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63rd Paris-Nice - ProTour

France, March 6-13, 2005

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Stage 2 - Tuesday, March 8: Aigueperse - Thiers, 46.5 km

Complete live report

14:54 CET   
Welcome back to Cyclingnews' Live coverage of Paris-Nice! As we've mentioned earlier in our daily News, today's stage two has been shortened from 191 kms to only 46.5 km due to the bad winter conditions that reign in Northern Europe these days, and that have been causing a lot of race cancellations in the past weeks. Originally scheduled to start in Le Châtre at noon CET, the stage start has been moved Southward to Aigueperse, a town right in the centre of France through which the riders should originally have passed after 144.5 km. So a very short stage on flat countryside awaits us, with only one intermediate sprint in Maringues after 19 km (27,5 km to go) and one Cat. 3 climb 6.5 km before the finish in Thiers.

14:56 CET   
The climb just a few kilometres before the finish line is about 2.5 km long, Cyclingnews' JF Quenet reports, who has just been driving down the route. It is sectioned in two parts with a 500 m false flat in the middle. No wind to boost any breakaways, so a sprint finish in Thiers is very likely.

15:05 CET   
At 15.00 CET, the peloton is finally starting this mini-stage in what are still very cold temperatures - between 2 and 4° Celsius. The roads of the route have been cleared, but fresh snow has been falling in Thiers recently so let's hope the peloton makes it there dry.

15:11 CET   
There's still plenty of snow along the sides of the road. But what do you expect - we're in the Massif Central in March!

15:13 CET   
The stage proper hasn't started yet. The riders are still in the neutral zone coming out of Aigueperse. Erik Dekker, clad in the yellow and white leader's jersey, is near the front, alongside Jimmy Casper and the race director's car.

15:15 CET   
Race director Christian Prudhomme looks like he's trying to take off, as he flaps his arms up and down while standing up in the lead car. He doesn't get too much altitude. The race is still neutralised.

15:16 CET   
And they're racing in stage 2!

15:17 CET    1km/45km to go
Despite the snow, the roads are quite dry as the riders take off for the start. Straight away, the speed goes up and the tail of the peloton starts to become quite long. Rabobank is riding a TTT in front, protecting Dekker who dropped back down the peloton for a short spell.

15:18 CET    2km/44km to go
Rabobank and CSC are riding pretty hard near the front, with Dekker and Voigt very well placed. Also T-Mobile's Vinokourov is up there, as is Kim Kirchen.

15:20 CET    3km/43km to go
The peloton snakes its way out of the town, and Quick.Step's Kevin De Weert moves to the front. But it's mainly Rabobank doing the work, and they're riding hard.

15:21 CET   
Matt Hayman does his turn at the front, followed by Tankink and De Weert (Quick.Step). Philippe Gilbert (Francaise des Jeux) has moved up too. It's a bit of a struggle for position at the moment. The peloton is really travelling - 50-60 km/h.

15:23 CET    5km/41km to go
The bunch continues to motor along, led by Rabobank and Quick.Step. The dark blue jerseys of Liberty Seguros are further down the bunch, as are the blue/white tops of Discovery Channel.

15:24 CET   
Thomas Voeckler (Bouygues) is making his way to the back of the peloton, after a visit to the team car. He looks pretty comfy. The pace is high, but it's not BrutalSpeed (tm) yet.

15:27 CET    7km/39km to go
Voeckler is second last wheel as his teammates drop back to help him. It's a bizarre scene, racing along dry roads next to fields full of snow.

Armstrong is about halfway down the peloton at the moment. Already there is a group of 10 off the back. That could be Voeckler and co. Yes it is.

15:28 CET   
Bouygues Telecom has to do a bit of chasing to get Voeckler back to the peloton, which is not slowing down at all. Still De Weert and Tankink (Quick.Step), Hayman (Rabobank) and a few more of his teammates.

The Voeckler group is not having the easiest time in getting back to the bunch, but it's getting there. Voeckler has to do some work too.

15:30 CET    13km/33km to go
The bunch flies through Pagnant and Voeckler's group is still 30m off the back. They're really struggling to get their leader back on.

