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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News for February 17, 2004

Edited by Chris Henry

2004 Paris-Nice route preview

By Chris Henry

2004 Race to the sun
Photo: © ASO
Click for larger image

The 2004 edition of Paris-Nice, slated for March 7-14, will once more serve as the first major objective for many riders. With the season underway since January, Paris-Nice continues to grow in importance, no longer a preparation race for the bigger tours of the summer. Since its acquisition of the race in 2002, Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), which also organises the Tour de France and major classics such as Paris-Roubaix and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, has sought to ensure the importance of Paris-Nice on the racing calendar by selecting only Division I teams.

Two time winner and defending champion Alexandre Vinokourov will lead the list of favourites once again, after an emotional victory in 2003. Last year's race was marked by the tragic death of Vinokourov's friend and compatriot Andrei Kivilev, who succumbed to injuries sustained in a crash on the second road stage to Saint-Etienne. Vinokourov was already a candidate for repeat success, but the desire to win for his fallen friend meant that missing out on a second yellow jersey in Nice was not an option.

This year's "race to the sun" begins outside of Paris and follows the traditional southward trajectory toward Nice and the Mediterranean coast, beginning with flat sprinter's stages and finishing with a five climb romp around Nice before the finish on the famed Promenade des Anglais.

While Paris-Nice has often started with a prologue time trial and included a longer individual test against the clock mid-way through, this year will feature just one time trial. The climbs included in the race are not those for the pure mountain men, but rather offered up in a parcours geared to aggressive, attacking riders who can excel on varied terrain.

The stages

Stage 1 - March 7: Chaville-Vanves ITT, 13.2km

Rather than a short prologue, this year's Paris-Nice will feature just one time trial, a 13.2 kilometre test which opens the event. A point to point course will be used, connecting Chaville with Vanves, at the southwest of gates of Paris. With ASO at the helm, it's no surprise that the course will take a swing through Issy-les-Moulineaux, where the organiser is located.

The time trial starts with a steady rise to the 2.4km mark, where the course levels out for several minutes before dropping back down. Sweeping through Issy-les-Moulineaux, the riders will tackle the same 1.2km hill used in last year's prologue, a big-ring power climb situated just over 2km from the finish on the Boulevard du Lycée in Vanves.

Stage profile

Stage 2 - March 8: Chaville-Montargis, 166.5km

With a second start in Chaville, the road racing begins on stage 2 with a 166 kilometre drag south to the medieval town of Montargis. Five Cat. 3 climbs in the first half of the race will likely have little effect on the almost certain bunch sprint, as the sprinters' teams will have nearly 80km of pan-flat roads to reel in early breakaways and set up for the finish. However, after a time trial of 13km on the opening stage, it is less likely that a sprinter will be able to take the race lead on bonus seconds alone.

Stage profile

Stage 3 - March 9: La Chapelle-Saint Ursin-Roanne, 229km

The longest day of racing will take the peloton 229 kilometres from the tiny town of La Chapelle-Saint-Ursin to Roanne. Two bonus sprints will help animate the flat first half of the stage, after which the field will hit two Cat. 3 climbs before a long plunge into Roanne.

Stage profile

Stage 4 - March 10: Roanne-Le Puy-en-Velay, 179km

Three stages down, five to go, and the climbing begins in earnest between Roanne and Le Puy-en-Velay. The first Cat. 3 summit comes after only 14km of racing, as the Côte de la Croix du Lac provides a prelude to the continued climb to the Côte des Essarts at kilometre 27. After a steady descent and some 40km of flat terrain, the first Cat. 2 climb of the week greets the peloton.

The climb to 1,163 metres and the Col de la Croix de l'Homme Mort offers the first real mountain test before a rolling parcours takes in one final rise and a chance to regroup before the finish in Le Puy-en-Velay. Situated mid-stage, the Cat. 2 climb may not produce time gaps in the general classification, but it will provide a first indication of who is ready for the road to roll when the going gets vertical.

Stage profile

Stage 5 - March 11: Le Puy-en-Velay-Rasteau, 215km

Another long stage is presented in stage 5, a transitional leg from Le Puy-en-Velay to Rasteau. Three Cat. 3 climbs are on the menu, along with the short but steep Cat. 2 Côte du Serre-de-Tourre. The small Côte de Buisson, whose summit lies just 13km from the finish, could provide the perfect springboard for a late stage attack.

Stage profile

Stage 6 - March 12: Rasteau-Gap, 173.5km

Stage 6 from Rasteau to Gap could prove one of the most decisive of this year's Paris-Nice. Covering 173 kilometres, the parcours includes an opening drag up to the Cat. 2 Col de Fontaube, followed immediately by the first Cat. 1 climb to the Col de Macuègne. A mid-stage regrouping will be possible, but another double dose of climbing finishes the day with the Cat. 1 Col de la Sentinelle and Col de Manse. A long descent completes the stage into Gap, but the back to back climbs could be enough to provoke some splits in the general classification.

Stage profile

Stage 7 - March 13: Digne-les-Bains-Cannes, 185.5km

No rest for the weary in stage 7, as seven categorised climbs punctuate the 185 kilometre trip from Digne-les-Bains to Cannes. The peloton will be pleased to reach the coast at Cannes, but the race won't be over. With four Cat. 3 climbs, one Cat. 2, and two Cat. 1 mountains spread evenly throughout the parcours, stage 7 could provide as many fireworks as the day before. Twenty kilometres separate the final summit of the Col du Tanneron and the finish in Cannes, but unlike previous days there are fewer extended lulls between climbs to allow the peloton to regroup.

