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100th Paris-Tours - ProT

France, October 8, 2006

Live report

Live Commentary by Jeff Jones and Gregor Brown

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

14:42 CEST   
Welcome to French airspace for our Hindenburg V-1 powered live coverage of the 100th edition of Paris-Tours. At 254 km long on not-so-hilly terrain, this race is considered a sprinters' classic, but sometimes the fast men get left behind in the crosswinds.

196 riders started at 11:16, with the first attack coming from Juan Jose Cobo Acebo (Saunier Duval) , Lars Michaelsen (CSC), Sebastian Lang (Gerolsteiner), Olaf Pollack (T-Mobile), Enrico Franzoi (Lampre) and Maarten Tjallingii (Skil). They were caught after 10 km, as another group of six countered: Kurt-Asle Arvesen (CSC), Frederic Finot (Française des Jeux), Stephane Poulhies (AG2R), Sebastien Siedler (Milram), Pedro Horrillo (Rabobank) and Steven de Jongh (Quick Step). This group was joined by another 16, but it all came back together after 20 km.

The critical escape of the day went at km 33, with 28(!) riders breaking clear: Kasper Klostergaard, Kurt-Asle Arvesen (CSC), Frederic Guesdon and Frederic Finot (FDJ), Kevin van Impe and Steven De Jongh (Quick.Step), Frederic Amorison (Landbouwkrediet), Graeme Brown, Pedro Horrillo (Rabobank), Stephane Poulhies (AG2R), Tyler Farrar and Cristian Moreni (Cofidis), Sebastien Siedler (Milram), Enrico Franzoi, Danilo Napolitano (Lampre), Maarten Tjallingii and Christoph Meschenmoser (Skil), Enrico Gasparotto, Mauro Da Dalto and Luca Paolini (Liquigas), Jan Kuyckx (Davitamon), David Vitoria (Phonak), Peter Wrolich (Gerolsteiner), Yoann Le Boulanger (Bouygues), Iñaki Isasi (Euskaltel), Carlos Abellán, Koen De Kort (Astana) and Vladimir Gusev (Discovery). Gusev was dropped after the leaders covered 46.8 km in the first hour, with the main bunch already 2'20 behind.

That prompted Discovery Channel to start chasing, but after the second hour was raced at 49.3 km/h, the gap did not come down. A group of 40 split off from the rest of the peloton in pursuit of the 27. In this chase group were O'Grady (CSC), Gilbert (Française des Jeux), Pozzato (Quick.STep) and Hushovd and Kirsipuu (Credit Agricole), Devolder (Discovery), Ballan and Bennati (Lampre), and Cooke (Unibet.com). Defending champion Erik Zabel and Tom Boonen both missed the split, and look to be out of the race now.

The situation after 140 km: The 27 leaders have 4'30 on the chase group of 40, with the Boonen/Zabel peloton at 11'30.

14:55 CEST    160km/94.5km to go
The high pace is taking its toll, with Mauro Da Dalto being dropped from the leading group and Philippe (Française des Jeux) and a few others dropped from the chasing group. The gap between group 1 and group 2 has come down to 2'45. We can forget about Boonen and Zabel today.

15:05 CEST    173km/81.5km to go
The chase group is now just 32 riders strong, but is getting closer to the leaders. 1'35 is the latest time check. O'Grady, Hushovd and Pozzato are all in it. Up front, Paolini, Brown, Arvesen, De Jongh, Napolitano, Wrolich and Isasi are the best sprinters on paper.

15:09 CEST    175km/79.5km to go
The chasing group has grown back to 45 again as the dozen who were dropped, including Philippe Gilbert, have caught back on, and Mauro da Dalto has also been swallowed. They are still 1'35 behind the 26 up front.

15:21 CEST    182km/72.5km to go
The main part of the peloton with Boonen and Zabel in it (remember?) has quit en masse at the feed zone. That means less than half of the starters are left in the race! Such is the nature of this classic.

15:43 CEST    200km/54.5km to go
The first attacks are happening in the lead group, as Carlos Abellán breaks clear with Jan Kuyckx.

15:43 CEST   
The big chasing group still hasn't made any inroads into the leaders. 1'35 can be a hard gap to close...

15:49 CEST   
The lead group is breaking up, with Guesdon and Moreni the next to attack.

15:51 CEST    209.5km/45km to go
Moreni and Guesdon have shattered the front group. Paolini is chasing with Van Impe and Finot, then Van Impe goes across by himself. Then a group of five and then another group of five.

15:52 CEST   
The average speed is still up around the 46 km/h mark as Van Impe catches the front two.

15:54 CEST    212.5km/42km to go
The first group behind Van Impe, Moreni and Guesdon consists of Danilo Napolitano (Lampre), Enrico Gasparotto and Luca Paolini (Liquigas), Frederic Finot (FDJ), Kurt-Asle Arvesen (CSC), Sebastien Siedler (Milram).