15:30 CET   
There's an intermediate sprint coming up soon - Dekker and Voigt will be going for that.

15:32 CET    15km/31km to go
The sprint is at Maringues in 3 km. The bunch takes a right hander and will get a crosswind now. Voeckler's group makes contact just as they reach the corner.

15:33 CET    16km/30km to go
The bunch is now very strung out along the snow covered flats. It's up to 60 km/h again as they race towards the sprint.

15:34 CET    16km/30km to go
A truck parked half on the road causes a few worries, but the peloton is in the other gutter anyway. Still Rabobank and Quick.Step doing the work, with CSC putting one man up there for Voigt.

15:36 CET    17km/29km to go
De Weert (Rabobank) goes to the front and drives it for a bit. The sprint approaches. Dekker is in third wheel, followed by two CSC riders. Voigt is not there. De Jongh leads out Dekker, who takes the three seconds! Bobby Julich(?) second, then Valverde third.

15:37 CET   
Voigt either missed it completely or he was saving himself, trying to get his teammates to take the seconds. They failed though, and now Dekker has a virtual 3 second lead on GC.

15:38 CET    19km/27km to go
The peloton splits on a big roundabout with Quick.Step and Rabobank continuing to drive it hard. Not much chance for a breakaway at the moment.

15:39 CET    21km/25km to go
Boven is now on the front for Rabobank. The bunch is getting really lined out now. The riders probably hate these short stages as there's no time to get into them.

15:40 CET    22km/24km to go
21 km in the first 23-24 minutes. Yep, they're movin!

A group of 15 or so is dropped. No Voeckler, but several of his teammates.

15:42 CET   
This group of dropped riders is going backwards fast. There's not the same desperation as before. Matej Jurco (Domina), Igor Anton (Euskaltel), Luis Perez (Cofidis) are all in it. And a few Bouygues riders, Moncoutié, Bessy (Cofidis).

15:43 CET    25km/21km to go
The peloton has bunched up a bit now as it finds some shelter. Another roundabout, but a left hander only. Some riders realise this a bit late, and have to bunny hop over the top.

The dropped group is about 20 riders now, and losing time.

15:45 CET    26km/20km to go
The concentration on the Rabobank/Quick.Step riders' faces is evident as they drive the peloton up a short climb. The roads are wetter here, but they're not too bad.

15:45 CET   
Jens Voigt is glued to Dekker's wheel as they pass 20 km to go. Valverde is up there, on the other side of the peloton, looking nervous.

15:47 CET   
Mountains leader Jimmy Casper (sic) is well placed too, on Philippe Gilbert's wheel.

Ooh look, some horses galloping around a white paddock.

15:48 CET    28km/18km to go
The Rabo/Quick.Step boys continue to work. Mick Rogers has been enlisted to help for Quick.Step and the Boonen train.

15:49 CET    29km/17km to go
The landscape is frozen but there's a blur of colour moving through it at between 50-60 km/h. One bunch, slightly smaller than it was at the start.

Oooh look, some cows!! Excellent.

15:50 CET    31km/15km to go
Hayman guides the peloton around a tricky, icy corner. The kilometres are ticking down rapidly now. De Weert and Tankink are still up there for Quick.Step, as is Rogers.

15:51 CET    32km/14km to go
Frank Schleck (CSC) takes a turn now, interrupting the Quick.Step/Rabobank rhythm for about 3 seconds. The foot of the only climb today is 5 km away.

15:53 CET    33km/13km to go
Some Davitamon-Lotto jerseys have moved into the second rank (for Evans), but it's still a very aggressive Rabo/Quick.Step locomotive driving. Vinokourov has moved up too. They're in Dorat now.

15:53 CET   
Hayman and Rogers swap off at the front. Flecha (Fassa) moves up. He could fancy his chances on this climb.

15:56 CET    35km/11km to go
It's quite an incredible landscape here. The riders are the only colour in the black/white/gray background.

There is a bit more anxiety in the peloton as this climb approaches. But Rabo and Quick.Step will not ease up.

15:56 CET    36km/10km to go
They pass the 10 km to go banner. No-one has attacked today, except out the back of the bunch.

