67th Paris - Nice - 2.HC

France, March 5 - 12, 2000

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Stage 3 - March 7: Nevers - Belleville, 203,7 km

Fassa Bortolo's first

It took legendary sports director Giancarlo Ferretti's team Fassa Bortolo five weeks of the European season to gain the first victory, the third stage of Paris - Nice by Fabio Baldato. The 31 year old Italian won a sprint among 22 riders that came in 36 seconds ahead of the abdicating leader Jaan Kirsipuu. Baldato also captured the blue, pink and white points jersey.

Frenchman Laurent Brochard took the white leaders jersey back from Kirsipuu and also gained a couple of bonus seconds by finishing third after Baldato and young Mapei sprinter Giuliano Figueras who closed in on Baldato in the last meters and with some more experience he might have won the stage.

But now it ended with a victory for Baldato and in some peoples eyes a rehabilitation for Ferretti, thrown out of the business a couple of years ago after a doping scandal.

Live report:

Welcome to the third stage of the Paris - Nice. Yesterday we saw Estonian Jaan Kirsipuu win a typical sprinter's stage and take the overall lead. Today it will be tougher for him and the other sprinters on the road from Nevers to Belleville, north of Lyon, 203.7 kms, the longest stage in "The Race To The Sun".

With 60 kms to go we have two French riders ahead of the peloton. Thierry Gouvenoud (Big Mat) who attacked after 65 kms. Ten kilometres later he was joined by the young (21 years) and tall Andy Flickinger (Festina).

The duo is now approaching the first climb Col des Echarmeaux (720 m), not to steep, about 3,5 percent, but long, 8 kms. The gap was around five minutes for a while, but Ag2R has started the chase now and it is shrinking towards three minutes.

Flickinger is getting problems when the gap is less than three minutes. Gouvenou will have to go on alone and take care of the mountain prize.

Gouvenou is approaching the top with about one hour of riding left, and the question is how long he will hold out. Jean Delatour, with Laurent Brochard on a second place overall, is driving now. They are probably trying to get rid of leading Kirsipuu so Brochard can take the white leader's jersey back. The gap is now 2.20. Patrice Halgand takes second place on the mountain, passing Flickinger in the last meters left of the climb. On the way down he gets a Credit Agricole rider along. Halgand took some mountain points yesterday as well.

Halgand and his mate are soon back again. Kirsipuu managed over the top of the first, lighter climb, and is seen at the front of the peloton on the way down on second wheel after Kasputis. And now Richard Virenque is driving to get a position for the second climb. The gap: 1.20.

The second climb, Col de la Croix-Marchampt (686 m), is shorter and steeper, and Gouvenou is still leading, he leads the mountain competition for the white and orange jersey now worn by Vasseur with the ten points he gained some minutes ago. There's no hard driving in the peloton, but it is of course gaining ground on Gouvenou and he is caught before the top with Lotto driving after 110 kilometres ahead of the peloton. Kirsipuu is a bit farther down in the peloton but still there.

Jean Cyrille Robin is attacking on the way to the top in Bonjour's dark blue jersey and he gets a reasonable gap but then the peloton is closing in when the climb flattens a bit and a new attack comes from the peloton when Robin is caught, it's Casagrande. And the question is how Kirsipuu is doing in the peloton.

Casagrande gets ten points in the KOM competition when he passes the top. And where is Halgand who has nine until now? There's a pair of riders driving hard in the peloton to gain points. Gougot (C A) and Brozyna (Banesto) takes the remaining KOM points. Casagrande passed with a 20 seconds gap. There's still a little up and down for some kilometres before the road heads down, 25 kilometres to Belleville. It's Jean Delatour driving the peloton now. Is Kirsipuu behind?

French Champion Francois Simon (Bonjour) is attacking from the peloton on the way down. Kirsipuu is probably behind since a lot of teams are helping out at the front downhill to Belleville. And Casagrande is caught in Marchamp with 18 kms left, after a good attack over the mountain.

The peloton is falling apart now, but the gap behind for Kirsipuu is not to wide, 10-15 seconds. The peloton is fairly small now, around 25 riders, Jean Delatour driving, Baldato (Fassa Bortolo) is along. He is a good sprinter and he might be interested in a good speed to keep Kirsipu behind.

There are two Jean Delatour riders at the front waving at the others. Fassa Bortolo is not taking the chance to win the stage. Several of their riders are in the front peloton, but Jean Delatour still has to do the work. Julich, Andreu, Rittsel, Bessy, Kivilev and others are in the front peloton. Some speed problems right now.

Fassa Bortolo starts to help out now and the gap is 35 seconds. Brochard, Klöden (8th overall) are in the group. Mancebo, Gianetti, Rous, Aerts, Figueras, Casagrande and Simon, Hundertmark, Valjavec and Mazzanti are some more names in the front group. Brochard attacks now with Rous just to show.

The gap is 41 seconds approaching Belleville, 5 kms to go. Not to much cooperation now. Jean Delatour's riders still doing the job. Fassa Bortolo also helping along now. Good sprinters: Baldato and Figueras.

Last kilometre now, 20 riders going into town. Bouvard (Jean D) at front. Valjavec leading for Baldato. It's Baldato narrowly ahead of an approaching Figueras who was stuck behind Casagrande and had to go around him. Brochard takes the white jersey back and is third on the stage and gets some bonus.

It's Baldato, Figueras, Brochard, Hundertmarck, Simon over the line. Overall it's Brochard, Klöden, Andreu, Mancebo, Simon, Rittsel, Julich and Rous. Casagrande will wear the KOM jersey on better overall placing than Gouvenou while Baldato takes the awful blue and pink points jersey. Kirsipuu came in 36 seconds behind, first in the peloton.

