Paris-Nice, Cat 2.1

France, March 9-16, 1997

Stages 1 to 3

Final 1996 Results

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  • Stage One
  • Stage Two
  • Stage Three
  • Stages 4 to Final

    64th Paris-Nice (La Course au Soleil-the Race to the Sun)

    Frenchman Laurent Jalabert, from Team ONCE, begins as favorite for the Classic Paris- Nice, which will be disputed from the 9th to the 16th of March, writes "Le Parisien". Jalabert, the winner of the last two editions and who continues to lead the UCI World Rankings, although he has only one win so far this season (a stage at la Vuelta a Mallorca), is known for his reputation as one of the best sprinters in the world. Strictly a sprinter at first, he has learned to climb and be a rolleur.

    At Paris-Nice, with the exception of the Mont Ventoux stage, whose climb is very tough, the route is very suited for balanced riders. The race will finish with the habitual individual time trial at the French Costa Azul, Antibes and Nice, over 19.5 kilometers, which should be favorable for riders like Tony Rominger, Evgueni Berzin, Viatcheslav Ekimov, Armand de las Cuevas and Laurent Jalabert.

    The 64th edition of the Paris--Nice stage race, presented by race organiser Josette Leulliot on January 30, takes a welcome step back to its traditions for lovers of Paris in the (early) Spring and, I guess, lovers in Paris (who feel no cold, however early in the Spring it is), with a first stage -- a 7.1km individual time trial that finishes in the centre of the French capital on the avenue Foch, forsaking a start well south of the capital, as was the case last year when the race set off from Chateauroux. Moving into the regions of the Centre and Auvergne, the race's fourth stage includes three classified climbs. Stage 5 takes in the classified col de la Glaciere and col de Pradeaux. Stage 6, the hardest of the race, includes a climb of Mont Ventoux (not to the summit, but only to Chalet Reynard) but also a climb of the col de l'Homme Mort. Stage 7, as last year, includes a climb of the col de Tanneron. The last day repeats the 1996 pattern, a morning half-stage taking in a climb of the col de Chateauneuf, and a flat, fast time trial in the afternoon between Antibes and Nice. Once again, then, a time trial climb up the Col d'Eze is not on the programme. There are no summit finishes this year, as there were last year at Chalvignac and Millau where Laurent Jalabert dominated.=20

    Eighteen teams of eight riders are signed up for the race, including ONCE, the team of the winner of the last two editions of the race: Laurent Jalabert. Alex Zulle, however, will not be on the strength of the ONCE team for this race. The Cofidis entry will include former race winner Tony Rominger and Casino's team will include Pascal Richard. Festina riders include Richard Virenque and Maurent Dufaux; La Francaise des Jeux Stephane Heulot and Eddy Seigneur and GAN Frederic Moncassin (but not last year's third-placed Chris Boardman). Polti rider include Luc Leblanc and Axel Merckx, Batik fields Evgeni Berzin, Saeco Mario Cipollini and MG Fabio Baldato. Lotto riders will include Laurent Madouas and Andrei Tchmil, Banesto Armand De Las Cuevas, TVM Laurent Roux, BigMat-Auber Pascal Lino and La Mutuelle et Seine-et-Marne Jean-Philippe Dojwa.

    Another great blast from the past in what is reckoned one of the friendliest-organised races on the calendar is Gilbert Duclos-Lassalle, who replaces Marc Madiot (now La Francaise des Jeux directeur sportif) as the race's deputy director.


    March 9:  Stage 1, individual time trial, Neuilly (boulevard du General-Leclerc)--Paris (avenue Foch) via Bois de Boulogne (7.1km)
    March 10: Stage 2, Vendome--Bourges (162.5km)
    March 11: Stage 3: Bourges--Montlucon (175km)
    March 12: Stage 4: Montlucon--Clermont-Ferrand (165km)
    March 13: Stage 5: Cournon d'Auvergne--Venissieux (197.5km)
    March 14: Stage 6: Montelimar--Sisteron (182km)
    March 15: Stage 7: St Andre-les-Alpes--Nice (157km)
    March 16: Stage 8, Part 1, Nice--Nice (70km)
    March 16: Stage 8, Part 2, individual time trial, Antibes--Nice (19.5km)

    Preview Report

    World number one Laurent Jalabert attempts to win his third consecutive Paris-Nice classic on Sunday, the first major professional stage race of the year.

