Though the name of the Circuit des Mines now lies dead (and buried), the organisers rightfully decided to maintain the history by ensuring the newly-baptised 'edition' slotted into the place previously filled by that of the Mines. Inddeed, in the past, the race (which was amateur until 1995) has been won by illustrious names such as Joop Zoetemelk, Teun van Vliet and Alexandre Vinokourov.
The big Latvian sprinter, Andris Nauduzs (Naturino-Sapore di Mare), has won the first stage of the 44th Circuit de Lorraine (2.1) from, surprisingly, a breakaway. The 29 year old beat up-and-coming Belgian rider Sven Renders of Landbouwkrediet-Colnago and the ever-attacking Koji Fukushima (Bridgestone-Anchor) for victory, his first of the season after finishing as runner-up in two Circuit de la Sarthe stages three weeks ago. Another sprinter - Wouter van Mechelen - was also in the four-man escape, but he was shelled near the finish in Nancy.
Damien Nazon of Crédit Agricole won the bunch sprint for fifth, just under three minutes down. The gap could prove decisive, though the 16km ITT tomorrow will surely bring the quartet's advantage down. Among the favourites for "the race of truth" include Jose Alberto Martinez (Agritubel) Yuriy Krivtsov (Ag2r Prevoyance) and Sergiy Matveyev of Ceramica Panaria, while Nazon's teammate Bradley Wiggins - thought to be preparing for the blink-and-you'll-miss-it Giro d'Italia prologue - might also be a threat. As for race leadership come tomorrow afternoon, it's anyone's guess - after his escape today which will no doubt delight his Japanese employers, Koji Fukushima could be the one who puts on the leader's jersey tomorrow.
Naturino-Sapore di Mare Report
The Lithuanian Andris Nauduzs has won, after a breakaway, the first stage of the Circuit of Lorraine, from Metz to Nancy. It's Naturino-Sapore di Mare's first victory of the season. The breakaway, initially composed of four riders, lasted 130km. At the finish, Nauduzs went from a long way out (350m) and won clearly, with his arms raised. He has also won the leader's jersey in the overall classification.
"We went on the attack after 20km," Nauduzs said. "I decided to anticipate their moves, then go for a long sprint, and I won cleanly. It's an important win for the team, as finally we have broken the ice."
Stage 1 - Metz-Nancy, 157km - Top 20
1. Andris Nauduzs (Naturino-Sapore di Mare, Lat) 4h 02m 45s
2. Sven Renders (Landbouwkrediet-Colnago, Bel) at same time
3. Koji Fukushina (Bridgestone-Anchor, Jap) s.t
4. Wouter van Mechelen (Chocolade Jacques-T Interim, Bel) at 42"
5. Damien Nazon (Crédit Agricole, Fra) at 2'56"
6. Leonardo Duque (Jartazi-Revor, Col) s.t
7. Dawid Zdzieblko (Legia-Bazyliszek, Pol) s.t
8. Dennis Haueisen (RSH, Ger)
9. Cyrille Monnerais (Francaise des Jeux, Fra) s.t
10. Mario de Sarraga (Naturino-Sapore di Mare, Ita) s.t
11. Samuel Dumoulin (Ag2r Prevoyance, Fra) s.t
12. Igor Abakoumov (Jartazi-Revor, Bel) s.t
13. Pieter Ghyllebert (Chocolade Jacques-T Interim, Bel) s.t
14. David Derepas (Jartazi-Revor, Fra) s.t
15. Mark Renshaw (Francaise des Jeux, Aus) s.t
16. Mikhail Timochine (Omnibike Dinamo Moscow, Rus) s.t
17. John Gadret (Jartazi-Revor, Fra) s.t
18. Mateusz Rybczynski (Legia-Bazyliszek, Pol) s.t
19. Mitja Mahoric (Perutnina Ptuj, Slo) s.t
20. Matej Gnezda (Radenska Rog, Slo) s.t
Andris Nauduzs (Naturino-Sapore di Mare)
Sven Renders (Landbouwkrediet-Colnago)
Intermediate Sprints Classification
Wouter van Mechelen (Chocolade Jacques-T Interim)