Race Still On
Despite the bad weather which France and the rest of Europe is suffering, the organisers are hopeful that the race will run to schedule:
"The race will start as planned," said race directeur Christian Prudhomme.
"Of course we are keeping a close eye on the forcasts and are in constant contact with the local authorities".
“If we do have a problem in will probably be on Wednesday between Thiers (Puy-de-Dôme) and Chambon-sur-Lignon (Haute-Loire). It all depends on how much snow falls."
Last year stage 4 fell foul to the weather because of heavy snow.
Mr. and Mrs. Alexandre Vinokourov on the Promenade in Nice...
Photo by Fabio.
Alexander Vinokourov has a strange kind of relationship with the Paris-Nice stage race. The T-Mobile rider was overall race winner in 2002 and 2003, and last year the affable Kazakh notched up three stage wins at the event.
But it was at the 'race to the sun' two years ago that Vino also suffered the tragic loss of his best friend and fellow Kazakh Andrey Kivilev. The Cofidis rider crashed heavily on the third stage and later died in hospital from serious head injuries; last year an emotional Vinokourov dedicated his win in the seventh stage, after a fine solo effort, to his lost friend.
When the 63rd edition of the historic race from the French capital southwards to the Mediterranean coast gets underway on Sunday (March 6 - 13) Vino will once again number among the pre-race favourites. As the opening event in the ProTour series, this year the race takes on extra significance.
Lining up alongside Vino is the classics specialist Sergey Ivanov (Russia) and another Kazakh, Sergey Yakovlev, who was called up as a late replacement for the injured Daniele Nardello (back problems). The Dutchman Bram Schmitz returns to action after the flu bug that forced him out of this week's Tour of Murcia. The Spaniard Oscar Sevilla will also be on hand to help out Vino in the mountains.
The speedy duo of Olaf Pollack and André Korff are the men nominated for the sprint showdowns, while Torsten Hiekmann rounds off the T-Mobile roster. Last year Hiekmann rolled into Nice, placing third on the day behind the stage-winner Vino.
T-Mobile sports director Mario Kummer is upbeat about his riders' prospects in the prestigious tour. "The races that we have contested up until now have served primarily as warm-ups for the ProTour. I have the impression that our team is well prepared."
Team: Torsten Hiekmann (24), Sergey Ivanov (29/Russia), André Korff (31), Sergey Yakovlev (28/Kazakhstan), Olaf Pollack (31), Oscar Sevilla (28/Spain), Bram Schmitz (27/Netherlands), Alexander Vinokourov (31/Kazakhstan).
Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne
No, that is not a spelling mistake, the team from the cycling holiday Islands have a new sponsor for 2005 and 2006.
CAISSE D’EPARGNE will be the co-sponsor of Team Illes Balears in 2005 and 2006. The National savings bank, third bank of France, with more than 4.800 offices and 26 million customers, has decided to sponsorship pro cycling entering into Team Illes Balears with the objective of reinforcing its expansion campaign and its branding values.
Due to the agreement of the parties born is the new Team Illes Balears–CAISSE D’EPARGNE official name of the team during the whole seasons 2005 and 2006, first seasons of the UCI Pro Tour world league where Team Illes Balears – CAISSE D’EPARGNE will be one of the strongest teams. With this partnership, Illes Balears and Caisse d’Epargne will start up a complete joint program of products and services through the team in all their national and international markets, taking into account the convergence of their interests.
On a first step, the agreement between the parties includes 2005 and 2006, although the desire of Illes Balears and Caisse d’Epargne is to extend their partnership. During these seasons, Team Illes Balears – CAISSE D’EPARGNE will participate in the complete UCI Pro Tour. Furthermore the Team will take part in most of the Spanish and French races. Team Illes Balears – CAISSE D’EPARGNE wants to welcome Caisse d’Epargne desiring the best success in this new cycling season.
Team for Paris Nice:
Daniel Becke, Jonathan González, David Navas, Aitor Osa, Vicente Reynés, Toni Tauler, Alejandro Valverde, Xabier Zandio
Fans across Europe will be interested to see how Alejandro Valverde will perform. A hugely popular rider in Spain, he and riders like Cunego represent the future of cycling racing. Spain waits to see if he can become the first Spaniard since Miguel Indurain to win this great race.
Cadel Evans, after a couple of best forgotten seasons with T Mobile, is part of a very solid, well balanced team, Rodriguez and Van Bon will be stage hunting, but keep an eye out for Vansummeren; he rarely has a bad race.
The Team: Mario Aerts, Christophe, Cadel Evans, Nico Mattan, Fred Rodriguez, Axel Merckx, Léon Van Bon and Johan Vansummeren.
Sylvain Chavanel in the young rider's Blue jersey 2003. Photo by Fabio.
Daily Peloton’s good friend Bingen Fernandez will ride the Paris Nice along with race contenders Sylvain Chavanel and David Moncoutié, expect to see him in the thick of the action on Mont Faron.
The Team: Frédéric Bessy, Jimmy Casper, Sylvain Chavanel, Jimmy Engoulvent and David Moncoutié (FRA), Bingen Fernandez and Luis Perez (ESP), Dmitriy Fofonov (KZK).
The Liberty boys are keen to keep the leader's jersey from last year and send a very strong team. Alongside current champion, the German Jorg Jaksche, is the winner of this year’s Down Under Tour, Luis León Sánchez, as well as one of the leaders of the team, Igor González de Galdeano. These riders will compete alongside some young riders who will no doubt have a lot to say, such as Contador, De Kort and Aaron Kemps.
