with Kevin Livingston last year during the San Francisco Grand Prix, and he commented that Vinokourov is an incredibly strong rider with an amazing amount of power. Livingston rode next to Vinokourov for a couple of years on Telekom, and has a very high opinion of his ability. Of course, "The Wine Man" Vino is the defending champion of the race, taking a very big victory in Nice last year.
18 km. Oriol is still off the front, the only survivor of the earlier breakaway. Arroyo has fallen back to the wheel of the attacking Vinokourov, who has a 30" gap on the field on a tough climb.
Serrano (ONCE) has caught up with Vinokourov, and now he and Arroyo have dropped the Telokom rider and set off together! Serrano now moves up on his own, and Arroyo falls back, his job for the day complete. This is a great ride for the Spaniard.
The peloton has exploded…there are strings of riders all over the long, steady climb. Lots of men are in trouble now, with no organized chase…it's Darwin time in Paris-Nice, as the strong come to the front and the weak fall off the pace.
O'Grady is hurting…he's fighting, but falling back in the pack. Oriol (AG2r) is still off the front of the race, with Serrano in pursuit. The peloton is still within a minute of both men (what's left of it, at least). There's been a slight regrouping as the climb has leveled a bit.
Botcharov (AG2r) has now attacked and leads the race. Latasa (Kelme), Gustov (Fassa Bortolo), and Zarrabeitia (ONCE) are now counterattacking from the peloton. Oriol and Serrano have been reabsorbed into the front of the peloton. Botcharov has 35" on the peloton and 20" on the chasers. The roads are tough, but they are power climbs, not that steep but long and steady. It's hard for anyone to sustain their attacks. Zarrabeitia is now closing on Botcharov. Again AG2r is sending everyone they can up the road, just like yesterday…they seem extremely motivated this year.
The peloton is a long line, but there aren't the gaps there were before. Now an attack goes up the road, and the peloton shatters again! An elite group of about seven is off the front, which includes Vinokourov, Frigo (Fassa) and Moller (Milaneza) and a couple of ONCE riders. They are reaching the summit of this long, grueling climb. Hamilton (CSC) hasn't been seen on the cameras to this point. Frigo is really putting the hurt on the group right now, setting a fierce tempo in pursuit of the breakaways. The descent of the climb leads to the finish, so this should get really dicey.
Over the top of the climb, a group of six is still in pursuit of Botcharov and the other few men off the front. Frigo, Vonikourov, Rebellin, and a few others in that group of six. Moller is gone from this group now. Merckx (Lotto-Domo) isn't far behind! Good ride for Axel! He'll likely catch them on the descent. He won a stage of the Giro like this a few years ago, on a downhill finish on a climbing stage.
The riders are flying down the descent. Men are strewn all over the road, and it's hard to figure out who is where. Merckx is absolutely hammering with a couple of ONCE boys. They've caught up some of the chasers who were ahead of them. There is a group of ten with Frigo, Vinokourov, Moller, Rebellin in the mix at the front of the race. They are being pursued by the Merckx group. They are trying to stay away to the finish and put some time on men like Hamilton who are off the pace today.
7 km left. Okay, there are SIX men off the front, with Vinokourov leading the charge. Botcharov is there, as is Gustov, Frigo, Rebellin, and Zarrabetia. Moller is not there. The lead group of six has 35" ahead of the Merckx group and 55" on the greatly diminished peloton.
3 km left. Frigo leads the charge of the group of six. Merckx leads the charge of the chase group of five. The gap is 25" between the Frigo and Merckx group. The peloton is now 1" behind the Frigo group.
1 km. The leadout for the sprint is dicey. Vino launches from the front! Here comes Rebellin! He comes around Vinokourov to take the win!! Vino put in a powerful charge, but Rebellin's sprint was too much! Groups are now straggling in…the race has been blown to pieces. Vino came in 2nd, Frigo 3rd. Hamilton, Simoni, Virenque, and several other highly regarded climbers are nowhere to be seen…their legs must not be completely under them yet.
Rebellin says that Frigo is the man to watch in the race. Rebellin is more of a one-day rider, and this bodes extremely well for his chances in the hilly classics. He's not nearly the time-trialist that Frigo is. Rebellin takes the Yellow Jersey as well. O'Grady has to go back to his super-cool Aussie Champion Jersey.
As it turned out, today was a day for the power climbers, men who can push the big gears up the inclines. Men like Hamilton and Simoni, who like the pure steep climbs, didn't fare too well today.
