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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

65th Paris-Nice - ProTour

France, March 11-18, 2007

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Stage 5 - March 16: Sorgues - Manosque, 178 km

Complete live report

Live commentary by Hedwig Kröner

14:36 CET    Welcome back to sunny Provence for the fifth stage of this year's Paris-Nice! Today's race leads the riders from Sorgues in the Rhone valley to Manosque, further to the Southeast of the country. In the first part of the stage, the bunch will see the famous Mont Ventoux in the distance to the North, and ride through some of the World's finest wine country. Not that this would distract them from the many climbs on the road in front of them: two Cat. 2 mountains will be coming up, followed by two Cat 3's. The finish towards Manosque will be on descending terrain, though.

14:41 CET    This morning in Sorgues, the start of the stage was given as planned at 11.50am, but as the peloton rolled out of the village for the official start, it was stopped. In fact, a rather sad incident had happened on the parcours ahead: in a parking lot beside the road up the Col de Murs, the first climb of the day, a man had committed suicide, so the organisers of the race had to give police and ambulances the time to clear the scenery.

Finally, at 12.27pm, the stage started, with all riders of the previous day present. But this means we might see a slightly late finish today: the riders were initially scheduled to arrive in Manosque shortly after 4pm CET - now, we might have to wait until 4.30pm until we know who will be the lucky winner of stage 5!

14:45 CET    This morning between 7.10 and 8.40am, the UCI performed anti-doping controls at the hotels of the following teams: Predictor-Lotto, Agritubel, Cofidis, T-Mobile, Rabobank, Discovery Channel and Euskaltel-Euskadi. All riders were fit to race.

After the start had finally been given, a group of 13 riders formed at km 9: Johan Vansummeren (Predictor), Nicolas Portal (Caisse d'Epargne), Ruben Perez (Euskaltel), David Zabriskie (CSC), Yaroslav Popovych (Discovery), Koos Moerenhout (Rabobank), Bert Grabsch (T-Mobile), Jurgen de Walle (Quick-Step), Hubert Dupont (AG2R), Markus Zberg (Gerolsteiner), Murilo Fischer (Liquigas), Nicolas Jalabert (Agritubel) and Igor Abakoumov (Astana). All the squads being well-represented, they quickly gained time on the bunch and had a 45 seconds advantage just a few kilometres later.

14:48 CET    But the road went uphill soon enough, and some of the breakaway riders couldn't follow as they tackled the Col de Murs. Zabriskie, Popovych, Moerenhout, Vansummeren, Grabsch, Van De Walle and Fischer were the strongest in the climb, and the others had to let go of them. Dupont, Zberg, Perez, Portal chased at 40 seconds, while Abakoumov and Jalabert were soon caught by the bunch.

At the summit of the Col de Murs (km 34), Popovych took the points ahead of Zabriskie and Vansummeren. Around km 50, the breakaway of seven riders led the bunch by 3 minutes, while Pérez was still hanging on at 1 minute behind the leaders. Portal, Dupont and Zberg got caught.

14:55 CET    At the first intermediate sprint in Saint-Saturnin-les-Apt (km 53.5), Discovery's Popovych was again the one taking all the points, followed by Vansummeren and Moerenhout. Finally, after 61 kilometres of racing, the sandwiched Pérez gave up an re-joined the peloton.

The 7-man break was then riding already 4 minutes ahead of the pack, whose pace was controlled by Gerolsteiner, riding for Davide Rebellin, the race leader. At the Côte des Agnels (km 68.5), Grabsch reached the summit ahead of Fischer and Zabriskie. At the moment, the Polkadot jersey of Heinrich Haussler (Gerolsteiner) is not in danger of being taken away from him.

15:01 CET    107km/71km to go It's all light blue Gerolsteiner in front of the bunch, as they ride through the spring countryside with blossoming prune and almond trees. The weather is beautiful, around 20° Celsius, only light wind - perfect conditions.

Meanwhile, Pietro Caucchioli and Anthony Charteau (both Crédit Agricole), as well as Christophe Detilloux (Francaise des Jeux) and Eduardo Gonzalo Ramirez (Agritubel) have abandoned.

