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62nd Paris-Nice Preview - Updated
By Podofdonny
Date: 3/5/2004
62nd Paris-Nice Preview - Updated

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The Contenders

Looking for a hat trick is Alexandre Vinokourov and the course would seem to suit him ideally. Backed by a super strong squad he is the Bookmakers favourite and it will need a very special cyclist to de-throne “King Vino”.

Walter Godefroot however is playing down the chances of his T-Mobile team:

"Alexandre is not very well at the minute, hHe is not feeling very well after three weeks of altitude training, and the benefits from that are not immediate. Santiago Botero is not at his best either. I do not think that victory in Paris-Nice is possible but frankly that doesn’t bother me. Alexandre has done so much for the team since he joined us and I will not put pressure on him in March.

"He has won Paris Nice twice for us, but our season really starts with Milan-San Remo and it is better for the team if Vino has reserves in the summer."

His main challenge may well come from the well rehearsed Team CSC – they have two potential winners with Jörg Jaksche, who is in super form, and Ivan Basso. Bobby Julich rode a heroic race last year and a team that includes Jens Voigt and Michele Bartoli is obviously not short on talent. Sports director Kim Andersen, who alongside Bjarne Riis, is in charge of the team at Paris – Nice, is confident of his team. ”The latest training camp has shown both Jaksche, Voigt and Julich to be in great shape, and they all have a chance of winning this race.”

Dario Frigo is another rider ideally suited to the course and the Fassa team is certainly strong enough to support their man.

Frigo’s team mate and another former winner Frank Vandenbroucke is feeling in good shape –

"I went out for 3 hours on Monday, and then did 6 hours on Tuesday and 6:30 on Wednesday. I am in very good shape. I have not had this sort of form in March for a long time. I am just about as good as I was in 1999. My target this year is in the Classics but I would like to do well in Paris-Nice, a stage win and possibly the general, but we shall see after Sunday. How I race depends a lot on my team-mates, because with Dario Frigo we have the number one favourite. Kirchen and Cancellara could also do very well. Looking at the results so far this year I don’t think Vinokourov can win for a third time."

Tyler Hamilton will take part in Paris-Nice! Big relief in the Phonak Hearing Team. Tyler Hamilton is going to make his debut for the only Swiss GS 1 Team. On Friday the American has been very unsure if he could start, because he was fighting with a touch of the flu. In this case we wont expect too much from Hamilton, but his presence will be very good for the team morale.

Another rider understating his chances is Davide Rebellin. Stage winner and third overall last year, he will be looking for a stage victory this season but no more:

“Compared to this time last season I am a little behind, even so I would like to win a stage. I have not raced since the Giro di Lucca. I skipped Chiasso and Lugano, so I could do some intense training to work on a few specific things. At the end of the day my main target this season is the World Cup. To be honest I want to take each stage of Paris Nice as it comes, to race without pressure and maybe pick up a nice result.”

Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Sylvain Chavanel (Brioches La Boulangère) had a great battle for the young rider's jersey last year and a year on both these riders will have their ambitions set a little higher.

Strangely, no US Postal rider is listed by the bookmakers. José Bento Azevedo and Floyd Landis both have the ability to win this race and the “Blue Train” is a far stronger outfit than the one that tackled the race last season.

Liberty Seguros bring Vuelta revelation Isidro Nozal into the fray and the Team winner's last season (as ONCE) have a mighty team in support: Dariusz Baranowski, Giampaolo Caruso, Alvaro González de Galdeano and Marcos Serrano.

So a very open race with many potential winners and a good selection of specialist climbers, roadmen and sprinters.

Johan Museeuw has pulled out of the race to the sun. The Quick Step-Davitamon rider will be replaced by the Netherlander Bram Tankink.

"The doctor has advised two days rest,” explained DS Wilfried Peeters, "even if Paris-Nice is a very important race we cannot expect him to race. Johan is disappointed, but resigned to the fact. It is possible he will ride Tirreno-Adriatico from the 10 to 16 March."

Full team listings below.

The Parcours

Arguably the second biggest stage race in France, the 62nd Paris-Nice, will run this year between the 7th and 14th of March.

The race will start with a 13.2 kilometre individual time trial in Chaville, the only test against the clock the riders will face. The other stages are typically hard although mythical climbs like the Mont Faron are not included.

