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63rd Paris-Nice - ProTour

France, March 6-13, 2005

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Prologue - Sunday, March 6: Issy-les-Moulineaux, 4km

Complete live report

14:37 CET   
Welcome to Cyclingnews for our live coverage of the 63rd Paris-Nice, which unlike many other races with "Paris" in their names, actually does start somewhere near the French capital. Issy-les-Moulineaux is a medium sized town (pop. 63,000) on the outskirts of Paris and is a strong centre for communications and internet technology. It is also the siège of the Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), the organisers of Paris-Nice and numerous other big races, including the Tour de France.

Paris-Nice and ASO are also playing host to the start of the UCI's new ProTour, which is at the core of president Hein Verbruggen's cycling reform, something that he hopes will improve the standard of professional cycling as it progresses through the 21st century. The irony is that ASO and the UCI have been at loggerheads with each other since the ProTour was first announced. But at the moment, ASO has been forced to back down from its anti-ProTour stance in order to honour its agreements with the teams, most of which are in favour of the ProTour.

Today's Paris-Nice/ProTour opener is a 4 km prologue time trial around Issy-les-Moulineaux, and it's by no means a simple one. Starting at the Hotel de Ville, it climbs sharply at the start before leveling out at the 2 km mark. Then it's a steady descent back to the finish, just past the Halle des Sports. It's tough and technical, and we should see the GC riders come to the fore today, even though it's only 4 km.

Today's race also marks the return of Lance Armstrong to Europe after winning his 6th Tour de France mid-last year. Armstrong, riding for the new Discovery Channel team, has been given the honour of wearing the first ProTour leader's jersey, which looks remarkably similar to his team kit. Armstrong is a supporter of the ProTour and said at last night's reception, "The ProTour will enable cycling to present a more unified front and that will elevate cycling on a global level."

We'll see how Armstrong goes today. He hasn't raced Paris-Nice since 1999, when he finished 61st at 48 minutes down. But later on that year, he went on to win the Tour de France, for the first of six times...

14:49 CET   
The weather today is decidedly chilly, even though the sun is out. It's zero degrees (or under) and there's a fairly brisk and very cold north wind blowing, which will assist the riders near the start and be in their faces on the way home. Fortunately the roads are quite dry and there was never any doubt that the race would go ahead, unlike some parts of Belgium and The Netherlands this weekend, where there was no professional racing at all.

14:57 CET   
Currently, Vladimir Gussev (CSC) has the fastest time in the prologue with 5'18. In second place at two seconds is his teammate David Zabriskie, while Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) sits in third at 5 seconds.

15:03 CET   
Rik Verbrugghe (Quick.Step), winner of the GP Lugano last week, has set off. He is followed by Paolo Savoldelli (Discovery), wearing full long knicks.

Mario Aerts (Lotto) comes home with a 5'27, the same as his teammate Johan Vansummeren.

15:04 CET   
Savoldelli hammers up the climb, clunking through the gears as it gets steeper.

Miguel Angel Martin Perdiguero (Phonak) is on his way down to the finish now.

15:06 CET   
Savoldelli passes the 1 km mark and gets on his aero bars. It's still uphill, but not quite as steep now. There are spectators all along the course, although not in droves. Plenty of snow patches on the footpaths too!

Next off is Kurt-Asle Arvesen (CSC), who looks keen.

15:06 CET   
Perdiguero is not good enough to beat Gussev and finishes in 5'34, 31st so far.

15:07 CET   
Savoldelli is now on the descent, just as Verbrugghe comes into finish. The Belgian finishes in a nice time of 5'25.96 for 8th best.

15:08 CET   
Sav takes a corner fairly gingerly, then punches out of it for the last 500m. His time is a reasonable one - 5'26 for 9th.

15:09 CET   
Ag2r's Iñigo Chaurreau is next off the ramp, looking slightly chilled.

15:10 CET   
Roy "I'm Belgian, dammit!" Sentjens finishes in 5'30, just inside the top 30.

Kjell Carlström (Liquigas) is now on his way.

15:11 CET   
Here comes Arvesen, with an excellent 5'22 - giving him third place and CSC the top three at the moment.

