GP de la Marseillaise

Fabiano Fontanelli takes season opener The 1996 road season opened officially in Europe with Grand Prix de la Marseillaise (also known as GP d'Ouverture). Fabiano Fontanelli broke away 8 kms from the the finish to win the race.

GP de la Marseillaise, 135 km, Aubagne, France, Feb. 6 (cat. 1.4.):

 1. Fabiano Fontanelli (Ita) MG Technogym       3.27.08
 2. Jan Svorada (Slv) Panaria-Vinavil            + 0.30
 3. Andrej Tchmil (Rus) Lotto
 4. Fabio Baldato (Ita) MG-Technogym
 5. Michele Bartoli (It) MG-Technogym
 6. Frederic Guesdon (Fra) Polti
 7. Bruno Boscardin (Ita) Festina
 8. Francois Simon (Fra) Gan
 9. Steven de Jongh (Ned) TVM
10. Servais Knaven (Ned) TVM                    all s.t.
11. Dufaux (Swi, Festina) +33
12. Redant (Bel, TVM) +1.05
13. Aus (Est, Mutuelle de Seine-et-Marne) 
14. Aerts (Bel, Vlaanderen 2002)
15. Molinari (It, MG)
16 Medan (Fr, Collstrop)
17. Sergeant (Bel, Lotto)
18. Corvers (Bel, Lotto)
19. Brochard (Fr, Festina)
20 Mulders (Neth, Collstrop) all s.t.
(128 starters, 80 finishers)

Further report

Today's photo of Fabiano Fontanelli during his break for the line says a lot about the weather that greeted the riders in the South of France in this pro season opener yesterday -- long tights, shoe covers, a well-padded thermal top, heavy gloves and a woolly headband over a cotton casquette. Snow, an icy wind and incessant glacial rain greeted the riders.

One way to get warm was to up the pace. At the foot of the first climb, Saint-Antonin-sur-Bayon, only 20km from the start, Richard Virenque (Festina) went to the front of the peloton to wind things up. "It was very very cold," he said. "So I wanted to turn my legs a bit faster. At the top of the climb I was surprised to find myself on my own. Three others got up and the break was on -- it was a bit of a bluff."

The four -- Virenque, Frederic Moncassin (GAN), Frederic Guesdon (Polti) and TVM neo-pro Steven De Jongh -- built a lead approaching three minutes by 50km to the finish when the remnants of the peloton (the broom waggon was full only 50km from the start, including Luc Leblanc among its passengers) decided to react. It hadn't been slacking before -- the first two hours in the snow had been covered at 39kph -- but picked up speed with MG at the head of affairs, seeking to position their sprinter Fabio Baldato. The task was then taken up by Lotto in an effort to ease Wilfried Nelissen's way to the line.

For a time the the break of four's lead stuck at around 1.30. Moncassin was the first to falter and the other three were caught at about 10km from the line. Fontanelli took off for home shortly afterwards ((Virenque came in 34th 1.05 down, and Moncassin 72nd at 9.18, Guesdon hung on at the front to come in 6th.)