Race notes, the competitions, the characters, the tragedy...
Best Young Rider classification
Young Rider Competition
Sylvain Chavanel finally won the competition after stirring battle through out the race with Samuel Sanchez. The two youngsters seemed to inspire each other to ride aggressively and thrill the roadside fans and TV viewers with attack and counter attack throughout the race. Certainly Sylvain Chavanel’s ride (along with great work from Jérôme Pineau and Walter Beneteau) will surely put the Brioches La Boulangere team into pole position for a wild card placing in the Tour de France.
Another young gun who had a great race was Joaquin Rodriguez (ONCE) who not only won stage 6 but also finished 4th in the young rider competition.
The French Press were clearly not enamoured by his style of winning -“Le hold-up de Rodriguez” declared Eurosport “Rodriguez Opportuniste” said L’Equipe - “Rodriguez sans panache” was Velomania's dry response. Not that this will bother young Joaquin - He will have read the Spanish press which basically said “...Joaquín Rodríguez gana...” The win was enough to keep the Spanish generally happy and Manolo Sáiz, ONCE DS, in particular.
Rodriguez, of course, rode a perfect race. He got into the winning move and then was well within his rights to do the least work - with Chavanel edging towards the ONCE duo of Jörg Jaksche and Mikel Zarrabeitia on the General Classification, Rodriguez was quite correct to sit at the back. The fact that he keep his nerve and judged the last 500 metres correctly says even more about the young man.
But as disappointed as Brochard and the French press must be, it will equal the satisfaction of Manolo Saiz - if Rodriguez had helped the break and then lost the sprint how different would the ONCE camp have been going into the last stage?
Young Rider Final
1 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Brioches La Boulangere 23.31.28
2 Samuel Sanchez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 0.24
3 Kim Kirchen (Lux) Fassa Bortolo 2.52
4 Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) ONCE-Eroski 3.46
5 Jérôme Pineau (Fra) Brioches La Boulangere 11.18
When to attack?
Steep climbs, the perfect place to attack? Well no, actually, most of the attacking moves on Stage 6 seemed to come on the descents, as rider after rider tried to out do one another in the fine art of descending. Naturally, Richard Virenque was the first to use the tactic while chasing down an Oscar Camenzind move. It is easy to forget Virenque's influence amongst the peloton in this race. It was he who was the riders' spokesman throughout the early stages of the Kivilev tragedy. Once the “Scorpion” had led the way an abundance or riders latched on to attacking on the descent, is this a future trend?
King of the Mountains
Tyler Hamilton, the next Laurent Jalabert?
Hamilton’s solo adventure of over 100kms on stage 6 was not without profit; with shades of Jalabert in the Tour 2002 he “stole” the king of the mountains jersey. Riis told him on Sunday morning “now go out and win the jersey outright, it will gain you respect in the peloton if nothing else.” Hamilton duly obliged, clearly a rider rapidly maturing.
“The mountain jersey was a nice souvenir to bring home. The team put up a great fight to pave the way for me at Col d’Eze. In the finish, my legs felt too heavy for me to compete up front but that does not surprise me with yesterday’s breakaway in mind. After the problems on the first mountain stage, I have made progress every day we have been on the road. Looking at it from that perspective, I am quite happy”, said Tyler Hamilton on the CSC Official website.
Bobby Julich, team player.
Finished last on stage 6 and was nursed home by Aerts and Hondo. David Duffield related this story - “Julich crashed and suffered severe road rash yesterday (Stage 6); Aerts and Hondo nursed him to the finish which they made with just 45 seconds to the cut off point. The local hospital referred him to a larger hospital whose consultant thought a skin graft might be necessary, Julich opted for stitches so he could ride the last stage.” Certainly it demonstrates the level of team commitment required to win a stage race like this - and that Bobby Julich has a lot to offer this sport.
Apart from Hamilton, Jérôme Pineau (Brioches La Boulangere) again had an impressive race while both Rui Miguel Sousa Barbosa and Pedro Cardoso (Milaneza-MSS) underlined what a great race the boys from Portugal had.
1 Tyler Hamilton (USA) Team CSC 43 pts
2 Jérôme Pineau (Fra) Brioches La Boulangere 30
3 Rui Miguel Sousa Barbosa (Por) Milaneza-MSS 25
4 Pedro Cardoso (Por) Milaneza-MSS 24
5 Christophe Oriol (Fra) Ag2R Prevoyance 24
Laurent Jalabert: The next Phil Liggett?
