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36th Tour du Haut Var - 1.2
France, February 21, 2004
Lots of rain doesn't deter Lotz
Dutch rider Marc Lotz has won the 36th edition of the Tour du Haut Var, disputed over a wet and hilly 180 km parcours around Draguignan. Lotz was the strongest of a five man break, beating Kazakh Dimitry Fofonov (Cofidis) and Belgian Stijn Devolder (US Postal Service-Berry Floor) across the line. For Devolder it was an impressive outing, as he figured among the escapees throughout the day, took the king of the mountains competition, and earned the most combative rider prize to compliment his podium finish.
"I had our team leader [Levi Leipheimer] in the break all day, so I just had to sit in the group and follow," Lotz said after his victory. "For me it's my first big win as a pro, so I hope it's a sign of things to come."
The race was held in cold, wet and windy conditions, and only 43 riders finished out of almost 200 starters. Before the start, the riders held a minute's silence in memory of Italian Marco Pantani, who died a week ago.
First to make a move in the race was Spanish neo-pro Andoni Aranaga from the Belgian Chocolade Jacques team. Aranaga's move helped pave the way for teammates Dave Bruylandts and Jurgen Van de Walle, who helped create the first serious split in the peloton on the first climb of the race. With them came Devolder, and Andrey Kashechkin (Crédit Agricole), while the chase was led by FDJeux.com's Brad McGee.
The front group swelled to eight riders as a day-long game of musical chairs got under way, keeping a core group away but exchanging members throughout the race. Rabobank's Leipheimer made it into the move early, and proceeded to force the pace on the climbs along with Cofidis' Bessy. The French FDJeux.com, Brioches La Boulangère and Ag2r-Prévoyance teams were left out of the action, and despite a lion's share of work by Australian champion Matt Wilson (FDJeux.com) to bring the leaders back, the peloton would ultimately come to terms with the fact that the podium places had slipped away.
After battling the conditions for four hours, the race was decided with 36 km to go when the definitive break of five riders formed on the last climb. Marc Lotz and Dimitry Fofonov joined their respective teammates Leipheimer and Bessy, while the precocious Stijn Devolder continued his own adventure up front. The quintet held an advantage of 1'20 with just 14km to race, but the slick descents into Draguignan meant that the risk of crashing was high and victory was not a certainty for anyone.
With two Rabobank and two Cofidis riders in the group, the cooperation was ultimately sufficient to bring the break home. Lotz took more risks on the final descent, gaining a small gap while Leipheimer craftily stalled the Cofidis duo behind, but the group still arrived in the outskirts of town together.
In the peloton behind, Paolo Bettini (Quick.Step-Davitamon) and defending Haut Var champion Sylvain Chavanel (Brioches La Boulangère) each tried to put in a last ditch attack to bring back the leaders, but they stood no chance against the smooth-rolling break.
Outnumbered by the Cofidis and Rabobank duos, Devolder not surprisingly led out the sprint as he accelerated on the right hand side of the road. Leipheimer knew his day was done after pacing the group into town, and sat up as the remaining four fought to the line. In the sprint, Lotz proved to be too quick for the rest and took his first pro victory in his six year career. Fofonov took the first leadership of the Coupe de France series (whose classification is open to riders on French teams) while Crédit Agricole opened the team standings.