    Frenchman Jalabert, still on top of the world cycling union (UCI) list despite several poor results last year, begins his personal campaign in 1997 with the opening time-trial at Neuilly-sur-Seine to the west of Paris.

    "Jaja" has become accustomed to the leader's white jersey. He was commanding in the pack before winning last year though he had a fall two days before the finish.

    Jalabert won the Tour of Majorca on February 10 to prove his form, but the 136-strong Paris-Nice will be his first major test of the sporting year.

    The early stages of this March 9-16 race will undoubtedly be dominated by the sprinters -- world champion and rainbow jersey wearer Johan Museeuw of Belgium, Mario Cipollini, nicknamed "Super-Mario", fellow Italian Fabio Baldato who relishes mountain finishes, Belgian hope Tom Steels, and perhaps France's Frederic Moncassin.

    The sprinters will have three days to shine before conceding the limelight to the allrounders such as Jalabert, who should be in the hunt by the 19.5km time-trial between Antibes and Nice on the final day.

    Those who also might shine in the March 16 final stage against the watch include Switzerland's Tony Rominger, Russia's Yevgeny Berzin and his compatriot Viacheslav Ekimov.

    Individual Time Trial, 7.1 km, Neuilly-sur-Seine-Paris

     1. Laurent Jalabert (France) Once 		8.19
     2. Andrei Chmil (Ukraine) Lotto       		0.04
     3. Melchor Mauri (Spain) Once              	0.07
     4. Jacky Durand (France) Casino           	0.10
     5. Laurent Dufaux (Switzerland) Festina   	s.t.
     6. Francois Moreau (France) Cofidis       	0.11
     7. Christophe Moreau (France) Festina     	0.12
     8. Stepahne Meulot (France) Francaise des Jeux 0.13
     9. Yevgeniy Berzin (Russia) Batik
    10. Armand de las Cuevas (France) Banesto 	s.t.
    11. Adriano Baffi (Italy) US Postal       	0.15
    12. Viacheslav Ekimov (Russia) US Postal  	0.16
    13. Angel Casero (Spain) Banesto          	s.t.
    14. Johan Museeuw (Belgium) Mapei         	0.17
    15. Tony Rominger (Switzerland) Cofidis   	s.t.
    16. Pascal Lino (France) Big Mat          	0.18
    17. Pascal Chanteur (France) Casino       	s.t.
    18. Tom Steels (Belgium) Mapei            	0.19
    19. Didier Rous (France) Festina          	s.t.
    20. Santiago Blanco (Spain) Banesto       	0.20

    Time Trial Report

    Frenchman Laurent Jalabert made the perfect start to his bid for a third successive Paris-Nice victory by taking the opening stage time trial on Sunday.

    Jalabert, who had never before won a solo ride against the clock, covered the 7.1 km course between Neuilly-sur-Seine and Paris in eight minutes 19 seconds.

    He was four seconds quicker than Ukrainian Andrei Tchmil and seven faster than his Spanish team mate Melchor Mauri. Jalabert played down his success. ``There were some great racers missing like (Briton Chris) Boardman, but it's still significant,'' he said.

    ``It's true it's a bit unexpected for me in that I had been lacking in confidence. In the last Tour of Valencia I was disappointed with my 11th place.''

    Jalabert must now work on his lead and beware the strength of the Festina team who have three riders less than 25 seconds behind him.

    Pre-race blood tests aimed at reducing doping in the sport were carried out on 20 of the riders, including Jalabert, for the first time before the start of a race. No-one failed.

    Monday's 165 km second stage from Vendome to Bourges should let in the sprinters such as Italy's Mario Cipollini and Frenchman Frederic Moncassin.

    More Stage 1 Reportage

    Andrei Tchmil looked the likely winner holding the top spot for half an hour until Laurent Jalabert rolled in, turning a top gear of 55 x 11, for his first-ever time trial win and making a good start for his third Paris--Nice victory in succession. "A great day," he said. "It's always difficult to win, but to win a time trial when one isn't a specialist -- you can understand how that makes me feel. Sincerely, I'm full of joy." Jalabert intends to defend his lead from the start, including piling up intermediate time bonuses. "If it's necessary to take part in sprints to defend the jersey, then I'll sprint," he said.

