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99th Paris-Tours - ProT

France, October 9, 2005

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Commentary by Hedwig Kröner

Live report

Live coverage starts: 15:00 CEST
Estimated finish: 17:00 CEST

14:59 CEST   
Welcome to Cyclingnews' Live coverage from the second-to-last ProTour race this season, the autumn classic Paris-Tours. It's a sunny 21° out there in Saint-Arnoult-en-Yvelines in Northern France, where 192 riders started this morning at 11.00.

Prior to the start, the UCI doping commissaires controlled the blood of 39 participants from the teams Française de Jeux, AG2R Prévoyance, Landbouwkrediet-Colnago, MrBookmaker.com and RAGT Semences, and all of them were declared fit to start.

15:07 CEST   
There were many attacks in the first part of the race, but none of them got a significant lead of more than 20 seconds or so until Joost Posthuma (Rabobank) and José Ivan Gutierrez (Illes Balears) jumped away before the third intermediate sprint in Brou (km 84). The relentless high pace of the bunch then eased down and the two riders had one minute over the bunch only six kilometres later.

Meanwhile, Stéphane Berges (Agritubel) had countered the move and joined the two leaders at kilometre 91. Their advance increased rapidly as the bunch had stopped any initiative to chase them altogether, giving the break a maximum lead of almost nine minutes at km 110.

Thor Hushovd's Crédit Agricole teammates, as well as Robbie McEwen's mates from Davitamon-Lotto were the ones to control the pace of the peloton from then on, bringing the gap down to 4.30 fifty kilometres later.

15:12 CEST   
Antton Luengo (Euskaltel) and Samuele Marzoli (Lampre) abandoned earlier in the race, as well as Thomas Bruun (CSC), Sebastian Lang (Gerolsteiner) and Daniele Nardello (T-Mobile), who climber into their team cars half an hour ago.

15:19 CEST    184,5km/68.5km to go
The three front men just passed the sprint in Montreuil-en-Touraine, with Gutierrez scoring the points. The sprint points were introduced a couple of years ago to animate the race, which has a tendency to finish in bunch sprints.

The break's lead still amounts to 4 minutes as Davitamon's Aart Vierhouten is doing the work for McEwen. ProTour jersey wearer Danilo di Luca is at the back of the bunch, getting water bottles for Bäckstedt...

15:23 CEST   
It's really a very beautiful day today, the riders not needing to wear arm or leg warmers at all. It's Indian summer in Europe alright, with the forest shining in all colours from green to yellow and flashing red.

The lead has come down to 2.45 with more than 60 kilometres to go. Better not catch them too soon!

15:27 CEST    193km/59.5km to go
Posthuma is leading his two companions to the next sprint in Vilvent. The bunch is following at 2 minutes' distance.

15:31 CEST   
Gutierrez is taking a sip out of his bidon as spectators cheer them on. Bergès doesn't seem to take his turn anymore - he's cooked.

They pass a bridge over the Loire river at the foot of the beautiful Amboise castle. Places with history here in Northern France... Crédit Agricole is heading the bunch for Hushovd and Kirsipuu.

15:34 CEST   
Joost Posthuma got a little gap to the front but his two companions caught him again. If he's got the legs, now should be the time to go as the peloton is less than 2 minutes behind.

MrBookmaker.com, who will be called Unibet.com, are leading the bunch now over the Côte de la Pagode du Chanteloup.

15:39 CEST    200km/52.5km to go
Quick.Step is also represented at the front of the bunch, which is only 1.23 minutes behind the leaders now. Posthuma doesn't look like he still believes in this break, and Gutierrez hands him a water bottle that he got from the neutral car, smiling - they know they don't stand a chance.

15:42 CEST   
Di Luca is again riding next to his team car, talking to his DS. Now he stops at the roadside, stretching his leg. That's it for the winner of the ProTour - a 200 kilometre training ride is enough.

15:44 CEST    204km/48.5km to go
The break rolls through St-Martin-le-Beau, with the pack on its wheels at 40 seconds. The finale of the race sure promises to be interesting...

15:48 CEST   
Two Davitamon riders are back at the front of the peloton, as Bergès has stopped his effort, dropping back already. The bunch is riding very fast, over 50 km/h constantly, and will catch the remaining two in a moment.

15:50 CEST   
Posthuma and Gutierrez get swallowed by the bunch this every moment. Now it's all about holding on to that pace!

15:54 CEST    212.5km/40km to go
The bunch is stretched out now, partly because the road is narrow, partly because everybody wants to be in front.

"I hope that with a good cooperation with the other sprinter's teams it will come down to a bunch sprint," Robbie McEwen told reporters this morning at the start. It looks like this is happening, because even MrBookmaker.com joins in to hold a high pace.

15:57 CEST   
Yuriy Krivtsov (Ag2r) crashed earlier on, and has his knicks ripped. The wound doesn't look to bad though, and he's getting bottles from his team car now.

16:02 CEST   
All is looking good at the moment for a bunch sprint: the peloton is together, stretched out, Davitamon is still leading and there's a headwind blowing, "slowing" them down to 37 km/h.