The last three stages will be the decisive ones for those riders looking for overall glory. The cols of the Sentinelle and Manse into Gap (stage 6), the col du Tanneron into Cannes (Stage 7) and the cols de Châteauneuf and d'Eze into Nice (stage 8). The last stage will be identical to last year's, which produced a thrilling finale; with the hills splitting the peloton before a breathtaking view of the peloton at full speed along the Promenade des Anglais, along the seafront of the Méditerranée.

In total the race will visit 22 départements and climb over 14 classified climbs.

The 8 Stages

8th to 14th March 2004

Stage 1: Chaville-Vanves (13,2 km CLM)

A twisting and technical prologue just outside Paris sees the race underway. David Millar, Tyler Hamilton, Fabian Cancellara, Michael Rogers, Jens Voigt and Dario Frigo will all be out to make an early impression. On this sort of course, however, US Postal/Berry Floor may well dominate proceedings.

Stage 2: Chaville-Montargis (166,5 km)

After 5 cat 3 climbs early on, the words “pancake, flat and sprinters” all come to mind when describing the finale. Teams will be keen to get a man in the early break to snatch the king of the mountains red polka dotted jersey prize, but the sprinters teams will probably pull them back in for a massed sprint finish.

The finishing circuit in Montargis. the Venice of Gâtinais. Shou;d bring the crowds out to watch the sprint finish. Thor Hushovd, Jean-Patrick Nazon, Baden Cooke, Robbie Mc Ewen head a field that is not short of fast men.

Stage 3: La Chapelle Saint Ursin-Roanne (229 km)

The third cat climb at Côte de Châtel-Montagne could well see riders like Laurent Brochard Jérôme Pineau and Davide Rebellin try and put the cat amongst the pigeons. It could come down to a sprint finish again though many domestiques may lose a few minutes on the way. A day of attention for those teams wanting to win the overall.

Stage 4: Roanne-Le Puy en Velay (179 km)

Another interesting day in the saddle for the pretenders and contenders. Col de la Croix de l'Homme Mort half way through the stage could see a dangerous counter attack when the early break is caught. A day for team spirit and hard work.

Stage 5: Le Puy en Velay-Rasteau (216 km)

Three cat 3 climbs and one second cat climb but generally the profile is down hill. The “puncheurs” such as Davide Rebellin or Laurent Brochard will see the climb as a place to split the field the sprinters teams will be hoping to keep the race together.

Stage 6: Rasteau-Gap (173,5 km)

Arguably the Queen Stage and one that will see the pretenders for the overall needing their mountain legs. The three first class climbs of the Col de Macuègne, Col de la Sentinelle and the Col de Manse will first tire the peloton and only the strongest will be in contention for the final climb of the day. The eventual race winner could also be victor today.

Stage 7: Digne les Bains-Cannes (185,5 km)

By now the time gaps may allow a break away to have their day of glory. If not the second cat climb of the Col du Tanneron will see the contenders once again do battle just before the finish.

Stage 8: Nice-Nice (144 km)

A true grandstand finish with three climbs of the Cat 1 Col d'Eze and Col de Châteauneuf. Last year the stage produced a tremendous last gasp battle for various jerseys and the final sprint up the Promenade des Anglais is as scenic and exciting as bike racing gets.

Last year's winner. Photo by Jaime Nichols.

The teams

160 riders will start in Chaville including last years winner and favourite again this year Alexandre Vinokourov (T-Mobile).

28 teams will compete – the top five French teams Ag2r Prévoyance, Brioches La Boulangère, Cofidis, Crédit Agricole, and RAGT Semences-MG Rover, from Belgium Chocolade Jacques-Wincor Nixdorf, Lotto-Domo and Quick Step-Davitamon, Germany fields Gerolsteiner and T-Mobile, two teams from Italy Alessio-Bianchi, Fassa Bortolo, three from Spain Euskaltel-Euskadi, Illes Balears-Banesto and Liberty Seguros and CSC, Phonak, Rabobank and US Postal-Berry Floor.