Daring newcomers

"Our team has worked well so far. Today Valjavec and Mazzanti did a great job for me. We have lacked a victory though but now the knot is untied", said the winner and dedicated the victory to his friend Amilcare Tronca who was killed by a car during training last year.

Baldato has around 25 victories in his career, among them the final stage of the Tour on Champs Elyssee in 1996. He is a sprinter but rather have a smaller group than the whole bunch to fight:

"I am a father of two small daughters and I have become more cautious", says Baldato who will be the one to look out for in the white Fassa Bortolo jersey on the northern classics later on. He has two second places in the Tour of Flanders and one in Paris-Roubaix.

Laurent Brochard, who got the white leader's jersey back from Kirsipuu, doesn't want to talk about an overall victory yet: "I'm not thinking about the general classement. The time differences are too small. I have the jersey and that is nice. It's a pity that not everyone in the leading group worked along. Maybe they regret in Nice…"

His own Jean Delatour riders once again did a good job. First in keeping the speed up the final climb to hang off Kirsipuu and then working hard in the leading group where Gilles Bouvard and Frédéric Bessy did the most of the driving with Brochard. But it was actually the other new team, Bonjour-Tupargel that split the peloton with Robin attacking up the climb and then Simon driving downwards. All in all a great day for the new teams Fassa Bortolo, Jean Delatour and Bonjour-Tupargel. The two French second division teams are of course trying to get tickets to the Tour. If they keep on like this the foreign teams with Tour ambitions will get a hard time.


1. Fabio Baldato (Ita) Fassa Bortolo                   4.49.21 (43,4kph)
2. Giuliano Figueras (Ita) Mapei-Quick Step
3. Laurent Brochard (Fra) Jean Delatour
4. Kai Hundertmarck (Ger) Telekom
5. Francois Simon (Fra) Bonjour
6. Andrei Kivilev (Kaz) Ag2R Prevoyance
7. Francesco Casagrande (Ita) Vini Caldirola
8. Mario Aerts (Bel) Lotto-Adecco
9. Stephane Heulot (Fra) Francaise des Jeux
10. Andreas Klöden (Ger) Telekom
11. Francisco Mancebo (Spa) Banesto
12. Mauro Gianetti (Swi) Vini Caldirola
13. Javier Pascual Rodriguez (Spa) Kelme-Costa Blanca
14. Frankie Andreu (USA) US Postal Service
15. Bobby Julich (USA) Crédit Agricole
16. Martin Rittsel (Swe) Memorycard
17. Didier Rous (Fra) Bonjour
18. Steve De Wolf (Bel) Cofidis
19. Luca Mazzanti (Ita) Fassa Bortolo
20. Frédéric Bessy (Fra) Jean Delatour

23. Jaan Kirsipuu (Est) Ag2R Prevoyance                   0.36
28. Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Crédit Agricole
36. Andrei Tchmil (Bel) Lotto Adecco
43. Laurent Dufaux (Swi) Saeco Valli&Valli
60. Daniele Nardello (Ita) Mapei-Quick Step
91. Richard Virenque (Fra) Team Polti
111. Jacky Durand (Fra) Lotto-Adecco                      5.58
118. Chris Boardman (Gbr) Crédit Agricole
129. Udo Bölts (Ger) Telekom
155. Andy Flickinger (Fra) Festina                       24.42

156 starters
155 finished
Not starting: Erik Dekker (Ned) Rabobank
Abandoned: Jesper Skibby (Den) Memorycard

1. Laurent Brochard (Fra) Jean Delatour                9.54.50
2. Andreas Klöden (Ger) Telekom                           0.09
3. Frankie Andreu (USA) US Postal                         0.12
4. Francisco Mancebo (Spa) Banesto                        0.13
5. Francois Simon (Fra) Bonjour                           0.16
6. Martin Rittsel (Swe) Memorycard                        0.17
7. Bobby Julich (USA) Crédit Agricole
8. Didier Rous (Fra) Bonjour                              0.20
9. Javier Pascual Rodriguez (Spa) Kelme-Costa Blanca      0.22
10. Fabio Baldato (Ita) Fassa Bortolo                     0.28
11. Stéphane Heulot (Fra) Francaise des Jeux              0.29
12. Mario Aerts (Bel) Lotto-Adecco                        0.31
13. Jaan Kirsipuu (Est) Ag2R Prevoyance                   0.36
14. Giuliano Figueras (Ita) Mapei-Quick Step              0.38
15. Kai Hundertmark (Ger) Telekom                         0.40
16. Gilles Bouvard (Fra) Jean Delatour                    0.41
17. Frédéric Bessy (Fra) Jean Delatour                    0.41
18. Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Crédit Agricole                  0.44
19. George Hincapie (USA) US Postal                       0.45
20. Mauro Gianetti (Swi) Vini Caldirola                   0.45

28. Laurent Dufaux (Sui) Saeco Valli&Valli                0.53
34. Andrei Tchmil (Bel) Lotto-Adecco                      0.57
37. Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Telekom                    1.00
60. Francesco Casagrande (Ita) Vini Caldirola             1.10
66. Bo Hamburger (Dan) Memorycard                         1.11
85. Richard Virenque (Fra) Team Polti                     1.23
111. Chris Boardman (GBR) Crédit Agricole                 6.03
124. Udo Bölts (Ger) Telekom                              6.36
155. Andy Flickinger (Fra) Festina                       25.19