Stage profile

Stage 8 - March 14: Nice-Nice, 144km

Last year ASO introduced a new twist to the traditional finish in Nice, replacing a ceremonial criterium with a climbing circuit which tackles the Cat. 1 Col d'Eze three times and the Cat. 2 Col de Châteauneuf twice. Five substantial climbs over 144 kilometres is no easy task, and even if the stage did not provide any major GC shake ups in 2003, it still provided an exciting finale to the week-long race. This year's winner may also be decided before the final day, but the yellow jersey will only be able to celebrate after crossing the line in Nice on the Promenade des Anglais.

Stage profile

Total distance: 1,305.7 kilometres


Brioches La Boulangère
Chocolade Jacques-Wincor-Nixdorf
Crédit Agricole
Team CSC
Fassa Bortolo
Illes Balears­Banesto
Liberty Seguros
Phonak Hearing Systems
RAGT Semences-MG Rover
US Postal Service presented by Berry Floor

Giro to remember Pantani

In an effort to remember Marco Pantani in a most fitting fashion, La Gazzetta dello Sport and race organiser RCS Sport have announced their intention to remember the enigmatic climber with a special mountain prize in the Giro d'Italia. The prize would be offered in the same spirit as the Cima Coppi and Tappa Bartali prizes, and could be awarded on the famed Mortirolo climb on the race's penultimate stage 19.

Cofidis drops Gaumont

French professional Philippe Gaumont, questioned as part of the ongoing investigation into drug trafficking sparked by the arrest of ex-Cofidis rider Marek Rutkiewicz and team soigneur Bogdan Madejak, has been formally dropped by Cofidis and thus ends his career in cycling. After his confessions to the use of EPO performance enhancing drugs in competition, Gaumont's future was all but sealed, even if his team had held out on terminating his contract while police investigations were still in progress.

"I was expecting it," Gaumont told l'Equipe, referring to the letter delivered by Cofidis Monday morning. "After my earlier discussion with [Cofidis manager] Alain Bondue about being terminated, I knew I was heading in this direction. I don't wish this on anyone, but I'm not in complete agreement with the reasons given for my being fired."

Formally, Gaumont was fired for having tarnished the image of the Cofidis company, not simply because he admitted to doping in years past. Cofidis had made an effort to file civil suits against anyone who accused the team of doping infractions, however the French courts blocked Cofidis' access to the files from the investigations. It is the redirection of this effort towards Gaumont that does not sit well with the cyclist, and as a result he plans to challenge the decision in the "conseil des prud'hommes", a French court where employees may lodge complaints of unjust termination.

Nevertheless, Gaumont's career as a professional rider is over.

"It's definitive," he said of his retirement. "Cycling [for me] is over. On the other hand, what is not finished is the problem that exists in cycling. Based on what I know, the courts and the police haven't finished talking about these problems this year."

Team Seasilver Pro Cycling

New Division III sponsor supports Parish Foundation

Seasilver USA (a nutritional supplement company based in Carlsbad, California) and the Parish Foundation (a San Diego-based cancer charity focused on comforting the survivors of Cancer and their families), have announced the official debut of a new pro cycling team, "Team Seasilver Pro Cycling", through a title sponsorship agreement with Seasilver USA. The UCI Division 3 team remains dedicated to raising funds and awareness for the Parish Foundation, and gains great strength with the support provided by Seasilver USA.

"We are really excited to work with Seasilver USA," said Greg Bourque L.Ac, the team's manager and director. "We've been looking for a powerful title sponsor to support us in benefiting cancer research, and Seasilver has just the right combination of philanthropy, community spirit, and health-awareness. Our goal since last year has been to sign a sponsor like this, and with Seasilver USA's support, that crucial piece of the puzzle is now in place."

The team's ongoing affiliation with the Parish Foundation sets it apart. "We've always had a unique sponsorship structure with the Parish Foundation: our mission is to raise funds for cancer research, so we have to be funded by other, corporate sponsors. For this dual marketing and charitable effort to work, our corporate sponsors have to understand what it means to give back to the community," says team rider Peter Knudsen.

The team includes eight (with a possible ninth to be added) professionals, and aims to earn a top five ranking in the United States, as well as continue to support cancer charities and events like Lance Armstrong's Ride for the Roses.

Sierra Nevada for 2004

The American Sierra Nevada Division III team Sierra Nevada has announced its roster for the 2004 season. The team will be headed by former US #1 Trent Klasna (ex-Saturn), Canada's Eric Wohlberg (also ex-Saturn), New Zealander Glen Mitchell, who joins after several seasons with the Navigators, and road and cyclo-cross talent Ben Jacques-Maynes. The team totals 12 riders for 2004.

2004 Roster:

Matt Dubberley
Russell Hamby
John Hygelund
Ben Jacques-Maynes
Trent Klasna
Jason Klikna
Sterling Magnell
Chris McGovern
Glen Mitchell
David Washburn
Troy White
Eric Wohlberg

Lehigh Valley Velodrome flea market vendor registration

The Lehigh Valley Velodrome has opened registration for the 2nd Annual Spring Bicycle Flea Market to be held Saturday, April 17. The Spring Bicycle Flea Market is a rain or shine event held from 9am - 2pm that allows both commercial bike shops as well as individuals to sell their cycling related goods. This year $1 from every ticket sale will benefit the Alaric Gayfer Fund.

Alaric Gayfer, a former professional cyclist and British National Champion, was diagnosed with brain cancer over one year ago and has been fighting the disease with valor ever since. Through support of the cycling community he will be able to continue his fight for himself and his family.

Registration forms for vendor spaces and general information for the Spring Bicycle Flea Market can be found online at or by calling the Velodrome office at (610) 967-7587. To make a donation to the Alaric Gayfer Fund all contributions should be made payable to East Coast Velo/Auxiliary Account, and sent to East Coast Velo, P.O. Box 53, Bowers, PA 19511

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