15:57 CET   
The climb starts and Niermann (Rabo) really pushes the pace, with three teammates in tow. Then Quick.Step.

15:58 CET    37km/9km to go
The climb is steepest at the bottom and the peloton is very strung out now. Rabobank and Quick.Step have control. Tankink does a big turn with Rogers ready to take over. Vino is well placed.

Mattan attacks!

15:59 CET    38km/8km to go
Mattan's move gets him about 20m. He keeps it going. Now the reactions start. Most of the Rabos are dropped. It's up to Dekker to hang on now.

Kirchen and Voigt counter attack. Vino is chasing them. Dekker is not there.

16:00 CET   
Kirchen and Voigt have 50m as they reach the false flat. Dekker is in about 25th wheel in the bunch, where Pellizotti is leading. Fassa and CSC are marking any chasers.

16:01 CET    39km/7km to go
Voigt now does a turn. The gap is a good 10 seconds.

16:02 CET    40km/6km to go
The bunch has been split to bits on this short climb as Valverde accelerates at the top. He doesn't get the points on the climb though - probably Voigt got them. Popovych is in fourth wheel as the peloton clings together over the top.

16:03 CET   
Kirsipuu has been dropped. No surprises there.

Kirchen, Voigt and Valverde won the points on the climb.

16:03 CET   
Voeckler has been dropped.

16:03 CET    41km/5km to go
A Saunier Duval rider is driving it - looks a bit like Jeker or Zaballa. They're not quite on the descent yet.

16:05 CET    42km/4km to go
Now the descent starts with about 5 km to go. The Saunier rider looks back and he is caught by Arvesen, Rogers and a Cofidis rider.

16:05 CET    42.5km/3.5km to go
The Cofidis rider is Allez Chavanel. The descent is steeper now as they hit a really sharp hairpin. Rogers in second wheel.

16:06 CET    43km/3km to go
Chavanel leads into the next corner - Jeez it's slippery here. No crashes in front. Rogers is about 20m back.

16:06 CET   
Chavanel now has 30m as Rogers lets him go on the descent. Chavanel is flying.

16:07 CET    44km/2km to go
Chavanel takes another tricky corner and gets company from a Lotto rider.

16:07 CET   
Leon Van Bon is the Lotto man. They only have 20m on the Rogers led peloton.

16:08 CET    44.5km/1.5km to go
Chavanel continues to work, then Van Bon takes over. Quick Step is massing behind though. Boonen is there.... As is Dekker.

16:08 CET   
They take another corner with 1 km to go. Van Bon attacks and has a gap but Chavanel is coming back to him. The peloton is so close - here it comes!!

16:09 CET   
Chavanel catches Van Bon as Hulsmans brings the peloton up with Boonen in second wheel, then Dekker.

16:10 CET    46.5km/-0.5km to go
Hulsmans still in front with 300m to go. Boonen looks comfortable as he smashes home with 200m out to win his second stage!!! Arvesen second, Popovych third. Dekker was right up there, but Boonen takes the lead. Fantastic ride by the Belgian, who survived the climb and the descent to beat everyone again.

53'31 to ride 46.5 km. Ouch.

Hopefully we'll get a longer stage tomorrow...Until then!


1 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick.Step                          53.31
2 Kurt-Asle Arvesen (Nor) CSC
3 Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Discovery
4 Vicente Reynes (Spa) Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne      
5 Olaf Pollack (Ger) T-Mobile Team                     
6 Erik Dekker (Ned) Rabobank
7 Constantino Zaballa (Spa) Saunier Duval-Prodir       
8 Jérôme Pineau (Fra) Bouygues Telecom                  
9 Vladimir Gusev (Rus) Team CSC                      
10 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne

General classification after stage 2

1 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick.Step                        5.17.55
2 Erik Dekker (Ned) Rabobank                            0.03
3 Kurt-Asle Arvesen (Nor) CSC                           0.05
4 Vladimir Gusev (Rus) Team CSC                         0.09
5 Jens Voigt (Ger) Team CSC
6 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Fassa Bortolo                 0.11
7 Vicente Reynes (Spa) Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne   0.14
8 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Française Des Jeux             0.16


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