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98th Paris-Tours - CDM

France, October 10, 2004

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Commentary by Jeff Jones, with additional reporting from Chris Henry

Complete live report

Live coverage starts: 14:30 CEST
Estimated finish time: 16:45 CEST

14:26 CEST    152km/100.5km to go
Welcome to Cyclingnews' live coverage of the 98th edition of Paris-Tours, the ninth round of what is probably the last World Cup series. Today's classic starts in Saint-Arnoult en Yvelines (southwest of Paris) and heads in a southwesterly direction to Tours, finishing on the Avenue de Grammont after 252.5 km. The race actually loops round at the end and the riders approach Tours from the south. The course is fairly flat, but there are enough climbs in the finale to launch attacks.

Quinziato leads Gussev, Tankink and Dekker
Photo ©: Chris Henry/CN
Click for larger image
At the start this morning, the temperatures were fairly cool - around 12 degrees - and it was foggy and damp. However, during the course of the day the skies have cleared somewhat and it's almost sunny at the finish, with temps up around 18 degrees. There is a moderate northeasterly wind, which will be behind the riders all day.

After 25 km of racing, a group of four riders managed to escape what was a larger breakaway of 17: Erik Dekker (Rabobank), Bram Tankink (Quick.Step-Davitamon), Vladimir Gussev (CSC), Manuel Quinziato (Lampre). Eric Berthou (RAGT) attacked in pursuit and finally made it across to the leaders at km 71. The break had a lead of 7'30 at this point, down from a maximum of 8 minutes.

The Cofidis (O'Grady) and FDJeux.com (Cooke) teams have been controlling the chase and have reduced the gap to 4'40 with 105 km to go.

14:35 CEST   
At the 138 km mark there was a crash in the peloton, bringing down some 30 riders including World Champion and pre-race favourite Oscar Freire (Rabobank). Freire was able to remount and made it back to the peloton.

14:44 CEST    163km/89.5km to go
The peloton is slowly pulling back the five man break (Dekker, Tankink, Gussev, Quinziato, Berthou) and has pegged the gap to 4'25 with 90 km to go.

Paolo Bettini (Quick.Step) was caught up in the crash earlier and had some mechanical problems, but was brought back to the peloton by his teammates.

14:56 CEST    172km/80.5km to go
Oscar Freire in his fave jersey
Photo ©: Chris Henry/CN
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Cofidis is continuing to work at the front of the peloton, setting a high tempo. Stuart O'Grady (3rd last year) is Cofidis' top man today, as they even have Jimmy Casper working in front. As was the case last year, the tailwind has resulted in a fast pace all day. Nearly 49 km were covered in the first hour and the race is currently 20 minutes ahead of the fastest schedule of 42 km/h.

15:05 CEST    178km/74.5km to go
The chase has brought the break back to 4'00 now with 75 km to go. There's more than enough time left to bring back these five leaders, who have been away since km 25.

15:10 CEST   
Stuart O'Grady was a bit uncertain about his chances when Cyclingnews' Chris Henry spoke to him this morning. "It's going to be pretty hard to control without Fassa and T-Mobile working for the sprint, but I think Quick.Step and a few other teams will try to hold it together for the finish. I'm hoping to go out with bang, but I don't know how much I've get left in the tank!"

15:18 CEST    188km/64.5km to go
The Cofidis team is still riding on the front, with Matt White at the head of affairs.

Baden Cooke (FDJeux.com) is another favourite for today, as long as it finishes in a bunch sprint. "I'm feeling better than I was in the middle of the season. I had a sciatic nerve problem, but no worries, I think it's all but
fixed. I don't know if I've got the form for today but I've been doing
the training and doing everything right.

"I don't think it will be a sprint, I think there may be a breakaway because there aren't that many teams to ride. I'll be waiting behind, hoping my teammates get in the breakaways, and if it is a sprint I think I've got a good a chance as

15:20 CEST    192km/60.5km to go
Nick Nuyens (Quick.Step) has been involved in a crash along with teammate Davide Bramati and Geoffroy Lequatre (Credit Agricole). They're not too seriously hurt.

The peloton is now 3'30 behind the five leaders.

15:22 CEST    194.5km/58km to go
Max van Heeswijk (USPS) is chasing back on after a puncture or a crash. It's not easy at this speed. Bramati has made it back.

15:24 CEST    196km/56.5km to go
The peloton
Photo ©: Chris Henry/CN
Click for larger image
American Chris Horner was sporting a nice new Saunier Duval jersey when we spoke to him this morning. He has a contract to ride the remainder of the season with the Spanish team, before he begins his main job with them next year.