15:12 CET   
Beat Zberg (Gerolsteiner) finds the finishing straight a bit too long and ends up with 5'28.

15:13 CET   
Wow, look at this! Alberto Contador, one of Liberty's main men, comes storming home in 5'19. Almost good enough to knock Gussev off.

15:15 CET   
Chaurreau finishes in a fairly sluggish 5'37, which puts him in 52nd. Laurent Lefevre (Bouygues Telecom) sets off.

15:16 CET   
Gorka Gonzalez (Euskaltel) is next off. He looks very nervous.

15:19 CET   
The top five so far:

1 Vladimir Gussev (Rus) CSC                   5.18
2 Alberto Contador (Spa) Liberty              0.01
3 David Zabriskie (USA) CSC                   0.02
4 Kurt-Asle Arvesen (Nor) CSC                 0.04
5 Davide Rebellin (Ita) Gerolsteiner          0.05

15:20 CET   
Cofidis sprinter Jimmy Casper sets off at a fairly relaxed pace. This sort of stage is not really his cup of tea.

15:22 CET   
Dario Frigo (Fassa Bortolo) makes a nervous start. He's a past winner of Paris-Nice (2001). He hammers up the first part of the climb out of the saddle.

15:23 CET   
Leon van Bon (Lotto) drives it home in a time of 5'24.93, which puts him in 9th place.

15:25 CET   
Casper is on his way back down the hill, not really putting pedal to the metal, so to speak. He finishes with a sprint in a decent enough time of 5'34.

15:27 CET   
Frigo is not much quicker than Casper, finishing in 5'33. Doesn't look like it's going to be his Paris-Nice this year.

Nicki Sorensen (CSC) is next off. He has been going strongly this year.

15:29 CET   
Ronny Scholz (Gerolsteiner), riding what looks to be a Walser TT bike, is next off the ramp. He is followed by young Aussie Aaron Kemps (Liberty), who looks very pumped up.

15:30 CET   
Mikel Astarloza (Ag2r) is next off, after performing suitable facial warming up actions on the start ramp. He nearly overcooks it on the first bend.

15:31 CET   
Patrick Calcagni (Liquigas) gets set now. He is easy to spot, in his green/celeste/blue skinsuit.

15:32 CET   
Jörg Ludewig (Domina Vacanze) in the bright orange/red colours, is next off.

Sorensen finishes in a nice time of 5'22, for fifth. Four CSCs in the top five!

15:34 CET   
Salvatore Commesso (Lampre) sets off and does himself an injury as his gear/pedal slips. He gets going again, albeit a bit more delicately.

15:35 CET   
Astarloza comes in with a time of 5'23.89, for eighth place. Not bad at all.

15:37 CET   
Jerome Pineau (Bouygues Telecom) is now off. He told Cyclingnews that he would love to finish in the top 10 or 15 in Paris-Nice.

15:38 CET   
Pineau is riding well as he crests the top of the first part of the climb, now on the aero bars.

15:39 CET   
Commesso is in with a somewhat painful 5'37.

Pineau has got the big gear going now on the downhill part of the course.

15:40 CET   
Pineau takes the U-turn halfway down the descent, and is in the final kilometre.

15:41 CET   
Pineau takes the last sharp right hander, then an easy one into the straight. His time is 5'26.16, for 14th so far.

15:43 CET   
Victor Peña, in his new Phonak colours, is now on his way.

15:44 CET   
Cadel Evans (Lotto) starts off well with a time of 5'23.75, which will put him in 7th.

15:45 CET   
Yaroslav Popovych (Discovery) is next off. He is flying up the first climb, obviously serious about this race.

15:47 CET   
Jimmy Engoulvent (Cofidis) drives it home in 5'23.80, for 8th fastest.

Oscar Sevilla, now in T-Mobile magenta, is next off.

15:48 CET   
Juan Antonio Flecha (Fassa Bortolo) finishes off with 5'24, just outside the top 10.

Carlos Sastre, another one of the CSC armada, is next to go.

15:49 CET   
Georg Totschnig (Gerolsteiner) sets off for his ride. Sastre is at the top of the first part of the climb.

15:50 CET   
Popovych comes home in a decent time of 5'26.97, just outside the top 20.

