Good afternoon and welcome to live coverage of Stage 7 of Paris Nice! Your commentators today: Anita van Crey, Bart Hazen of cyclingfx.nl and podofdonny.
Stage 7 - 13 March: Nice - Nice, 135 km
So just 84 miles and three first category climbs, La Porte, La Turbie and Le Col d'Eze between Bobby Julich and a famous victory . The question remains if Spaniards Constantino Zaballa (Saunier Duval) and Alejandro Valvedre (illes Balears) will attack on the climbs and try to recoup the 19 and 20 seconds they trail Julich by.
However the CSC camp is very confident for the final day's racing.
Following yesterday's stage Riis commented - ”We managed to keep our focus and the whole team made a very strong effort. Actually I'd expected a lot more dangerous attacks, but we managed to set a pace, which made it impossible. The race is far from over, but we can allow ourselves to be optimistic.”
Julich himself is optimistic. He is based in Nice and is riding on home
"I had my best day since the start today. My team is super strong, I'm very confident as I know the course very well," he added that he thinks he can hang onto the leaders jersey. “There is one more stage to go and I'm confident that I'm going to retain the jersey. The weather is improving and I'm in a good shape."
Joining the race in progress we have Charlie Wegelius (Liquigas-Bianchi), Oscar Pereiro (Phonak), Alberto Contador (Liberty Seguros), Volodymir Gustov (Fassa Bortolo), Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel), Rik Verbrugghe (Quick.Step) and David Moncoutie (Cofidis) in the lead.
From these leaders Contador is the best ranked at position 22. The bunch is at 1.55" from the leaders.
In the beginning of the stage Hulsmans crashed very hard and took Ian Mcleod with him to the ground. Both riders are brought to hospital.
CSC is setting the pace of the peloton with 61 km to go.
Mario Aerts is swimming between the leaders and the bunch at 55 sec.
The peloton is now at 1.40 of the 7 leaders.
The gap is now 1.10 on the bunch. They have still 2 more climbs to do, amongst them the Col D'Eze. Mario Aerts is caught by the bunch. The riders are now on a climb,
50 km to go, 40 sec. gap left. The Saunier riders are attacking again. Gomez increases the pace.
The gap now is down to 23 seconds, 5 km of the summit of the Col de la Turbi. Gomez has attacked and is on his way to the seven leaders. The bunch now is at half a minute to the leaders. Julich in his leader's jersey seems to be in good spirits, heading home as a winner of this Paris-Nice. Or will there be any who can conquer his position.
Schleck and Voigt are the only helpers right now for Julich. At the back of the pack riders like Flecha have to let go. Also Luxembourgeois Kirchen is to be found in the more backer sides of the pack.
Gomez caught again. The
7 leaders have about 10 sec. on the bunch. At the back of the peloton more and more riders have to let go.
Now 8 leaders because a rider of the Illes Baleares team has jumped to the front, 46 km to go. Gustov caught by the bunch, 7 riders remain in the lead. Moncoutie takes the maximum points on the Turbi.
Yesterday, near Toulon, some riders of the Landbouwkrediet- team went training. Gregory Habeaux went down hard and suffers bad head injuries. He was taken to hospital, his condition this morning is described as severe but under control.
Back to the race: The Illes Baleares rider in the front is Aitor Osa.
14 km to go, gap still remains the same. The riders near Nice, where in a few they will roll over the Promenade des Anglais. Peloton at 19 sec. of the leaders, controlled by CSC.
Pereiro seems to have a good day. He is trying to get away, 33 km to go. Pereiro and Wegelius with a little gap now on Verbrugghe and co. Wegelius is from Yorkshire, being in the front files of our own Podofdonny with pride. The peloton now is at 35 sec, with 28 km. to go.
Pereiro has lost Wegelius but now it's Osa who bridged the gap. Peloton at 40 sec. now. The leaders group again with 7 now. The riders now roll down the seaside, covered in sunshine. The yachts are awaiting them, but they do not seem to have eye for them. actually they lost one in front while there are 6 riders left(Verbrugghe, Pereiro, Osa, Moncoutie, Martinez and Wegelius). The 7th rider is back in front, he was riding between the cars. The 7th rider in front is Contador
One of the unfortunates ones of the day, Hulsmans tells he has an open wound on his ellbow and has 4 stitches in it. He has no problems with it, can train as much as he wants. This fills him with joy, while he is in good form heading to Milan-San Remo. He names Pozzato, Nuyens, Lotz, Tankink and Bettini who should be in the team for the Primavera.