"[At the World Championships] I was having some problems with the cramps and the legs, but the rest of me felt fantastic, so I think if I can get this race in here I should be pretty good by the time we get to Lombardia. First the objective was to go to San Francisco and have a great race for Webcor to finish the season, then to focus 100% for the World Championships. I was going to shut the season down unless I got on the team. Once I got on the team... I've been training hard! I've done 600 miles this week between the World Championships and here. Yeah, I'm motivated."

15:25 CEST    197km/55.5km to go
Eric Berthou (RAGT) has been dropped by the break, now paying for his 55 km solo bridging effort earlier. That leaves Erik Dekker (Rabobank), Bram Tankink (Quick.Step-Davitamon), Vladimir Gussev (CSC) and Manuel Quinziato (Lampre) in front with 2'50 to the peloton.

15:35 CEST    202km/50.5km to go
The four leaders have now just 2'30 on the peloton. Berthou actually punctured out of the break and is 30 seconds behind them.

15:38 CEST   
Allan Davis (Liberty Seguros) was in agreement with Baden Cooke, telling us this morning, "I also think there will be a breakaway. It's going to be hard, and in the last six years I think five times there's been a breakaway, so the odds are in favour of a break. We're just going to see how it goes and set
our tactics as it unfolds. If you make a tactic now, for sure the opposite happens."

15:41 CEST    207.5km/45km to go
Berthou has been caught by the peloton, while the leaders still have 2'28. They're working hard to try to hold the bunch off. It's going to be hard though, especially with the headwind at the end.

The peloton is led by Cofidis, as usual. Some FDJeux.com riders are also lending a hand, as well as Gerolsteiner (for Hondo and Rebellin).

15:44 CEST    212.5km/40km to go
Casper has punctured and is now chasing back on through the caravan. He takes a bidon from his team car.

15:45 CEST   
Cofidis and FDJeux.com drive the peloton through Azay-sur-Cher, 2'15 behind the leaders. Matt White is in second wheel.

15:49 CEST    214.5km/38km to go
Casper inches his way back through the caravan to the back of the peloton at last. That hurt. He joins the Ag2r team at the back of the bunch.

15:51 CEST    217.5km/35km to go
Erik Dekker is the most experienced rider in the break, and is keeping them all in line. Tankink looks strong as well. They have around 35 km to go now.

15:55 CEST    220.5km/32km to go
The gap has dropped to under 2 minutes now and Cofidis is largely responsible for the chase. A couple of FDJeux.com and Liberty riders are also helping out. In the absence of Petacchi and Zabel, most of the favourites today are Aussies (O'Grady, Cooke, Davis). But World Champ Freire is the man in form, and someone like Jaan Kirsipuu can't be underestimated.

15:56 CEST   
Casper is back at the front - his job isn't over today.

16:02 CEST    222.5km/30km to go
Dekker takes over the lead in the break and drives up a climb, gapping Tankink and Quinziato. Only Gussev can hold the Dutchman's wheel. The other two are dropped.

The peloton is just 1'20 behind though.

16:04 CEST    225.5km/27km to go
On the same climb, Stijn Devolder (USPS) attacks and gets a small gap. But Markus Zberg is on his wheel, then the Fassa team. Rogers is in sixth wheel ahead of Bettini and Rebellin. Cofidis has dropped back.

"We want a sprint!" Rogers told Cyclingnews this morning. "We're going to work for that. It should be a hard race to control. We want to keep it together for Bettini, but I think a couple other teams will want a sprint as well."

16:05 CEST    227.5km/25km to go
Dekker and Gussev are powering away now, trying to hold off the peloton into Tours. It's a big ask with a gap of 1'10.

16:07 CEST    229.5km/23km to go
Cofidis has almost completely disappeared from the front of the peloton, having been there for most of the day. Now it's Liberty, FDJ and Fassa Bortolo (for Trenti/Velo or maybe Flecha). Chris Horner is in about 10th wheel - very easy to spot.

Tankink and Quinziato are caught.

16:11 CEST    233.5km/19km to go
Quick.Step's Kevin Hulsmans takes over from Nozal (Liberty) and Vogondy (FDJ) in front. The peloton is 1'00 behind the two leaders Dekker and Gussev with just under 20 km to go.

Unai Osa (Illes Balears) has crashed.

16:14 CEST    236.5km/16km to go
Quick.Step's Hulsmans and Cretskens are doing the necessary damage to the lead of Dekker and Gussev, who are now 50 seconds ahead of the peloton.

