Paris Nice Stage 2 – Quickstep no Jive!
There was a little speculation in the Belgium papers this morning, with the prospect of shortened stages due to bad weather, exactly how far Tom Boonen could go in this race. The theory being that the more the stages were shortened due to weather the better his chances would be to remain in the top ten of the overall classification.
The theorists did not have to wait long to find out if their assumptions were correct . The second stage of the Paris-Nice, which should have been over 191 kilometres between La Châtre (Indre) and Thiers (Puy-de-Dôme), was been shortened due to heavy snow fall. The riders started at Aigueperse (Puy-de-Dôme) and were to complete the last 46,5 kilomètres of the course to the finish in Thiers.
The shortening of the course eliminated most of the days climbs and only the Podime, 6,5 kilomètres from the finish in Thiers,remained. Once again the bonus sprints would play a big role in the days racing. With Dekker in the White and yellow jersey Rabobank decided to keep the pace very high to discourage attacks and hopefully lead Dekker all the way homne to victory, while snatching enough intermediate bonus seconds to increase his lead. Quickstep also wanted a high pace. With the fastest sprinter in the field they knew if they could deliver Boonen to within 200 metres of the finish line they would gain not only their second stage victory, but also with the 10 second bonus the Overall as well.
CSC, with Voigt and a host of other riders in contention, were content to keep a very close eye on the Dutch and Belgium team as they sped through the snow covered countryside.
The average speed for the stage was 52 km/h and it was no wonder that some riders found it difficult to hold the wheels almost from the start of this frantic stage.
French Champion Thomas Voeckler (Bouygues Télécom), 8th in the general Classification at 7 seconds found himself in trouble early on. He was then blocked by cars and three team mates dropped back to help their Captain in a furious chase that finally saw him get back into the peloton just before the only intermediate sprint of the day with 17 kilometres to go.
In Maringues, Erik Dekker won the three intermediate bonus seconds while his main rival Jens Voigt (Team CSC) was to play his hand on the sole climb of the day. The german attacked on the côte de Podime, 6,5 kilomètres from the finish. The 2,4 kilomètres of climbing at 5,2% saw the peloton finally split asunder, as Voigt upped the stakes.
Kim Kirchen (Fassa Bortolo) and Alejandro Valverde ( Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne) showed they are in good climbing form, but with Rebellin leading the chase what was left of the peloton regrouped just after the summit.
Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis) then showed his considerable descending skills as the on the twisting, slippy descent towards the finish. “Mimo” lost 41 seconds yesterday in the big crash and was in determined mood to regain lost time. With 2 kilomètres to go Leon Van Bon (Davitamon-Lotto) managed to bridge the gap, but the peloton were not far behind.
Qickstep had managed to regroup, Michael Rogers and Marc lotz has lead Boonen over the climb and Kevin Hulsmans brilliantly lead his captain under the Flamme Rouge. Such was the impetus of the front 10 men that they swept up Chavanel and van Bon as if they were tourists and with about 200 metres to go Hulsmans finally pulled over to let Boonen charge for the line.
Hulsmans was celebrating long before Boonen crossed the line, with Kurt-Asle Arvesen (Team CSC) and Yaroslav Popovych (Discovery Channel) finishing in the same time but a couple of bike lengths back.
Meanwhile the high pace had caused damage behind and many big names lost time again.Floyd Landis (Phonak Hearing Systems), Lance Armstrong and Paolo Savoldelli (Discovery Channel) came in 21 seconds down, Carlos Sastre (Team CSC) and Oscar Sevilla (T-Mobile) 36 seconds, Dario Frigo (Fassa Bortolo) 2'04", David Moncoutié (Cofidis) 4'21", and Georg Totschnig (Gerolsteiner) 6'56".
However it is another Daily Peloton favourite who takes over the Lanterne Rouge from Fast Freddie Gonzalez – Charles Wegelius now holds the lamp at 13.15.
Tomorrow the third stage should be between Thiers and Le Chambon-sur-Lignon (174 km), but climatic conditions could see last minute alterations to the route. Boonen may well fancy another shortened stage, but tomorrow his team will have to control the race from the start, so Rabobank and CSC will no doubt be studying tactics hard tonight and will be hoping for good weather. Riis is well aware that the best way to beat Boonen is to drop him long before the finish -
”It was bad luck, that we couldn't ride the stage at it's original length, but hopefully we'll have more luck with the weather conditions over the next few days. It's a shame – both for the spectators and us – we had to skip the hilly parts of the stage today. I have a feeling our team is able to put a lot of pressure on the rest of the peloton, once we start climbing, and hopefully we'll be able to prove this before long,” Riis said tonight on the CSC website.
Meanwhile there have been reports, both on Teletext and in one European newspaper that Team CSC are in financial difficulties.
In order to clear this matter up, Daily Peloton's reporter Tick has confirmed with team spokesperson Brian Nygaard that these rumours are foundless.
Brian Nygaard commented "Thank you for contacting us about this.
I can deny the rumours completely. They have absolute no basis in reality. I have contacted the journalists and he will write a denouncement for his paper tomorrow.
Let's hope these groundless rumours cease.
Full results in the live report, link below.