|Confidence is a wonderful thing if you’re a sprinter, and currently no one’s got more of it belting around their veins than Alessandro Petacchi. The Italian has had a sensational start to the year, and when his Fassa Bortolo team-mates gathered at the front of the Paris-Nice bunch late in the opening road stage to St Amand Montrond there was only likely to be one result.
The slightly uphill finish demanded perfect timing allied to a powerful final burst. Domo’s Max Van Heeswijk had the latter but not the former as he led out the final sprint, only to see Ag2r’s Jaan Kirsipuu shoot by on his left. However, although Kirsipuu had the timing he didn’t quite have the finish, and it was Petacchi who came through on his left for the stage win.
Although there was plenty of confusion at the finish about the allocation of bonus seconds, Petacchi was awarded the leader’s jersey after picking up 10 seconds on the line. He had been just 8 down on prologue winner Laszlo Bodrogi at the start of the stage, and there was some debate about whether or not the Hungarian had picked up two bonus seconds at an intermediate sprint which would have allowed him to stay in the lead.
That argument would have been academic if Robbie McEwen had shown the same judgement as Petacchi. The Aussie champion has also had a winning start to the year, and would have taken the lead outright if he’d won today’s stage. He did take third, but came from so far back to do so that it I can only assume he was boxed in as the leaders came around the last turn.
When he did finally get going, McEwen picked off half a dozen riders in the last 100 metres, and given another 50 would almost certainly have done for Kirsipuu and Petacchi as well. He’ll no doubt be disappointed, but at least knows that he’s still one of the form riders.
Full results of today’s stage and the overall standings will be posted once they have been confirmed. The overall results listed below are still provisional.
Stage 1, Blois-St Amand Montrond
1. Alessandro Petacchi (Italy) Fassa Bortolo 176km in 4-43-32
2. Jaan Kirsipuu (Ag2r)
3. Robbie McEwen (Lotto)
4. Max Van Heeswijk (Domo)
5. Baden Cooke (La Française des Jeux)
6. Tom Steels (Mapei)
7. Thor Hushovd (Crédit Agricole)
8. Nico Mattan (Cofidis)
9. Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel)
10. Jo Planckaert (Cofidis)
1. Alessandro Petacchi (Italy) Fassa Bortolo 4-50-24
2. Lazlo Bodrogi (Mapei) at 2 sec.
3. Didier Rous (Bonjour) at 4 sec.
4. McEwen at 7 sec.
5. Javier Pascual Rodriguez (iBanesto.com) at 8 sec.
7. Juan Carlos Dominguez (Phonak)
8. Andreas Klöden (Telekom)
9. José Alberto Martinez (Euskaltel) all st
10. Dario Frigo (Tacconi) at 9 sec.