Official Stage 2 Results
1 REBELLIN Davide ITA GST 5h 01' 14"
2 VINOKOUROV Alexandre KAZ TEL 00' 00"
3 BOTCHAROV Alexandre RUS A2R 00' 00"
4 FRIGO Dario ITA FAS 00' 00"
5 ZARRABEITIA Mikel ESP ONE 00' 00"
6 GUSTOV Volodomir UKR FAS 00' 03"
7 SANCHEZ Samuel ESP EUS 00' 18"
8 LATASA David ESP KEL 00' 18"
9 RODRIGUEZ Joaquim ESP ONE 00' 18"
10 JAKSCHE Jorg GER ONE 00' 18"
11 MERCKX Axel BEL LOT 00' 18"
12 KIRCHEN Kim LUX FAS 00' 46"
13 ARVESEN Kurt-Asle NOR FAK 00' 46"
14 VAN DE WOUWER Kurt BEL QSD 00' 46"
15 ROBIN Jean-Cyril FRA FDJ 00' 46"
16 GIL PEREZ Koldo ESP ONE 00' 48"
17 ROUS Didier FRA BLB 00' 48"
18 PEREIRO SIO Oscar ESP PHO 00' 48"
19 SIMONI Gilberto ITA SAE 00' 48"
20 MOLLER Claus Michael DEN MIL 00' 48"
21 SERRANO Marcos ESP ONE 00' 48"
22 BERNABEU David ESP MIL 00' 48"
23 PETERSEN Jorgen Bo DEN FAK 00' 48"
24 FRAGNIERE Cédric SUI C.A 00' 48"
25 PARRA Ivan COL KEL 00' 48"
26 CHAVANEL Sylvain FRA BLB 01' 01"
27 VAN HEESWIJK Max NED USP 01' 58"
28 VIRENQUE Richard FRA QSD 01' 58"
31 CAMENZIND Oscar SUI PHO 01' 58"
36 ASTARLOA Igor ESP SAE 01' 58"
40 VANDENBROUCKE Franck BEL QSD 01' 58"
45 O'GRADY Stuart AUS C.A 03' 19"
47 JEKER Fabian SUI MIL 03' 19"
48 MATTAN Nico BEL COF 03' 19"
57 CASAR Sandy FRA FDJ 04' 20"
58 BROCHARD Laurent FRA A2R 04' 20"
64 CANCELLARA Fabian SUI FAS 06' 50"
65 PADRNOS Pavel CZE USP 06' 50"
66 HAMILTON Tyler USA CSC 06' 50"
69 BOONEN Tom BEL QSD 07' 35"
70 JULICH Bobby USA TEL 07' 35"
71 VOIGT Jens GER C.A 07' 35"
84 MONCOUTIE David FRA COF 13' 23"
102 MC EWEN Robbie AUS LOT 14' 14"
106 HONDO Danilo GER TEL 14' 14"
108 PETACCHI Alessandro ITA FAS 14' 14"
119 CANADA David ESP QSD 14' 14"
123 JALABERT Nicolas FRA CSC 14' 14"
134 SEIGNEUR Eddy FRA DEL 17' 16"
D'HOLLANDER Glenn BEL LOT Abandon
AUGE Stéphane FRA C.A Abandon
KIVILEV Andrei KAZ COF Abandon
QUARANTA Ivan ITA SAE Abandon
USANO Julian ESP KEL Abandon
NARDELLO Daniele ITA TEL Abandon
General Classification after Stage 2
1 REBELLIN Davide ITA GST 10h 20' 25"
2 VINOKOUROV Alexandre KAZ TEL 00' 03"
3 FRIGO Dario ITA FAS 00' 13"
4 ZARRABEITIA Mikel ESP ONE 00' 22"
5 BOTCHAROV Alexandre RUS A2R 00' 22"
6 GUSTOV Volodomir UKR FAS 00' 26"
7 JAKSCHE Jorg GER ONE 00' 37"
8 RODRIGUEZ Joaquim ESP ONE 00' 45"
9 LATASA David ESP KEL 00' 46"
10 MERCKX Axel BEL LOT 00' 54"
11 SANCHEZ Samuel ESP EUS 00' 57"
12 KIRCHEN Kim LUX FAS 01' 04"
13 BERNABEU David ESP MIL 01' 05"
14 MOLLER Claus Michael DEN MIL 01' 06"
15 ARVESEN Kurt-Asle NOR FAK 01' 06"
16 ROUS Didier FRA BLB 01' 09"
17 PEREIRO SIO Oscar ESP PHO 01' 11"
18 PARRA Ivan COL KEL 01' 13"
19 SIMONI Gilberto ITA SAE 01' 15"
20 FRAGNIERE Cédric SUI C.A 01' 15"
Thanks for tuning in. Join us again, same time, same place tomorrow!