    Twenty riders were administered the first of the new anti-EPO blood tests at 7am before the stage. Early reports that they had all recorded haemocrit levels below the maximum 50% set by the UCI were proven wrong when today (Monday) Erwan Mentheour (Fra, La Francaise des Jeux) and Luca Colombo (Ita, Batik-Del Monte) were excluded from the second stage on the strength of their Sunday tests. They had been allowed to start the time trial, but apparently because approval for their exclusion from UCI president Hein Verbruggen had been delayed. A third rider, Mauro Santaromita (Ita, MG) was excluded from Stage 2 after Monday morning tests. The three riders were "declared temporarily unfit to take part in sport." It should be noted once again that exceeding the 50% level is not in itself proof of EPO use and consequently there are no penal sanctions. After two weeks "banned" riders will be able to resume racing if a second test shows a haemocrit level below 50%. Happily, urine tests giving positive indications of EPO use are said to be imminent. Mentheour's directeur sportif Marc Madiot made sensibly measured comments on the situation. "Blood samples are a good way of measuring," he said, "even though some things need looking at again. I have some reservations about the way it happened, but I don't want to get into a discussion about drug abuse. I have a cyclist who has a problem and who cannot race for a fortnight but you shouldn't confuse a blood sample with anti-doping tests. My team is clear."

    The random tests on Sunday were in fact conducted on teams that were all staying in the same hotel: Batik, Cofidis, La Francaise des Jeux, ONCE and La Mutuelle de Seine-et-Marne. The first four numbered riders from these temas were tested. So the pioneers of the new testing system were: Berzin, Brignoli, Cerioli, Luca Colombo; Capelle, Gaumont, N. Jalabert, Julich; Gianetti, Heulot, Mengin, Mentheour; L. Jalabert, Cuesta, Diaz Justo, D. Extebarria. "We are the only workers who give blood before going to work," Mauro Gianetti remarked wrily.

    Stage 2, Vendome-Bourges, 165 kms:

     1. Tom Steels (Belgium) Mapei 				4.24.48
     2. Frederic Moncassin (France) GAN 
     3. Adriano Baffi (Italy) US Postal 
     4. Jaan Kirsipuu (Estonia) Casino 
     5. Mario Cipollini (Italy) Saeco 
     6. Gordon Fraser (Canada) Mutuelle de Seine-et-Marne 
     7. Laurent Jalabert (France) Once 
     8. Stuart O'Grady (Australia) GAN 
     9. Yvan Quaranta (Italy) Polti 
    10. Pascal Chanteur (France) Casino 
    11. Christophe Capelle (France) Cofidis 
    12. Max Sciandri (Britain) Francaise des Jeux 
    13. Ludovic Auger (France Big Mat 
    14. Lauri Aus (Estonia) Casino 
    15. Christophe Moreau (France) Festina 
    16. Nicola Loda (Italy) MG Technogym 
    17. Nicolas Jalabert (France) Cofidis 
    18. Johan Museeuw (Belgium) Mapei 
    19. Henk Vogels (Australia) GAN 
    20. Cristiano Colleoni (Italy) Polti             	
    21. Gilles Talmant (Fra, BigMat-Auber 93)
    22. Laurent Pillon (Fra, La Mutuelle de Seine-et-Marne0
    23. Andri Tchmil (Ukr, Lotto-Mobistar-Isoglass)
    24. Jean-Jacques Henry (Fra, BigMat-Auber 93)
    25. Jorg Jaksche (Ger, Team Polti)
    26. Thierry Gouvenou (Fra, BigMat-Auber 93)
    27. Gilles Bouvard (Fra, Festina-Lotus)
    28. Richard Virenque (Fra, Festina-Lotus)
    29. Didier Rous (Fra, Festina-Lotus)
    30. David Extebarria (Spa, ONCE)      			all s .t.
    81. Armand De Las Cuevas (Fra, Banesto)  		0.11 secs
    91. Tony Rominger (Swi, Cofidis)  			s.t.
    (133 classified)
    Intermediate bonifs: Quaranta  3 secs, Aus 3 secs, L. Jalabert 2 secs,
    Kirsipuu 2 secs, Pontier 1 sec, O'Grady 1 sec