Laurent Jalabert made his TV debut interviewing Joaquin Rodriguez after his stage win showed debut nerves. His first question (in French which he then translated into Spanish) was so long and complicated regarding team tactics and the ONCE that Rodriguez was hard pressed to answer. No matter. Jalabert will go from strength to strength for sure. Look out Paul Sherwin!
1 O.N.C.E.-Eroski 70.32.53
2 Milaneza-MSS 4.08
3 Phonak Hearing Systems 9.00
4 Euskaltel-Euskadi 11.47
5 Fassa Bortolo 12.32
Mighty ONCE once again lived up to their reputation of the strongest in depth team in the world with two men, Mikel Zarrabeitia and Jörg Jaksche, finishing in the top 4. However it was their Iberian brothers Milaneza-MSS who really impressed for team tactics, leading the peloton and general all round prowess. They rode a fine all round race and proved themselves to be much more than a team based around climbing sensation Claus-Michael Möller. David Bernabeu Armengol’s victory on the final stage was just desserts for marvellous riding from Paulo Barroso, David Bernabeu Armengol, Pedro Cardoso, Fabian Jeker, Rui Lavarinhas and Lizuarte Martins throughout the week.
The local French newspaper Nice Matin made the point that if the last “Wild Card” place for the Tour de France was to be based on “sporting criteria,” the Milaneza team had proved a point, and also underlined the fact that the French press does not seem any happier with the selection process for the Tour than anyone else.
(“Et comme Jean-Marie Leblanc et ASO entendent bien décerner leurs dernière « wild card » pour le Tour sur des critères sportifs, les Portugais se sont dit qu'une victoire d'étape dans Paris-Nice pouvait constituer un bel argument.”)
At the other end of the scale, Telekom, clearly riding for Alexandre Vinokourov, were only held off the lanterne rouge team spot by US Postal presented by Berry Floor. With Hincapie pulling out of the Spring Classics and an “infirmary list” which seems to be growing, the “blue train” may be leaving the station a little later than usual this year. No doubt that, increasingly, the only stop that matters is Paris at the end of the Tour.
Fassa, Frigo and Milan San Remo
Alessandro Petacchi not only won the sprinters stage, he did so with a well oiled machine. Stage One provided one of the most enduring images of the race, when Trenti, arms aloft in triumph in the middle of the bunch, watched Petacchi take the victory - the forgotten American has developed into one of the top three lead out men in the world. Stefano Zanatta perfectly summed up the approach -
"In the last three kilometres the team worked in perfect coordination; Loda, then Cancellara, then Velo and finally Trenti set up Petacchi perfectly for the sprint."
The prospect of a Fassa versus Domina Vacanze-Elitron duel in the Milan San Remo has a great deal of appeal.
Frigo - Hot then Cold
Rode a brilliant time trial which only Jörg Jaksche, Tyler Hamilton, Frank VandenBroucke, and Mikel Zarrabeitia Uranga could come close to. Sickness stopped him competing beyond that point. A great shame.
Bad hair day, confusing shirt, awkward style - ex-world champion Laurent Brochard is instantly recognizable. He rode his heart out for AG2R and is a worthy winner of the points jersey. Meanwhile “photocoppi” Alexandre Botcharov the teams climber (so called because his team mates think he resembles Coppi in his style) had a good day on Stage 2. Rebellin once again showed his class to take a fine victory for the Gerolsteiner boys.
Volker Ordowski - Gerolsteiner boy
Having a great season so far, Volker was at the centre of the accident which resulted in Kivilev’s death. The ripples of tragedy always travel wide.
1 Laurent Brochard (Fra) Ag2R Prevoyance 76 pts
2 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Team Telekom 74
3 Samuel Sanchez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 69
4 Davide Rebellin (Ita) Gerolsteiner 66
5 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Brioches La Boulangere 58
Alexandre Vinokourov backed by a solid team won an emotional victory.
Joins an exclusive club that have won Paris Nice twice in a row. Anquetil, Merckx, Poulidor, Zoetemelk, Kelly, Indurain and Jalabert are other members.
To what extent the tragedy of Kivilev inspired the victory is open to debate; one thing is sure. It is built on hard work and dedication.
So why did I see Alexandre Vinokourov win stage 5, not wearing a helmet?
Another tragedy - no lesson learnt.
Final general classification
1 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Team Telekom 23.30.04
2 Mikel Zarrabeitia (Spa) ONCE-Eroski 0.43
3 Davide Rebellin (Ita) Gerolsteiner 0.54
4 Jorg Jaksche (Ger) ONCE-Eroski 0.55
5 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Brioches La Boulangere 1.24