Peloton at 50 sec. now. The Col d'Eze (Cat. 1) looms 7,8 kilometres at around 6%, which should see the final clash of the titans in this race. Thomas Dekker (Dekker jr.) is one to be found in the front lines of the bunch too. He seems to have plans for today as well.
Contador is setting the pace. Dekker sr. is trying to get away (or set the pace a bit higher. Moncoutie, Contador and Osa in the lead, the others can't follow. Dekker caught again.
Next to attack is Vinokourov.
Contador attacks again, Moncoutie and Osa dropped.
The bunch breaks into several parts.
Valverde attacks. Wegelius is caught by the bunch. Contador still in the lead.
Contador in the lead with about 15 sec on the bunch, Valverde attacks the CSC team again. Moncoutie, Osa and Vinokourov caught, Voigt and Julich are getting Valverde back. 20 km to go.
Contador has 45 sec. on the bunch with Julich, Voigt and the others. Bobby looking smooth. The bunch is 25 riders. 53 sec. the lead.
Valverde is talking with Osa, so Alejandro is working on a plan. 18 km to go. And it looks like heading towards Boonen losing his green sprint point jersey to Voigt...
Thomas Dekker struggling to stay with the big names while Moncoutie has to let go the pack. Franco Pellizotti attacks now. 1 km to the summit of the Col D'Eze, 45 sec. left for Contador.
Contador at the top of the Col D'Eze. CSC controlling the peloton, Pellizotti caught. Evans attacks. Dekker leads Dekker in the chase of a group behind the bunch. Evans and Valverde attack. They are not getting away. Contador 28 sec left - the descent of the Col D'Eze begins. 13 km to go.
Checking in at Tirreno Adriatico: Rain, and five men in front, they include Servais Knaven (Quick Step), Christophe Le Mevel (Crédit Agricole), Marco Pinotti (Saunier Duval), Andrea Peron (CSC), and a Discovery Channel rider... Liquigas sets the tempo in the pack...
Back in France, Contador still leads with 25 sec on Vino and 30 sec. on the others. T-Bone dropped from the bunch a long while ago...Contador almost crashed while getting out of his pedal.
Dekker and Dekker are coming back. Vinokourov and Contador in the lead. 6 km to go!
13 sec. the gap while there is a moving car on the road...brings back Ster Elektro memories...eh, Bart? This motorist ignored a stop signal. Discos setting the pace.
2 km to go. 10 seconds the gap. Beltran and Rubiera are setting the pace for Popovych. Erik Dekker attacks.
Vino starts sprinting. The bunch rolls over them...Valverde wins!
Valverde moves up to the runner up spot in the overall. Pellizotti 2nd, Kirchen 3rd. Popovych seems to be fourth, Vinokourov 5th, Voigt 6th (puts him in Green), Contador 7th. Thomas Dekker 9th.
In Tirreno Adriatico: Final lap of twelve: Pinotti caught by the four others as the pack crosses the finish line with a handicap of 1'58".
And Bobby Julich wins Paris Nice with 10 seconds on Valverde and 19 seconds on Zaballa.
As we wait for the final festivities in beautiful Nice, here's the latest on Tirreno Adriatico: Knaven attacks. He has now 9 sec. on Padrnos, Pinotti and Le Mevel. Knaven now has 14 sec, 5km and one climb to go.
The peloton at 2.00 from the leaders. 3 km to go, 18 seconds - looks like Knaven is on his way to a stage win...or Pinotti has to go in a moment.
The peloton at more than 2.00 now.
The four appear to have further slowed as we enter that final ascent into Saltara... Knaven buries his head in the handlebars and plugs on... And Servais Knaven wins in Italy!
Peron second, Padrnos 3rd. Le Mevel was dropped.
Tirreno Brief Results: 1. Knaven, 2. Peron +15s, 3. Padrnos, 4. Le Mevel +19s, 5. Pinotti +21s, 6. Bettini +1.31, 7. Hushovd, 8. Petacchi, 9. Freire, 10. Di Luca.
Back in Nice, France, Bobby Julich is now heading to work for Jens Voigt in the Criterium International. He will also ride the Tour of Georgia and than have a month of...well, a month of just training. And he is happy with this win, since he does not win that much.
A great win for Julich, who now leads the ProTour with 50 points, and a great edition of Paris Nice. Tirreno Adriatico has two stages to go, and then the next ProTour race is the most excellent Classic, Milan-Sanremo, next Saturday. We hope you will join us then.
Stay tuned for Paris Nice stage results and final classifications, and thanks for reading!