    GC after Stage 2

     1. Laurent Jalabert                                 4:33:06
     2. Andrei Chmil (Ukraine) Lotto              		0.06
     3. Melchior Mauri (Spain) Once                     	0.09
     4. Steels                                          	0.11
     5. Baffi                                           	0.13
     6. Moreau                                          	0.14
     7. Stepahne Meulot (France) Francaise des Jeux     	0.15
     8. Viacheslav Ekimov (Russia) US Postal            	0.16
     9. Museeuw                                         	0.18
    10. Moncassin                                      	0.19
    11. Pascal Lino (France) Big Mat                   	0.20
    12. Chanteur                                		s.t.
    13. Aus                                            	0.21
    14. Didier Rous (France) Festina            		s.t.
    15. George Hincapie US Postal                      	0.22
    16. Jacky Durand (France) Casino                   	0.23
    17. Laurent Dufaux (Switzerland) Festina    		s.t.
    18. Francois Moreau (France) Cofidis               	0.24
    19. Arsenio Gonzalez (Spain) Kelme                 	0.25
    20. Yevgeniy Berzin (Russia) Batik                 	0.26
    22. De Las Cuevas  			0.26
    24. Virenque				0.27
    29. Rominger 				0.30
    Points leader: Steels
    Best climber: Hincapie
    Team: ONCE

    Stage 2 Report

    Belgian Tom Steels (Mapei) won today the sprint for the second stage of 162.5 kms. at Paris-Nice between Vendome and Bourges, while Laurent Jalabert (Once) kept the White, Leader's Jersey. Jalabert, who was the winner of the first stage, came in seventh at the finish line and receiveda vbonus of four seconds for an intermediate sprint. In this way, 25 year old Steels, achieves his second win of the season after his victory of a stage at la Vuelta a Mallorca. Frenchman Frederic Moncassin and Italian Adriano Baffi finished second and third in a flat stage with a final sprint.

    More Stage 2 Reports

    Tom Steels reckoned it was "the first perfect sprint of my career. I was led out perfectly without having any need to barge with my shoulders." Steels had a perfect master for his lead-out man -- his team-leader Johan Museeuw. And route reconnaissance had been done on the fly (we can be romantic about it apres coup) -- a Mapei soigneur was sent on to reconnoitre the finish and while the field was still 50km out reported back by mobile phone (yes it's that Mapei weakness for the mobile again) that there was a bend at 250m to the line but that it needed to be taken at full tilt.

    Earlier on in the day, the first intermediate sprint at km25 was taken by Quaranta (3 secs), with L. Jalabert second (2 secs) and Pontier third (1 sec). Further down the road at km44, Aus took first (3 secs), Kirsipuu second (2 secs) and O'Grady third (1 sec). Someone then had to make a break, so Ludovic Auger (Fra, BigMat) went away on the cote d'Allongy (km 143) but was brought to heel by Mapei annd Saeco.

    Before the final sprint a series of accelerations created a small gap in the bunch, but enough to put De Las Cuevas, Dufaux, Berzin and Rominger 11 seconds down at the line after the first group had all gone through. Dufaux, for one, wasn't too fazed by this. He shrugged his shoulders: "It's not serious. We'll make the pace when the terrain gets uppish."

    It wasn't as easy to be philosophical up at the front. Frederic Moncassin also had a great lead-out on the wheel of new team-mate Eros Poli and just ahead of Poli's old boss Mario Cipollini. Fred took off at 200m to go. "I almost got up to Steels. I hoped he'd crack." But he didn't...

    Stage 3, Bourges-Montlucon, 175 kms:

     1. Tom Steels, Belgium 		4.13.15
     2. Gian-Matteo Fagnini, Italy
     3. Frederic Moncassin, France
     4. Viacheslava Yekimow, Russia
     5. Jann Kirsipuu, Estonia
     6. Yvan Quaranta, Italy
     7. Adriano Baffi, Italy
     8. Jean-Jacques Henry, France
     9. Fabio Baldato, Italy
    10. Enrico Cassani, Italy		all s.t.
     11. Maximilian Sciandri (Gbr) 
     12. Jo Planckaert (Bel) 
     13. Nicola Loda (Ita)
     14. Laurent Jalabert (Fra)
     15. Nicolas Jalabert (Fra)
     16. Pascal Chanteur (Fra)
     17. Stuart O'Grady (Aus)
     18. Laurent Pillon (Fra)
     19. Gordon Fraser (Can) 
     20. Frederic Guesdon (Fra)                 
     31. Richard Virenque (Fra)          
     58. Tony Rominger (Swi)             
     60. Scott Sunderland (Aus)          
     75. Henk Vogels (Aus)               
     88. Peter Meinert (Den)             
     89. Neil Stephens (Aus)             
     96. Joona Laukka (Fin)              
    104. Evgeni Berzin (Rus)            all at same time