15:51 CET   
JP Nazon (Ag2r), who was in doubt due to sickness, is now on his way. Meanwhile, Oscar Sevilla is inside the final kilometre, looking good.

15:53 CET   
Franco Pellizotti, one of the great white hopes for Liquigas, is on his way and tackling the first climb. It's not easy.

Sevilla chucks it in a big gear for the finish and ends up with 5'45, one of the slowest times to date.

15:54 CET   
Pellizotti is out of the saddle for a long way. Now he's at the top, pedaling in the 53x15 it looks like.

Here comes Sastre, finishing in 5'34, which is probably the slowest of his team.

15:55 CET   
Darius Baranowski (Liberty) will be five seconds slower than Gussev in 5'23.53, which puts him in 7th.

15:57 CET   
Pellizotti is in the final kilometre, giving it full gas now but clearly struggling a bit with the wind and the cold. He finishes in 5'25.68, just in the top 20 for now.

Didier Rous (Bouygues Telecom) leaves the ramp.

16:00 CET   
Rous is suffering a bit on the climb, but is now over the top and on his way down.

Axel Merckx (Davitamon-Lotto) is now on the ramp. Let's see what he can do. He gets a big cheer as he leaves with a determined look on his face.

16:01 CET   
Thomas Lövkvist (Francaise des Jeux) is in now with a good time of 5'23.67, which will put him in eighth. Still Gussev, Contador and Zabriskie have the top three times.

16:04 CET   
Didier Rous finishes in the low 5'23s, 6th best. Kim Kirchen (Fassa) is now on his way, dressed in full length gear. Most riders are bare legged today, despite the zero degree temperatures.

Oscar Pereiro (Phonak) looks cold and nervous on the start ramp. Really cold in fact. He's on his way.

Constantino Zaballa (Saunier) finishes in 5'25.40, for 19th.

16:05 CET   
Tom Boonen (Quick.Step) doesn't mind the cold too much, but will probably find today's course a bit too tough. We'll see.

16:06 CET   
Merckx finishes in 5'31. Boonen sprints for the first part of the climb, as everyone else has been doing. He's in a big gear as he reaches the first kilometre.

16:08 CET   
The ambitious Thomas Dekker (Rabobank) has now started. He would love a top 10 today. He's in a big gear up the first climb, staying in the saddle.

16:09 CET   
One of the favourites, Jens Voigt (CSC) is now about to leave. He looks very focused as he burst out of the start ramp.

Oscar Pereiro finishes in 5'21 for the fourth best time.

16:10 CET   
Boonen is now in the final straight, and comes home in 5'29 for 45th place.

16:11 CET   
Voigt is motoring along the top of the climb. It's still uphill here, but he's flying in a big gear.

16:12 CET   
Voigt's disc wheel is making an ominous sound as it is thrashed to death by his enormous legs.

Here comes Thomas Dekker with an excellent time - 5'21.92 for fifth.

16:13 CET   
Voigt is now at full gas on the descent, taking a very tight roundabout just before a corner into the final kilometre.

16:14 CET   
Voigt motors up the finishing straight, round the final right hander with an awesome time of 5'15.41. New best time!

16:15 CET   
Gibo Simoni (Lampre) is now off, but this type of short course is probably not his forte. The climb should help him a bit.

16:16 CET   
Simoni suffers a bit on the first climb as Brad Wiggins (Credit Agricole) sets off for his ride. Wiggins is a 4 km specialist, but does he like hills? We'll see soon enough.

16:17 CET   
Another favourite, Philippe Gilbert (Francaise des Jeux) is ready to roll. He's been in excellent form this year with two wins.

16:18 CET   
Some readers have asked what sort of clothing are the riders wearing. Most are in shorts, with long sleeved skinsuits and fill length gloves and shoe covers. A few riders are opting for the full length long skinsuit.

Thomas Voeckler (Bouygues Telecom) sets off to a huge cheer. He is another man in decent shape.

16:19 CET   
Gilbert doesn't have any gloves. He is serious!

16:20 CET   
Gilbert has got a good rhythm going as his team director screams at him in hoarse French. Better than coarse French.