Nicolas Vogondy (C.A.) takes over now.

16:06 CEST    220.5km/32km to go
But a little up and down before the final almost three kilometres long Avenue de Grammont should shake up the face of this race still. Especially since there is a little loop to ride just before Tours, where the headwind will become a treacherous sidewind.

16:08 CEST   
Kurt-Asle Arvesen (CSC) just had a flat but is chasing back from his team car now. Still 30 km to go.

16:12 CEST    225.5km/27km to go
Four Mr.Bookmaker.com's are giving it all in front of the bunch - that is impressive. The race is getting faster and faster it seems, even if the road is a little dangerous with many roundabouts and small hills...

Stijn Devolder (Discovery) now attacks in one of these hills, with a Davitamon rider behind.

16:14 CEST    227.5km/25km to go
Several small groups are a few hundred metres in front of the bunch, with Philippe Gilbert (FdJ) and Devolder ahead.

16:18 CEST   
T-Mobile has joined the chasing now, with the two riders only 15 seconds away. But the two Belgians are riding hard, believing in their chances with a little more than 20 clicks to go. Both have big motors, that's for sure. And Gilbert will want to make up for his missed spring/summer season.

16:20 CEST    232.5km/20km to go
Illes Balears has also engaged in the chase, as the two riders have already more than 40 seconds now. Very impressive move! The two rode together at the World's and brought Boonen to his victory, so they must get on well!

16:23 CEST   
Three Illes Balears riders are now sacrificing themselves for Valverde, as the other teams hesitated. Gilbert and Devolder take strong turns, hammering at 50 km/h with a slight backwind.

They've got a minute now.

16:27 CEST    237.5km/15km to go
Gilbert missed the right turn in a curve before a roundabout, and had to chase back to Devolder. That will cost them a few seconds, but not more.

The bunch is still led by Illes Balears and Davitamon.

16:28 CEST   
They're pacing through harvested fields now on narrow roads, with a rider from Quick.Step in the wind fro Weylandt: 48 seconds yet to take back from the two Belgians.

16:33 CEST   
The gap is coming down, but slowly. Everybody is flat out to achieve their goal, grinding teeth.

Devolder takes his turn now, looking just a little bit weaker than Gilbert. Several riders are getting dropped or barely holding on to the back of the bunch.

16:36 CEST    242.5km/10km to go
On the Côte de l'Epan, Gilbert dropped Devolder a little while he was in front, but Devolder came back to him.

This hill made the peloton explode into pieces. A counter-attack is off with Matti Breschel (CSC) and Karsten Kroon (Rabobank).

16:39 CEST    247.5km/5km to go
Saunier's Quinziato crashed at the back of the bunch, with Scanlon (Ag2r) and a Bouygues rider.

16:40 CEST   
With 5 k to go, the two leaders still have 28 seconds. Devolder is cooked, and can't take any turn anymore.

Kroon and Breschel didn't make it.

16:42 CEST    248.5km/4km to go
Wrolich (Gerolsteiner) counter-attacked, while Gilbert and Devolder talk. A small group has formed around Wrolich.

16:43 CEST    249.5km/3km to go
Gilbert and Devolder are almost at the avenue de Grammont now, still talking. They have 20 seconds still.

16:43 CEST    250.5km/2km to go
The two leaders should make it, but should stop talking !!

16:44 CEST   
Coming back is still possible for the bunch, but it'll have to go 5 km/h faster - and Gilbert is in front under the flamme rouge!

16:45 CEST   
They're being caught though in the last hundred metres.... so tight!!

16:45 CEST   
And Zabel is there and wins this thing!!! What a messy finish!

16:46 CEST   
Bennati takes second, Davis third with McEwen fourth.

16:53 CEST   
With a fairly international arm movement, Gilbert expressed his point of view to Devolder with 200 m to go, as Devolder only sucked his wheel in the last kilometres. T-Mobile didn't work all day but Zabel took his last victory for the German squad - and his third in Paris-Tours.

Zabel picked the right side to go on. McEwen went on the other side, and the German came off Bennati's wheel with about 60m to go - beautiful.

16:59 CEST   
With a view of the podium, where Zabel and Bennati hug, we will be back for the last ProTour race, the Giro di Lombardia. Until then, have a good one!


1 Erik Zabel (Ger) T-Mobile
2 Daniele Bennati (Ita) Lampre - Caffita
3 Allan Davis (Aus) Liberty Seguros-Würth Team
4 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto
5 Alberto Ongarato (Ita) Fassa Bortolo
6 Aurélien Clerc (Swi) Phonak Hearing Systems
7 Julian Dean (NZl) Crédit Agricole
8 René Haselbacher (Aut) Gerolsteiner
9 Uros Murn (Slo) Phonak Hearing Systems
10 Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) Liquigas - Bianchi

ProTour standings

1 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Liquigas-Bianchi                    229 pts
2 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step                              171
3 Jan Ullrich (Ger) T-Mobile Team                          140
4 Lance Armstrong (USA) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 139