16:17 CEST    238.5km/14km to go
There's been another crash, but this time it's a moto rider who has gone down on a corner. The peloton splits as it rides around the fallen bike. The driver is ok, just crossing his fingers that no-one hits the bike.

Dekker is definitely the strongest in the break.

Tafi (Alessio) does a turn in the peloton. He won this race in 2000. The gap is 42 seconds.

16:19 CEST    239.5km/13km to go
Dekker and Gussev see the neutral cars and motorbikes coming past as they hit an open part of the course. Hulsmans is back on the front of the peloton, which is in one long line.

16:21 CEST    241km/11.5km to go
Dekker is having a good day today, and is giving it full gas on the small roads on the outskirts of Tours. The bunch is always getting closer, now 35 seconds with 11.5 km to go.

16:23 CEST    243.5km/9km to go
Tafi gets to the front and does another big turn, then World TT Champion Mick Rogers. The peloton is very strung out, with mainly Quick.Step doing the work. Fassa Bortolo is lurking in the second rank.

Dekker still looks good - Gussev is having problems doing a turn.

16:24 CEST    244.5km/8km to go
Fabio Sacchi (Fassa) takes over from Rogers and the gap is now 26 seconds. 23 seconds. The break will be caught, but not without a hell of a fight.

16:25 CEST    245.5km/7km to go
Gussev looks back and can see the peloton coming as Dekker drops him on a climb. The Russian has exploded and rejoins the peloton.

16:26 CEST   
There's a crash in the peloton! Right near the front. It looks like Bettini is down.

Dekker is caught by a counter attack from a Lampre rider.

16:27 CEST    246.5km/6km to go
Dekker is now with Mattias Kessler, Allan Davis, Juan Antonio Flecha and Igor Astarloa. This is an interesting break with 6 km to go!

16:28 CEST    247.5km/5km to go
It was Paolini who crashed, not Bettini. It did cause a break in the peloton and now we have Dekker (Rabobank), Kessler (T-Mobile), Davis (Liberty), Flecha (Fassa) and Astarloa (Lampre) with 8 seconds lead.

16:29 CEST   
Flecha drives the pace on the Côte du Pont Volant, with Davis and Astarloa on his wheel. Dekker is struggling, but hanging in there.

16:30 CEST    248.5km/4km to go
Dekker is still there as the break hits the last climb, the Côte du Petit Pas d'Ane. Kessler attacks hard, but can't get a gap. Flecha is now off the back by about 5m, but regains the break.

The pace slows at the top as they all look at each other. Two riders are chasing - Mazzoleni and Moreni.

16:31 CEST   
Dekker attacks! Kessler reacts and closes the gap, but hurts....

16:32 CEST    249.5km/3km to go
Dekker and Kessler are now together as the other three in the break hang at 5 seconds. But the peloton is now getting organised. This will be a close finish.

16:33 CEST    250km/2.5km to go
It's now Dekker leading Kessler, with Davis (Liberty), Flecha (Fassa), Astarloa (Lampre), Moreni (Alessio), Mazzoleni (Saeco) at 10 seconds. Then the peloton at 17 seconds. What a finish!

16:34 CEST    251.5km/1km to go
A couple of Phonak riders are leading the peloton but there's a Rabobank rider in third wheel - he won't do a turn of course.

Kessler finally takes over from Dekker with 1 km to go.

16:34 CEST   
Erik Dekker takes over with 900m to go, he has to work as the peloton is coming fast.

16:35 CEST    252.5km/0km to go
Kessler and Dekker are holding off the peloton as the sprint is led out by De Jongh (why? maybe it wasn't a full lead out...). Then Dekker goes from Kessler's wheel and wins!!!!!!!!!!!!! Hondo second, then it looked like Oscar Freire was third ahead of Davis. Bettini took 6th, which means he takes the World Cup jersey as Rebellin was out of the top 10.

What a remarkable ride by Erik Dekker, who was in the break for 227 of the 252 km. He could have given up when the four riders caught him with 5 km to go, but he held his own and countered with Kessler at the right moment.


1 Erik Dekker (Ned) Rabobank             5.33.03
2 Danilo Hondo (Ger) Gerolsteiner
3 Oscar Freire (Spa) Rabobank
4 Allan Davis (Aus) Liberty Seguros
5 Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Cofidis
6 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quick.Step-Davitamon
7 Matthias Kessler (Ger) T-Mobile
8 Uros Murn (Slo) Phonak
9 Jaan Kirsipuu (Est) Ag2r
10 Eddy Mazzoleni (Ita) Saeco

World Cup standings after round 9

1 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quick.Step-Davitamon
2 Davide Rebellin (Ita) Gerolsteiner

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