Teams and main riders

Ag2r Prévoyance (FRA): Laurent Brochard, Mikel Astarloza, Samuel Dumoulin, Stéphane Goubert, Jean-Patrick Nazon, Yuriy Krivtsov, Nicolas Portal, Mark Scanlon

Alessio-Bianchi (ITA): Franco Pellizotti, Pietro Caucchioli, Ellis Rastelli, Rene Jorgensen, Marcus Ljungqvist, Vladimir Miholjevic, Claus Michael Møller , Scott Sunderland

Brioches La Boulangère (FRA): Sylvain Chavanel, Jérôme Pineau, Thomas Voeckler, Didier Rous, Walter Bénéteau, Franck Bouyer, Anthony Geslin, Franck Renier

Chocolade Jacques-Wincor Nixdorf (BEL): Dave Bruylandts, Florent Brard, Chris Peers, Gerben Löwik, Raivis Belohvosciks, Denis Kostyuk, Zbigniew Piatek, Jurgen Van De Walle, Geert Verheyen (one to drop out)

Cofidis (FRA): Frédéric Bessy, David Millar, David Moncoutié, Inigo Cuesta, Dmitriy Fofonov, Luis Perez, Cédric Vasseur, Matthew White

Crédit Agricole (FRA): Thor Hushovd, Patrice Halgand, Pierrick Fédrigo, Andrey Kashechkin, Christophe Le Mével, Benoît Poilvet, Benoît Salmon

CSC (DAN): Jörg Jaksche, Michael Blaudzun, Jakob Storm Piil, Bobby Julich, Jens Voigt, Ivan Basso, Michele Bartoli, Fränk Schleck

Euskaltel-Euskadi (ESP): Samuel Sanchez, Gorka Arrizabalaga, Unaï Extebarria, Dioni Galparsoro, Mikel Artetxe, Markel Irizar, Gorka González, Iñigo Landaluze

Fassa Bortolo (ITA): Fabian Cancellara (SUI), Dario Frigo (ITA), Kim Kirchen (LUX), Frank Vandenbroucke (Bel) (FRA): Philippe Gilbert, Sandy Casar, Baden Cooke, Thomas Lövkvist, Carlos Da Cruz, Frédéric Guesdon, Bernhard Eisel , Matthew Wilson

Gerolsteiner (ALL): Thomas Ziegler, Davide Rebellin, Fabian Wegmann, Marco Serpellini, Beat Zberg

Illes Balears-Banesto (ESP): Pablo Lastras, Daniel Becke, Vladimir Karpets, Aitor Osa, Vicente Reynés, Denis Menchov, Steffen Radochia, Xavier Zandio

Liberty Seguros (ESP): Dariusz Baranowsky, Giampaolo Caruso, Allan Davis, Isidro Nozal, Luis León Sánchez, Álvaro González de Galdeano, Javier Ramírez Abeja, Marcos Serrano

Lotto-Domo (BEL): Axel Merckx, Robbie Mc Ewen, Rik Verbrugghe, Hans de Clercq, Christophe Detilloux, Koos Moerenhout, Leon van Bon, Aart Vierhouten

Phonak (SUI): Tyler Hamilton, Cyril Dessel, Alex Zülle, Alexandre Moos, Daniel Schnider, Nicolas Jalabert, Oscar Pereiro, Tadej Valjavec

Quick Step-Davitamon (BEL): Laurent Dufaux, Laszlo Bodrogi , ?, Richard Virenque, Tom Boonen Wilfried Cretskens, Pedro Horillo Munoz, Michael Rogers, Patrick Sinkewitz

Rabobank (PBS): Erik Dekker, Levi Leipheimer, Bram de Groot, Mathew Hayman, Robert Hunter, Marc Lotz, Grischa Niermann, Kevin de Weert

RAGT Semences-MG Rover (FRA): Christophe Rinerom, Frédéric Finot, Eddy Seigneur, Guillaume Auger, Mickael Buffaz, Yoann Le Boulanger, Bruno Thibout

T-Mobile (ALL): Santiago Botero, Alexandre Vinokourov, Mario Aerts, Torsten Hiekmann, Matthias Kessler, Stephan Schreck, Sergej Jakowlew, Christian Werner

US Postal-Berry Floor (USA): José Bento Azevedo Carvalho, Floyd Landis, Victor Hugo Peña Grisales, Vlatcheslav Ekimov, George Hincapie, Benoit Joachim, Benjamin Noval Gonzalez, Dave Zabriskie or Stijn Devolder

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Paris Nice 2004 - preview

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