The chase group of 45 is now at 2'46, and doesn't look to be coming back.

15:57 CEST    214.5km/40km to go
The first chase group grows to Danilo Napolitano (Lampre), Enrico Gasparotto and Luca Paolini (Liquigas), Frederic Finot (FDJ), Kurt-Asle Arvesen (CSC), Sebastien Siedler (Milram), Frederic Amorison (Landbouwkrediet), Carlos Abellán (Astana), Jan Kuyckx (Davitamon), Maarten Tjallingii (Skil),Iñaki Isasi (Euskaltel), and ? (Rabobank).

But now, Gasparotto and Arvesen are going across to the three leaders. They make it.

15:59 CEST    215.5km/39km to go
The Rabobank rider in the first chase group is Graeme Brown. they're 20 seconds behind the leaders as Isasi tries to keep the pace up. No-one wants to work though.

16:03 CEST   
The five leaders work well together, as the chasers also start to cooperate. With Gasparotto and Moreni in front, we have two former Italian champions.

The 'peloton' is being driven by Lampre, Bouygues and Discovery, but still sits 2'20 behind the five leaders.

16:08 CEST    221.5km/33km to go
The leaders continue to work well, and are approaching the 30 km to go mark. The first chasers haven't given up though, and still have a chance of coming back. Moreni gets a couple of bidons from the Cofidis team car.

16:10 CEST    223.5km/31km to go
Amorison does a turn in the chase group, then Isasi, Tjallingii and Napolitano. They are 40 seconds back, with the peloton at 2'04.

16:13 CEST    227.5km/27km to go
Now it's Gasparotto's turn for a bidon from the car. He gets one and slots in behind Moreni at the back of the five man chain. Then Fred Guesdon grabs a bidon from his car. Can he win another classic after his Paris-Roubaix win in 1997?

The third group on the road, with Horrillo, has been caught by the peloton, which is 1'49 behind the five leaders. This could be a close finish.

16:14 CEST    228.5km/26km to go
The leaders hit the Côte de Crochu and the cooperation doesn't look as good, but it's ok. Guesdon sits last wheel, behind Gasparotto. Moreni looks good, as do Arvesen and Van Impe. The first chasers are at 38 seconds.

16:16 CEST    229.5km/25km to go
The peloton hammers up the climb led by Gusev (Discovery) and Voeckler (Bouygues). 1'42 is the gap.

16:18 CEST    230.5km/24km to go
The first chasers can't get closer to the five leaders: still 40 seconds. But the peloton looks to be hauling them all in, and has got the gap back to 1'20. Voeckler is really hammering on the front of bunch - 1'10 now.

16:20 CEST    232.5km/22km to go
The leaders ride through some more open areas that have been dug up. But now they are in a more scenic forest. Moreni keeps the pace high on the front.

The first chase group will be caught soon.

16:21 CEST    233.5km/21km to go
Tjallingii attacks the chase group, which is being pulled back by the front bit of the peloton.

16:23 CEST    234.5km/20km to go
Tjallingii is leading the peloton by about 20 metres, but is now being caught. Brown sits last wheel in the bunch, behind Putsep.

O'Grady attacks with one of the Bouygues riders, but it doesn't look like a big attack. This is despite having Arvesen in front.

16:23 CEST    235.5km/19km to go
There are now just two groups on the road: Frederic Guesdon (FDJ), Cristian Moreni (Cofidis), Kevin van Impe (Quick.Step), Kurt-Asle Arvesen (CSC), Enrico Gasparotto (Liquigas) and the peloton. No more than 30 seconds separates the two groups.

16:24 CEST   
The peloton isn't that big - maybe 30 riders strong - as Frank Høj (Gerolsteiner) does a turn. 40 seconds...

16:26 CEST    236.5km/18km to go
Napolitano and Ballan are chasing for their sprinter Bennati (well, Napolitano can sprint too). O'Grady is in third wheel, then Jaan Kirsipuu, who is in his last race. Nick Nuyens (Quick.Step) is last wheel in the peloton.

16:27 CEST    237.5km/17km to go
Kevin Van Impe has broken a spoke in his back wheel. This could cost him his place in the break...

16:29 CEST    239.5km/15km to go
Ballan continues to set tempo in front with Kirsipuu. Meanwhile, Napolitano is getting dropped.

Van Impe hangs onto the break, despite his back wheel threatening to collapse... He's now dropped as Guesdon attacks.

16:30 CEST   
Van Impe anxiously looks back for his car, but it's not there. He will not rejoin the front.

16:31 CEST    240.5km/14km to go
The Quick.Step man is now caught by the bunch, because there were no team cars allowed in between the break and the bunch. He's not happy. He finally gets a change.