Igor Antón, Mikel Artetxe, Iker Camaño, Gorka González, Alberto López de Munain, Egoi Martínez, Aketza Peña and Gorka Verdugo.
The Basque mountain men will be looking forward to the later stages of the race. The fifth stage, which ends in Mont Faron, an ascent classified as a category one, is a key stage, due to the high finish and the four ascents which are concentrated in the last 30 kilometres, in the purest European classic style. The sixth, despite finishing on the flat, will cover 6 climbs. But it will not be until the last stage when the race is decided, the cyclists have to climb four mountains, three of them category 1, the col de la Porte, the Turbie, and the last “mythical” summit, the Col d’Eze, which could decide the race.
The Quick-Step team is ready for the first ProTour race of the season. Tom Boonen, who performed very well last weekend at the Omloop Het Volk and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, will be the team’s man for the sprints and there's more.
“Traditionally the Paris-Nice race is very challenging", explains Boonen. "The first stage has a finish that is very much tailored to my way of racing. This race will be important in giving me the chance to refine my condition towards Milan-San Remo, a race that always fascinates me”.
Michael Rogers, World Time Trial Champion, will be the team’s leader for the general classifications. “I’m in good form", says the young Australian rider who finished 3rd at last Saturday’s G. P. Chiasso. "I’ve been improving daily and now I’m in great form for Paris-Nice. The short prologue suits my way of racing, as does most of the rest of the circuit in general. The presence of lots of valued competitors will be an important test for me”.
Rik Verbrugghe, winner of last Sunday's G. P. Lugano, will also appear at the starting line, ready to prove himself again after his great win in Lugano.
“The Paris-Nice race", claims sporting director Wilfried Peeters, "is the first race on the calendar of the new ProTour. There is bound to be a lot of interest which means it is important for our team to be protagonists. We have a couple of objectives for this race. We’ll be counting on Michael Rogers and Rik Verbrugghe, both of whom are in good form, for the general classification. For the wins of the day we’ll be working for Tom Boonen. We’ve got a strong well-balanced team that is more than able to support the leaders in both of our objectives”.
Roster: Tom Boonen, Kevin De Weert, Kevin Hulsmans, Marc Lotz, Michael Rogers, Bram Tankink, Guido Trenti, Rik Verbrugghe. (Team Website)
The peloton is getting ready for Paris-Nice, which kicks off the Pro Tour on Sunday with a four kilometer prologue. Last year Team CSC's German rider Jörg Jaksche won the race, but he is now with Liberty Seguros. Instead Jaksche's fellow countryman, Jens Voigt, leads Team CSC in this year's edition of the “Race to the Sun”.
“The win in Tour Med definitely gives me a lot confidence, but last weekend I had a setback as I suffered from a nasty stomach bug. Actually I felt so bad Saturday evening that I just wanted to die. But I hope to be able to recover in time for Paris-Nice,” says Jens Voigt.
Voigt would have liked a longer prologue than the four kilometer course in Issy les Moulineaux. Due to the short opener and a star packed peloton, he predicts this year's Paris-Nice to be won by a very narrow margin.
“I think it's going to be very close, perhaps the race will even be decided on bonus seconds. There are so many great riders participating, and if I have to name some of the favorites, it must be Vinokourov, Rebellin or Valverde. I know Discovery Channel will line up some of the big guns, including Lance, but I think something's wrong if he is at his best right now.”
Voigt himself is perhaps the biggest favorite of them all following his overall victory in Tour Med. This could, however, benefit some of his team mates on Team CSC.
“I have a feeling, that all the other teams will be watching me very closely, because I won the Tour Med. But if that's the case, we have such a strong and diverse team, that we could take advantage of the situation by sending someone like Bobby Julich or Fränk Schleck on the attack. We have a lot of riders who are in great shape right now, and we have a very strong line-up for Paris-Nice,” says Voigt.
Phonak young guns in Paris Nice 2003. Photo by Fabio.
The first chance for many to see Floyd Landis in new colours. Phonak send out a very strong squad, potentially able to compete both for stage success and the over all. It remains to be seen if leLangue has had time to weld his riders together to make a strong team, However, he has a great reputation as a coach, and if the team get behind their strongest rider they could do very well.
Roster: Robert Hunter (AFS), Nicolas Jalabert (FRA), Floyd Landis (USA), Alexandre Moos (SUI), Victor Hugo Peña (COL), Miguel Angel Perdiguero (ESP), Oscar Pereiro (ESP), Tadej Valjavec (SLO).
Joxean Fernandez Matxin has picked the following riders: Iñigo Cuesta, Jose Angel Gomez Marchante, Nicolas Fritsch, Fabian Jeker, Leonardo Piepoli, Joaquim Rodriguez, Fran Ventoso and Tino Zaballa.
Piepoli will enjoy the races more mountainous parcours this year, and don’t discount Fabian Jeker or the riders team spirit. They nearly beat off Ullrich’s T-Mobile team in last year's Tour de Suisse and if the peloton give them an inch they will take a mile.
Thomas Voeckler and Jérôme Pineau will lead the Bouygues Telecom team. Pierrick Fédrigo and Laurent Lefèvre, will return to racing having been sick. Laurent Brochard, second in the race in 2000, ill not be riding. Instead he will be team Captain of the young guns who will race the Tirreno-Adriatico, a race which no Frenchman has ever won.
Fédrigo, Lefèvre, Martias, Pineau, Rous, Sprick, Voeckler, Yus.