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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News for March 13, 2006

Edited by Jeff Jones and Anthony Tan

Paris-Nice final stage wrap-up

Marcus Zberg (Gerolsteiner)
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

The final stage round Nice in the 'race to the sun' produced a very close finish, with five riders managing to stay clear of the clutches of the peloton on the Promenade des Anglais. A very gutsy performance saw Swiss rider Marcus Zberg take the victory ahead of Evgeni Petrov (Lampre-Fondital) and Alberto Contador (Liberty Seguros), with Antonio Colom and Joaquin Rodriguez (Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears) rounding out the top five. Floyd Landis (Phonak) and his team rode a great stage to keep him in yellow and give him his second stage race win of the season.

Zberg's result was hard earned, as he was repeatedly dropped by Contador and Rodriguez on the last climb, the col d'Eze. But he came back when Petrov and Colom bridged up from the peloton, and was able to use his superior sprint to win his first race since 2001. "The Spanish riders knew what they were doing, attacking all the time," Zberg told Cyclingnews at the finish line. I just kept my rhythm and hoped that somebody would come up from behind - so I was lucky, too. I have been unlucky for so long and now luck came back to me!"

Third placed Alberto Contador added, "On the last climb, Rodriguez was very strong, too, and we played poker for the stage victory: trying to scare each other and drop one another. But when Rodriguez' teammate Antonio Colom came back on us in the descent, my legs were hurting and the race was pretty fast. Of course, I took my chances and tried, but as I'm not at a 100 percent of my form yet...But I'm still happy, this race has been a good test."

See also
Full results, report & photos
Live report
Start list

Landis finds Paris-Nice glory

Floyd Landis (Phonak) is rapidly maturing as a team leader, winning two stage races on the trot: The Tour of California and now Paris-Nice. After a brilliant attack with Patxi Vila to finish second in the third stage to St Etienne, Landis rode consistently for the next four days, supported by a motivated and hard working team that neutralised any threats to the American. His eyes are now on the Tour de France in July, as Cyclingnews' Hedwig Kröner reports from Floyd's final press conference in Nice.

Floyd Landis (Phonak)
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Q: What happened in the descent of the Col de la Porte, you crashed?

FL: Yes, there was some gravel on that downhill. There have been some dangerous downhills in this race and I think I can be happy to have crashed only once!

Q: People say that you are a different man now. What has changed?

FL: What has mainly changed is the team. We have a lot of different riders but a very focused atmosphere - I couldn't have done it without them. We have been through some ups and downs together and it builds character, as we say.

I've sort of been through some ups and downs myself; that last year was the first where I had to take some racing decisions on my own and try to be the leader. It was a learning experience and now it seems to have paid off.

Click here for the full feature

Vino guest stars in Nice

By Hedwig Kröner in Nice

Alexandre Vinokourov (Liberty Seguros)
Photo ©: Hedwig Kröner
(Click for larger image)

A pleasant surprise this morning in sunny Nice was to see Alexandre Vinokourov taking the time to shake hands, support his team, and start his daily training ride - five hours today, he said - from the famous Promenade des Anglais. Living just a few kilometres away along the coastline of the Mediterranean in Monaco, the former Paris-Nice winner hadn't seen his teammate's victory live on TV yesterday, but got a call as his compatriot Andrei Kashechkin passed under the 'flamme rouge'.

"I'm really happy for Kash that he won here yesterday, it's great," Vinokourov said. "Later, I watched the coverage: a beautiful victory. So today, it was a good opportunity to come and say hello to all of my friends here; it's always good to see them all. I miss it, but that's the way it is - this year, it's all for the Tour, and I want to keep my strength for that.

"My preparation is going well," the Kazakhstan champion continued, explaining why he was missing out on this year's 'race to the sun'. "The program is a little different from last year, as the one and only objective is the Tour de France."

One decisive factor in his plan to win the French Grand Tour in July will be the support he will receive from his teammates. What was his impression of their strength so far? "I have confidence in my team to 99 percent, as it's still a young team but they have a lot of motivation," Vinokourov replied. "Like today, there are still seven riders at the start of the last stage - that's good. They all really want to race and work for their leader. And with Kash winning yesterday, it gives them even more motivation."

Asked whether there were many differences between a German-held team and a Spanish one, the 32 year-old laughed, "Well, organisation was big in the German team, but it's also good with Liberty - in Spain, it's just more relaxed! But I don't have a problem at all with the structure of the team, and Saiz being the big boss. I come from a former Eastern bloc country, so it was the same structure there, the same school. It suits me to have somebody giving me a detailed program even for training."

Tirreno Adriatico stage 5 wrap-up

Cancellara reverses CSC's fortunes; Rabo maintains lead, now with Dekker

Thomas Dekker (Rabobank)
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Sunday's time trial in Servigliano brought about an expected winner in Team CSC's Fabian Cancellara, who reversed the bad luck the team experienced earlier in the week with crashes and injuries both in Paris-Nice and Tirreno Adriatico. A surprise second, however, was Belgian Leif Hoste (Discovery Channel), while Thomas Dekker's third place saw the leader's jersey swap shoulders within his Rabobank team as Oscar Freire relinquished the race lead to his younger team-mate.