16:20 CET   
Gilbert is now on the way down. Gibo Simoni finishes in a time of 5'36.05, which will put him in 85th.

16:21 CET   
Nico Mattan (Lotto), another prologue specialist, is next off. He's won the prologue in Paris-Nice a few times.

16:22 CET   
Another favourite, Alejandro Valverde (Illes Balears) sets off. Time trialling is his weakness, but he can do everything else.

Gilbert finishes in 5'22.33 for 8th.

16:23 CET   
Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis) is next off, sporting a large silver chain around his neck.

Voeckler has had a good ride to finish in 5'22.35. 9th.

16:24 CET   
We're well into the favourites now. Fabian Cancellara, in his Swiss TT Champ's skinsuit, is on his way. He won the prologue of the Tour de France last year.

16:25 CET   
Floyd Landis (Phonak) is now on his way.

Valverde is at the top of the first bit of the climb.

16:26 CET   
World TT Champ Mick Rogers (Quick.Step) is next to go after Landis. He's in his rainbow skinsuit, naturally.

Mattan finishes in a very nice time of 5'19.50 for third.

16:27 CET   
Aha, here's the Boss. Lance Armstrong (Discovery) sets off in full longs, wearing the Discovery Channel kit. Or is that the ProTour jersey? Hard to tell...

Valverde is home in 5'26.72 for 34th.

16:28 CET   
Next off is Erik Dekker (Rabobank) who has been a bit sick this year.

Chavanel finishes in an excellent 5'19.12, for third.

16:29 CET   
Alexandre Vinokourov (T-Mobile) is now on his way. He's a past winner of Paris-Nice (twice) and won three stages last year.

Cancellara does a 5'17.80 for second best.

16:30 CET   
Bobby Julich (CSC) is next off the ramp. Can he beat Voigt? Hmm...

Armstrong is into his rhythm as he tackles the second half of the course. He doesn't look to be going flat out, but we'll see at the end.

Vino is pedaling an enormous gear.

16:31 CET   
Vino is very aero as he gets to the top of the climb.

Marcel Strauss (Gerolsteiner) is the second last rider off.

Rogers ends in 5'21.89 for 9th.

16:32 CET   
Vino looks extremely smooth as Jörg Jaksche (Liberty), last year's winner, is on his way. Can he repeat? Liberty wants to win this race.

Armstrong is pretty slow, as expected. He finishes in 5'42 for 135th.

16:33 CET   
Dekker is somewhat faster. Nice time of 5'18.07 for third!

16:34 CET   
Vino is into the final 500m now. Still looking smooth and strong as he pedals a biggish gear. He takes the final corner and sprints home in 5'22.91 for 16th.

16:35 CET   
Jaksche is the last rider on the course, and is on the downhill now. He's not really flying though.

Julich ends in 5'22.95 for 17th.

16:36 CET   
Most (all?) riders are on TT bikes today, by the way.

16:37 CET   
Jaksche flies into the final kilometre, and has put a bit of time into Strauss. The Gerolsteiner rider finishes in 5'38 (114th), then Jaksche comes up behind him in 5'23.40 for 20th. He's disappointed.

Jens Voigt (CSC) wins the prologue! Second, Fabian Cancellara (Fassa), followed by a very impressive Erik Dekker (Rabobank).

That's it from today's very chilly prologue in Issy-les-Moulineaux. More live action from 14:30 tomorrow form the first stage between Etampes to Chabris.


1 Jens Voigt (Ger) CSC                                     5.15
2 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Fassa Bortolo                    0.02
3 Erik Dekker (Ned) Rabobank                               0.03
4 Vladimir Gussev (Rus) CSC                              
5 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Cofidis                           0.04
6 Nico Mattan (Bel) Davitamon-Lotto                        
7 Alberto Contador (Spa) Liberty Seguros                   
8 David Zabriskie (USA) CSC                                0.05
9 Oscar Pereiro (Spa) Phonak                               0.06
10 Michael Rogers (Aus) Quick.Step
11 Thomas Dekker (Ned) Rabobank
12 Kurt-Asle Arvesen (Nor) CSC                             0.07
13 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Francaise des Jeux
14 Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Bouygues Telecom

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