    Overall standings after Stage 3

     1. Laurent Jalabert, France		     8:47:02
     2. Tom Steels, Belgium 			0.03
     3. Andrei Tchmil, Ukraine 			0.08
     4. Melchor Mauri, Spain			0.09
     5. Adriano Baffi, Italy			0.15
     6. Christophe Moreau, France			0.16
     7. Stephane Heulot, France			0.17
     8. Frederic Moncassin, France
     9. Viacheslav Yekomv, Russia			0.19
    10. Pascal Chanteur, France			s.t.
     11. Lauri Aus (Est)                           + 0.20
     12. Johan Museeuw (Bel)                       + 0.21
     13. Pascal Lino (Fra)                         + 0.22
     14. Didier Rous (Fra)                         + 0.23
     15. George Hincapie (USA)                     + 0.24
     16. Jacky Durand (Fra)                        + 0.25
     17. Laurent Dufaux (Swi)                      + 0.25
     18. Francis Moreau (Fra)                      + 0.26
     19. Arsenio Gonzalez (Spa)                    + 0.27
     20. Evgeni Berzin (Rus)                       + 0.28
     21. Stuart O'Grady (Aus)            		0.28
     24. Richard Virenque (Fra)          		0.29
     28. Scott Sunderland (Aus)          		0.32
     29. Tony Rominger (Swi)            		s.t.
     30. Maximilian Sciandri (Gbr)       		0.33
     31. Henk Vogels (Aus)               		s.t.
     35. Peter Meinert (Den)             		0.36
     40. Neil Stephens (Aus)             		0.38
     78. Gordon Fraser (Can)             		0.51
     85. Joona Laukka (Fin)              		0.54
    Points: Steels
    Best Climber: Hincapie
    Team: ONCE

    Stage 3 Report

    Belgium's Tom Steels took the Paris-Nice third stage Tuesday, his second consecutive victory in the eight-day race.

    Steels won a sprint in the leg Bourges to Monlucon, 175 kilometers (108 miles) holding off Gian-Matteo Fagnini of Italy and Frederic Moncassin of France.

    Laurent Jalabert of France held the overall lead. He won the short time trial on Sunday and finished in the pack again. Steels moved up to second, three seconds behind with the help of bonus seconds for the victory.

    The race continues through the week on a southern route to end with a time trial just outside Nice next Sunday.

    Interview with Tom Steels

    The stage winner, Belgian Tom Steels, said: "This is my second victory of the year after my first one at Mallorca. Last year I won eight races, but I don't consider myself the king of the sprint. Cipollini is the strongest. He was on my wheel at two kilometers from the finish and then I didn't see him again. Museeuw set me up for the sprint and I only had to make an effort in the last 200 meters". Meanwhile Moncassin, who finished second, recognized Steels superiority. "The sprint was correct. Poli drove me perfectly, but I ran into an excellent Steels. A lot of riders were fresh at the finish".

    More Stage 3 Information

    Belgian cyclist Tom Steels (Mapei) won today again in a sprint the third stage of Paris-Nice, constested between the cities of Bourges and Montlucon, for 173 kilometers and now is in second place in the general classification, three seconds from the leader, Laurent Jalabert (ONCE). Steels, who already won yesterday, had his teammate, Belgian Johan Museeuw's help to beat Italian Gian Matteo Fagnini and Frenchman Frederic Moncassin, second and third respectively. Thanks to today's victory, 25 year old Steels, has earned 10 bonus seconds, which bring him up to second overall, while Jalabert earned two seconds in an intermediate sprint, but had to be happy with 15th position at the finish. The stage was animated by different attempts, specially by the escape of Frederic Pontier, who covered 68 kilometers by himself and reached an advantage of 1:50.

    In the last third of the stage Frederic Pontier (Fra, Casino) was able to get away for 66km being caught with 15km to go having never stretxhed his lead beyond 1.50. Tom Steels was again magisterial in he sprint with Frederic Moncassin on his wheel but unable to get past him. Mario Cipollini got boxed in, reckoned it was Jann Kirsipuu's fault and landed a right on the Estonian after the finish. "It wasn't my fault." said Kirsipuu. "Just because he's called M. Cipollini doesn't mean he automatically gets the green light." It was a fast finish. Nicolas Jalabert's computer notched up a maximum speed of 85kph on the run in to the line.