65th Paris-Nice - ProTour
France, March 11-18, 2007
Results & report
Stage 4 - March 15: Maurs - Mende, 169.5 km
Complete live report
Welcome back to the 2007 European
racing season! Although one cannot consider that the Paris-Nice "race to the
sun" opens up the ProTour calendar, it's still the first really important stage
race this season, and may be an indicator for who's hot and who's not this year...
We at Cyclingnews open up our race coverage with the event's queen stage
from Maurs to Mende, 169.5 kilometres long. The stage ends with a three km-climb
at about 10 percent gradient up to the Mende airport - that'll get them going.
Until then, four Cat.2 climbs will make the stage an interesting one, and set
the pace for the final ascent.
At the start this morning, beautiful
weather greeted the riders, and only one cyclist abandoned the event: Thierry
Marichal (FDJ), who preferred to go home after an old doping investigation resurfaced
again, accusing him of dealing with the famous drug mix "pot belge".
Sorry folks, not a day shall pass without some doping news...
But now, back to racing: The breakaway
of the day formed after the first categorized climb, the Côte de Quotidiane
after 10 kilometres. Amael Moinard (Cofidis), Sandy Casar (FDJ) and Dmitry Muravyev
(Astana) took off shortly after the summit, and have been away ever since.
Casar was the one taking the points at the next climb, the Côte de Montsalvy
at km 30, as well as the Sprint points in Espalion (km 70). Just a few clicks
later, it was Moinard who arrived first at the summit of the Côte de Biounac
The trio had a maximum lead of 11 minutes at that point,
but then the peloton reacted and brought them back to about 6.20.
14:53 CET 124.5km/45km to go
At the second and
last sprint of the day in Saint-Saturnin-de-Lenne, Muravyev took the points
in front of Casar and Moinard.
As of now, the course is one long
false flat until the second-to-last climb, coming up just before the final leg
cruncher to Mende airport.
Discovery Channel is setting the pace
now. They'll want to bring down the gap before the last climb and put Levi Leipheimer
and Alberto Contador in a perfect position.
Today's stage will reveal
the true contenders for the overall classification this year. With Discovery
Channel looking strong, so do guys like Luis Leon Sanchez (Caisse d'Epargne),
Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner), Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel)... but also current
race leader Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas) knows this particular mountain, and
is not a bad climber at all.
Meanwhile, Massimiliano Mori (Lampre),
Angelo Furlan (Credit Agricole) and Benoit Vaugrenard (FDJ) have abandoned.
15:09 CET 139.5km/30km to go
and Discovery Channel are sharing the work in front of the pack, reducing the
gap further. It is now down to 4.10 minutes.
The bunch is strung
out on a windy pre-mountain road beside a river. The sun is still out, so we
will see no disasters up the "montée Laurent Jalabert" in Mende ("Jaja" won
a Tour de France stage there in 1995) - except for hurting riders...
This time, the finish will not be located at the airport on the mountain plateau,
though, but at the end of the climb.
Certainly, the best climber in the
breakaway is Casar, who placed a very respectable sixth at last year's Giro.
But with only 15 kms to go before the fireworks begin with the Côte de Chabrits
and the final climb in Mende, he may not have too much energy left when the
protected riders in the bunch put the hammer down.
Only a little
more than 3 minutes advantage left for the break.
15:20 CET 146.5km/23km to go
The team helpers
are doing a great job on this continuously ascending terrain, which can really
hurt your muscles. They keep a hard pace all along.
is re-forming to the front of the bunch, too, as the race passes a beautiful
15:23 CET 149.5km/20km to go
But the leaders
aren't giving up yet. Muravyev, Moinard and Casar are still committed to make
this work, and push down the pedals accordingly. Their lead is down to 2.30.
15:28 CET 155.5km/14km to go
the Côte de Chabrits, which is 2.4 km long and has an average gradient of 6.8
percent. There will be a short descent after it, and then the final, Cat. 1
Casar gets a few last instructions and support from Marc Madiot
in the tram car.
The leaders have now arrived in Barjac,
a village that marks the start of the climb.
But so has the bunch, led by Discovery
Channel. Yellow jersey Pellizotti is not far behind.
The first riders
drop off the back of the bunch, while Danielson drives it hard.
Danielson is not only putting his
legs to a test, also his jaws and teeth... He's one of six Disco riders all
The gruppetto has formed around Tom Boonen.
Mountains classification leader Heinrich
Haussler (Gerolsteiner) is not able to follow, neither.
The gap is
under the minute now. Muravyev has difficulties following his breakaway mates...
15:41 CET 162.5km/7km to go
The leaders and the
chasing bunch have passed the penultimate climb. Casar scored the points in
front of Moinard, as Muravyev was already dropped and will be caught by the
bunch in a minute.
They tackle the descent now.
They've arrived in the city of Mende.
Now, the only way is up... Casar doesn't look too fresh anymore.
Points leader Bennati was in front of the bunch for a moment!
15:47 CET 167.5km/2km to go
An Astana rider is
trying to bridge the gap to the two leaders at the foot of the climb. They're
still 25 seconds away.
Cadel Evans (Predictor) is also up
there in front. Moinard looks back - they're just 20 metres away now. Moinard
Casar is giving his everything, while
Rebellin and Valjavec (Lampre) rider get him.
And Contador comes up, looking eeeasy!
Fränk Schleck is also there.
Valjavec, Schleck, Contador, Rebellin
lead the race now - and Contador attacks!! Rebellin holds his wheel for a moment,
but now has to let go.
Contador digs deep, but still looks
like he's having fun... amazing. He's got 20 metres on Rebellin, with Schleck,
Evans, Lopez Garcia (Caisse d'Epargne) and Valjavec chasing behind.
But Rebellin doesn't stand a chance
against the young Spaniard... Contador wins it by far, in front of Rebellin
and Lopez Garcia.
Davide Rebellin is thus taking over
the leader's jersey from Pellizotti after this great effort. Contador is placed
second behind the Italian.
That's all from us for now. Tomorrow's
stage to Manosque will also be an interesting one - join us again at 14.30 CET
for another round!
1 Alberto Contador (Spa) Discovery Channel
2 Davide Rebellin (Ita) Gerolsteiner
3 David López García (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne
4 Cadel Evans (Aus) Predictor-Lotto
5 Tadej Valjavec (Slo) Lampre-Fondital
6 Fränk Schleck (Lux) Team CSC
7 Sébastien Joly (Fra) Française Des Jeux
8 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Discovery Channel
9 Thomas Lövkvist (Swe) Française Des Jeux
10 Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Liquigas
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