Due to forecasts of snow, RCS, the organisers of Tirreno-Adriatico decided to take out tomorrow's heavily anticipated mountain-top finish to Monte della Laga in San Giacomo, making it difficult for those high on general classification - namely Jörg Jaksche (Liberty Seguros-Würth @ 0'14), Alessandro Ballan (Lampre-Fondital @ 0'20) and the Discovery Channel pairing of Paolo Savoldelli (@ 0'40) and Tom Danielson (0'47) - to overhaul the 21 year-old. Trained by Luigi Cecchini and considered one of the biggest future stars in world cycling, Dekker the younger had improved his climbing considerably over the winter, going as far to break Basso's winter record time on the 936m high Monte Serra, so it would have been an interesting test regardless.

Instead, the fifth stage will conclude with five finishing circuits in Torricella Sicura before the final stage on Tuesday in San Benedetto del Tronto's urban circuit.

See also:
Full results & report
Start list

Cancellara bright spot during bad week for CSC

By Jeff Jones

Fabian Cancellara's victory in Stage 5 of Tirreno-Adriatico was a bright moment in an otherwise gloomy week for Team CSC. With five riders out of action after crashing this week, team director Scott Sunderland looked at the weather today - 3 degrees Celsius, melting snow and rain - with some trepidation. Had it not been for that, Sunderland told Cyclingnews that the course would have been "probably one of the nicest TT courses you could have," as it wasn't overly technical.

"Cancellara did a really good job, and we're happy with how Ivan [Basso] is going; he's feeling very good," he added, pointing to Basso's eighth place in the stage. "We just came four seconds short of team classification for the day.

"It was a good boost of confidence for Cancellara. He's been working hard, and we're generally happy with the overall result. Karsten Kroon has also shown a vast improvement in his time trialing [he finished 16th today]. He's never pursued his time trialing with Rabobank, because he was always working for someone else. Now he's got here, Bjarne's repositioned him on the bike and he's pulled out a really good performance."

As for the long-term injury list, it grew by one today when Bobby Julich didn't start the final stage of Paris-Nice. "We suspect he has a fractured rib when he fell yesterday. He was in a lot of pain. That's five riders out for periods of a couple of weeks now [Julich, Breschel, Vandevelde, O'Grady, Blaudzun]. Christian Vandevelde cracked a collarbone, it turns out - we did some x-rays. There's just no end! But we know it's all going to pass. This is where the team spirit is so important. And it was good to get the victory today, to put a bit of light back into it."

Sunderland also commented on tomorrow's changed stage, with the major climbs taken out due to the bad weather. "I don't know what's going to happen with tomorrow. I'm looking out in San Benedetto and seeing the seas in front of us. They're just heaving. It's not weather to be out the bike. Let's hope it clears up for Milan-San Remo."

Landis first ProTour leader

Although he will never wear the white ProTour leader's jersey in a race, Floyd Landis is nevertheless the first leader of the UCI's ProTour competition following Paris-Nice. Landis' next ProTour race is probably the Giro d'Italia, and he will almost certainly be overtaken in the overall standings before then.

The rest of the ProTour standings reflect the overall classification of Paris-Nice, with Patxi Vila (Lampre-Fondital) in second and Antonio Colom (Caisse d'Epargne) in third. Lampre-Fondital is the best team, ahead of Discovery Channel and Liberty Seguros, while Spain leads the nations ranking ahead of the USA and Luxembourg.

ProTour Rankings as of March 12, 2006

1 Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak Hearing Systems                           52 pts
2 Francisco Javier Vila Errandonea (Spa) Lampre-Fondital              43
3 Antonio Colom Mas (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears              35
4 Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi                     31
5 Frank Schleck (Lux) Team CSC                                        25
6 José Azevedo (Por) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team               20
7 Erik Dekker (Ned) Rabobank                                          15
8 Pietro Caucchioli (Ita) Credit Agricole                             10
9 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step-Innergetic                               9
10 Allan Davis (Aus) Liberty Seguros-Würth Team                        6
1 Lampre-Fondital                                                     20 pts
2 Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team                                  19
3 Liberty Seguros-Würth Team                                          18
4 Credit Agricole                                                     17
5 Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears                                      16
6 Phonak Hearing Systems                                              15
7 Euskaltel-Euskadi                                                   14
8 Française des Jeux                                                  13
9 Davitamon-Lotto                                                     12
10 AG2R Prevoyance                                                    11
1 Spain                                                              117 pts
2 United States Of America                                            57
3 Luxembourg                                                          25
4 Portugal                                                            20
5 Netherlands                                                         17
6 Italy                                                               11
7 Belgium                                                              9
8 Australia                                                            7
9 Kazakhstan                                                           5
10 France                                                              4
Full rankings: ProTour, TeamsNations

Hincapie to skip Milan-San Remo

George Hincapie (Discovery Channel) is opting to skip next Saturday's Milan-San Remo, according to the Belgian media. Despite winning a couple of stages of the Tour of California, he is aiming more for the cobbled classics, and will not line up in Milan. He will be replaced by Max van Heeswijk.

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(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2006)