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Race to the Sun - Paris Nice
 
By Podofdonny
Date: 3/3/2005
Race to the Sun - Paris Nice
 

The traditional first major stage race of the season will acquire new historical status in 2005 when it becomes the first race of the new UCI Pro Tour Calendar.

The race was started by the French journalist Jean Leulliot in 1933 as a preparation race for the Classics season, but over the years it has grown in status and has established itself as a race won by true champions. When the “eternal second” Raymond Poulidor won the race in 1972, French journalists were faced with a problem. Pompidou had also won the election that day. Easily solved, one half of the front page devoted to Pompidou the other to Poulidor. French diplomacy at its best.

However, it was probably those two great French Champions, Anquetil and Poulidor, who did most to elevate the race to its current status. To really capture a nation's interest in cycling, two great champions are required. Just as Bartali and Coppi engulfed the Italian nation's interest in the late 1940’s, the swinging sixties saw the French nation divided between Anquetil, with his rock and roll lifestyle and image, and the more conservative Poulidor.

The French nation was divided in 1966 when Poulidor finally seemed to have defeated his arch rival.

Anquetil. Courtesy Letour.fr.
A stunning time trial saw on stage 6 saw Poulidor defeat Anquetil by 36’’ and take the lead in the race. A lead he held comfortably until the last day. However, the final stage between Antibes and Nice saw a great drama unfurl. With his sense of theatre Anquetil waited for the final scene before he made his move. An immense solo effort saw Anquetil finish 1’17’’ from his nearest chaser while a despondent Poulidor lost 1’24’’ and the leader's jersey to his great foe.

For Anquetil fans it was a “tragédie bourgeoise,” but for the majority Poulidor fans it was a tearful “comédie larmoyante.”

When Poulidor finally won the race in 1972, he was 36 years old and was riding the race for the 13th time. His main rival was Eddy Merckx. However, on the col d'Eze, Poulidor established a new record for the climb and ended Merckx’s winning streak that had run since 1969. Poulidor won again in 1973, while Anquetil was later to become the Race Director.

The 1980’s saw Ireland dominate the race for 8 years. After Stephen Roche’s victory in 1981 Sean Kelly continued to keep “Irish eyes smiling” for the next 7 years.

Miguel Indurain won the race for two years running and then, in the late 90’s Laurent Jalabert made the race his own. In 1998 the “enfant terrible” Franck Vandenbrouke won, having led the race from stage one, and many people thought that it would be the first of many victories.


Frank Vandenbroucke, Paris Nice 2004.
Photo by Delphine Page, Cycling-Photos.net.

Meanwhile, the Classics rider Lance Armstrong had returned to racing after cancer had nearly killed him. The Texan had returned to European racing with a team that included Frankie Andreu, George Hincapie, Marty Jemison, Vjatceslav Ekimov, Sven Teutenberg, Meinert Nielsen and Jean Cyril Robin. Armstrong did not finish the race, and returned to the USA. It seemed to all that a brave comeback had failed.

Eight years and six Tour victories later, Armstrong returns to ride the “route to the sun” - once again Ekimov will be in his team, which also includes Popovych, Azevedo, Savoldelli and Rubiera.

It would be fitting to a great race and a great champion if Armstrong could add his name to the race's famous palmares.


Courtesy ASO.

The Stages 2005

Sunday 06/03 - Issy-les-Moulineaux
Prologue 4 km

Monday 07/03 - Etampes - Chabris
Distance: 186,5 km
1 hill 3rd category

Tuesday 08/03 - La Châtre - Thiers
Distance: 191 km
5 hills 3rd category
1 hill 2nd category

Wednesday 09/03 - Thiers - Le Chambon-sur-Lignon
Distance: 174 km
2 hills 3rd category
2 hills 2nd category
1 hill 1st category (Côte de Lavet)

Thursday 10/03 - Le Chambon-sur-Lignon - Montélimar
Distance: 180 km
4 hills 3rd category
2 hills 2nd category

Friday 11/03 - Rognes - Toulon (Mont-Faron)
Distance: 172,5 km
3 hills 3rd category
2 hills 2nd category
1 hill 1st category (Finish on top of Mont-Faron)

Saturday 12/03 - La Crau - Cannes
Distance: 184 km
2 hills 3rd category
3 hills 2nd category
1 hill 1st category (Col de Bourigaille)

Sunday 13/03 - Nice - Nice
Distance: 135 km
1 hill 2nd category
3 hills 1st category (Col de la Porte, La Turbie, Col d’Eze)

The Teams

Belgium: Davitamon-Lotto, Quick.Step
Denmark: Team CSC
Germany: Gerolsteiner, T-Mobile
France: Bouygues Télécom, Crédit Agricole, Cofidis, Française des Jeux, AG2R
Italy: Domina Vacanza, Fassa Bortolo, Lampre-Caffita, Liquigas-Bianchi
Holland: Rabobank
Spain: Euskadi, Illes Balears, Saunier-Duval, Liberty Seguros
United States: Discovery Channel
Switzerland: Phonak


Jacob Piil and Claus-Michael Möller at Paris Nice 2004. Photo by Delphine Page, Cycling-Photos.net.

 
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