Napolitano is back at the front, working with Ballan now.

16:32 CEST    241.5km/13km to go
The gap has come back to 14 seconds, so Van Impe will probably feel better about that. Lampre is pulling the four leaders back, thanks to Napolitano and Ballan.

16:34 CEST   
Lampre continue to lead the peloton. Napolitano on the front.

16:35 CEST    243.5km/11km to go
The four are doing equal pulls, but it looks grim. With three little climbs to come.

16:35 CEST   
The first of the three climbs is the Côte de l'Epan at 8 km to go.

16:36 CEST    244.5km/10km to go
You'll want to remember the l'Avenue de Grammont is nearly 3 Km in length. Tree-lined and dead-flat.

16:37 CEST    245.5km/9km to go
Peloton around 35 riders. Lampre still revving the engines for Benna. Daniele Bennati finished 2nd last year behind Zabel in the sprint.

16:37 CEST   
Arvesen gets rid of a bidon as they take a right hander off the main road and hit the climb.

16:38 CEST   
Frederic Guesdon is leading up this small cote.

16:39 CEST   
The final 2 cotes are: Côte du Pont Volant and Côte du Petit Pas d'Ane, coming at 5.5 and 4 km to go.

16:40 CEST    247.5km/7km to go
Frederic Guesdon (FDJ) as a small gap with Arvesen chasing.

16:40 CEST   
Heading into Tours, a Univ. town, these are really some small and scenic roads. Great for a Sunday ride (or race)

16:41 CEST   
Moreni gets caught, while the FDJ and CSC riders join forces to try to stay clear.

16:42 CEST    249.5km/5km to go
The duo start the Côte du Pont Volant

16:42 CEST   
Pippo Pozzato gives a dig off the front

16:43 CEST   
Guesdon and Arvesen have a small gap. It look impossible, but in the shadows perhaps the peloton will misjudge the time gap.

16:43 CEST   
Pozzato gets Gilbert, Sacchi and Cooke and one other for company, and Gilbert signals for Cooke to work. Gilbert's not going to, because Guesdon is in front.

16:44 CEST    250.5km/4km to go
The Côte du Petit Pas d'Ane starts.

16:45 CEST    251km/3.5km to go
The chasers are caught by the peloton, but the two leaders are still 11 seconds to the better with less than 4 km to go. Nuyens attacks...

16:45 CEST   
Thomas Voeckler (Bouygues Telecom) was almost in that chase group, but took the long way around a round-about and ... "ciao"

16:46 CEST    251.5km/3km to go
Markov and Nuyens are chasing Guesdon and Arvesen, who are on the very long finishing straight.

16:46 CEST    251.5km/3km to go
The duo hit the famed avenue de Grammont

16:46 CEST   
Complete straight from here on.

16:46 CEST    252.5km/2km to go
The barriers have started.

16:47 CEST    252.5km/2km to go
Nuyens and Markov are caught by Napolitano, who doesn't want to work yet. 15 seconds with 2 km to go. Arvesen checks back.

16:47 CEST    253.5km/1km to go
Arvesen and Guesdon come under 1 km to go...

16:47 CEST   
Arvesen leads with 800m to go, Guesdon sitting on. They slow... danger.

16:47 CEST   
500m to go, Arvesen looks back at the French rider.

16:48 CEST   
They switch back and forth across the road. The peloton doesn't look like getting them. Guesdon leads out...

16:49 CEST    254.5km/0km to go
And it's Guesdon who wins it!!!! Arvesen second, then O'Grady third ahead of Hushovd.

16:50 CEST   
Another nail biting finish. Two riders survived in front from that early break of 27, and it was Frederic Guesdon who played his cards perfectly until the end. Arvesen did hit out at 200m to go, but Guesdon was too good. His second classic win after Paris-Roubaix 1997. His career begins anew :-)

16:57 CEST   
Thanks for following this 100th edition of Paris-Tours with us. It was another thriller, with Arvesen and Guesdon doing the seemingly impossible (a la Virenque and Durand a few years ago) and pulling off the win. Great finale, and that final kilometre was touch and go, but the two leaders had eight seconds to spare at the end.

One more to go this season: Giro di Lombardia next Saturday. Until then!

Results

Provisional
1 Frédéric Guesdon (Fra) Française des Jeux    5.31.11
2 Kurt-Asle Arvesen (Nor) Team CSC 
3 Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Team CSC                   0.08
4 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crédit Agricole 
5 Alexandre Usov (Blr) AG2R Prévoyance 
6 Baden Cooke (Aus) Unibet.com 
7 Frank Hoj (Den) Gerolsteiner 
8 Danilo Napolitano (Ita) Lampre-Fondital 
9 Tom Steels (Bel) Davitamon-Lotto 
10 Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Quickstep-Innergetic