Images by Emmanuel Isnardemail@example.com
1 Marc Lotz (Ned) Rabobank 4.49.13 2 Dimitry Fofonov (Kaz) Cofidis, le credit par Telephone 3 Stijn Devolder (Bel) US Postal Service presented by Berry Floor 4 Frédéric Bessy (Fra) Cofidis, le credit par Telephone 5 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Rabobank 0.10 6 Davide Rebellin (Ita) Gerolsteiner 1.10 7 Mirko Celestino (Ita) Saeco 8 Bram Tankink (Ned) Quick.Step-Davitamon 9 Massimo Iannetti (Ita) Domina Vacanze 10 Pietro Caucchioli (Ita) Alessio-Bianchi 1.12 11 Andrey Kashechkin (Kaz) Credit Agricole 12 Alexander Kolobnev (Rus) Domina Vacanze 13 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quick.Step-Davitamon 14 Johan Coenen (Bel) MrBookmaker-Palmans 15 Oscar Camenzind (Swi) Phonak Hearing Systems 16 Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Alessio-Bianchi 17 Wim Van Huffel (Bel) Vlaanderen-T Interim 18 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Brioches La Boulangere 19 Massimiliano Gentili (Ita) Domina Vacanze 20 Laurent Brochard (Fra) Ag2R Prevoyance 21 Christophe Brandt (Bel) Lotto-Domo 22 Gert Verheyen (Bel) Chocolade Jacques Wincor-Nixdorf 23 Alexandre Botcharov (Rus) Credit Agricole 24 Valery Kobzarenko (Ukr) Acqua & Sapone-Caffe Mokambo 25 Christophe Le Mevel (Fra) Credit Agricole 26 Giampaolo Cheula (Ita) Vini Caldirola-Nobili Rubinetterie 27 Mauro Santambrogio (Ita) Team L.P.R.-Piacenza Management SRL 28 Christophe Rinero (Fra) R.A.G.T. Semences-MG Rover 29 Franck Pencole (Fra) Oktos 30 Balazs Rohtmer (Hun) Miche 31 Laszlo Bodrogi (Hun) Quick.Step-Davitamon 32 Mads Kaggestad (Nor) Credit Agricole 33 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) FDJeux.com 34 Frédéric Amorison (Bel) Quick.Step-Davitamon 35 Massimo Giunti (Ita) Domina Vacanze 36 Michael Rogers (Aus) Quick.Step-Davitamon 37 Loïc Lamoulier (Fra) Auber 93 38 Dave Bruylandts (Bel) Chocolade Jacques Wincor-Nixdorf 39 Ronald Mutsaars (Ned) Rabobank 40 Fabian Wegmann (Ger) Gerolsteiner 41 Sandy Casar (Fra) FDJeux.com 42 Benoit Poilvet (Fra) Credit Agricole 43 Stéphane Goubert (Fra) Ag2R Prevoyance Coupe de France standings after 1st round 1 Dimitry Fofonov (Kaz) Cofidis, le credit par Telephone 2 Frédéric Bessy (Fra) Cofidis, le credit par Telephone 3 Andrey Kashechkin (Kaz) Credit Agricole
2003 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Brioches la Boulangere 2002 Laurent Jalabert (Fra) CSC-Tiscali 2001 Daniele Nardello (Ita) Mapei 2000 Daniele Nardello (Ita) Mapei 1999 Davide Rebellin (Ita) Polti 1998 Laurent Jalabert (Fra) 1997 Rodolfo Massi (Ita) 1996 Bruno Boscardin (Swi) 1995 Marco Lietti (Ita) 1994 Laurent Brochard (Fra) 1993 Thierry Claveyrolat (Fra) 1992 Gerard Rué (Fra) 1991 Eric Caritoux (Fra) 1990 Luc Leblanc (Fra) 1989 Gerard Rué (Fra) 1988 Luc Roosen (Bel) 1987 Rolf Goelz (Ger) 1986 Pascal Simon (Fra) 1985 Charly Mottet (Fra) 1984 Eric Caritoux (Fra) 1983 Joop Zoetemelk (Ned) 1982 Sean Kelly (Ire) 1981 Jacques Bossis (Fra) 1980 Pascal Simon (Fra) 1979 Joop Zoetemelk (Ned) 1978 Freddy Maertens (Bel) 1977 Bernard Thevenet (Fra) 1976 Frans Verbeeck (Bel) 1975 Raymond Delisle (Fra) 1974 Gerben Karstens (Ned) 1973 Joop Zoetemelk (Ned) 1972 Frans Verbeeck (Bel) 1971 Désiré Letort (Fra) 1970 René Grelin (Fra) 1969 Raymond Poulidor (Fra) Past winners by Mario Stiehl, www.world-of-cycling.com