15:09 CET    At the start this morning, Cyclingnews talked to Gerolsteiner directeur sportif Udo Bölts (once a teammate of Jan Ullrich at T-Mobile). The objective of the team is clear: "The yellow jersey has to be defended at all cost," he said. "We will do everything in our power to retain it until this evening, then we'll see... It won't be an easy job for our younger riders."

Bölts was especially wary of tomorrow's stage, which could be more suited to rattle up the GC. "Tomorrow's stage will be a queen's stage... everything will be decided there," he added.

15:12 CET 119km/59km to go Second-placed Alberto Contador was also in good spirits this morning. Wearing the white jersey of best young rider (a garment the Swede Thomas Lövkvist will also be targeting), the Spaniard told us he would be trying his very best in the pursuit of the yellow jersey, his goal since the very start of this race. The riders are now on the way up the Côte de Montfuron.

15:40 CET 138km/40km to go
The gap to the breakaway is slowly but steadily decreasing. It is now around 3 minutes. Popovych is sitting 2.21 minutes behind Davide Rebellin on GC, so he is still virtually leading the race. But for how long?

15:46 CET
The leaders have arrived in Manosque, passing under the famous "flamme rouge" of the last kilometre. The finish (in about one hour, after a loop around the town) is slightly uphill, but still suited for a sprint after that long descent from the Col de Montfuron.

15:48 CET 142km/36km to go
Now, Popovych has attacked! Just outside of town, the Ukrainian got a 50m gap from his former breakaway mates. Vansummeren, Moerenhout and Grabsch are chasing, while the others are dropped.

15:53 CET
The peloton is now only 3.05 minutes away, with Popovych driving really hard, 20 seconds in front of his chasers on the col de la Mort d'Imbert.

Jurgen de Walle (Quick-Step) is still missing from the chase group, as Zabriskie and Fischer have made it back on.

16:00 CET 151km/27km to go
Popovych is still giving his everything as he has reached the descent. The 5 chasers - Johan Vansummeren (Predictor), Koos Moerenhout (Rabobank), Bert Grabsch (T-Mobile), David Zabriskie (CSC), Murilo Fischer (Liquigas) - are still 15 seconds away, as the gap to the bunch has increased again to 3.25 mins.

Now, Caisse d'Epargne has joined Gerolsteiner and Lampre at the front of the peloton.

16:07 CET 155km/23km to go
Three Caisse d'Epargne and four Lampre riders now lead the bunch, while Popovych is leaning low over his handlebars, able to extend his advantage: 50 seconds over the chase group now.

A few riders are dropped from the peloton, now that the race is really on.

16:09 CET
David Millar (Saunier Duval) had to get a new front wheel. A teammate is waiting for the Scot to get him back to the bunch. He's made it now.

16:12 CET
The Gerolsteiner riders seem burned out. Popovych is still 3.20 minutes away at the moment - he really could take the stage, as well as the yellow jersey. Lampre and Caisse d'Epargne are doing their best, but will it be enough?

16:16 CET
Again, this is a good tactical move of Johan Bruyneel - wear out the rival teams of Discovery Channel. The chase group is now 1.40 mins behind Popovych; they will not catch him again.

But the bunch is strung out, single lane...

16:17 CET
Jurgen de Walle (Quick-Step) has been caught by the bunch.

16:20 CET 164km/14km to go
Popo is pushing up a false flat - that hurts. His face is beginning to show that it's not easy. He has 2 minutes on the chasers, and 2.44 on the bunch.

16:22 CET
David Zabriskie (CSC) has also given up the chase a while ago, and the rest of the break is sitting up with the bunch just behind them.

Predictor-Lotto is now doing the work in front.

16:23 CET
The remainder of the break is now swallowed by the peloton.

16:27 CET
The Ukrainian is doing his very best to get the second stage victory for his Discovery Channel team. But with so many teams now decided to chase him down, will he be able to resist? Six Predictor riders are now targeting Popovych, whose pedalstroke doesn't look too smooth anymore.

Two minutes left.

16:29 CET 169km/9km to go
It's always tragic, the way in which the bunch can reel in a breakaway rider so close to the finish. Popovych's advantage is melting away rapidly - only 1.30 now.

16:37 CET 176km/2km to go
Popovych is now almost within the last kilometre, and still has a minute. He's pounding up the climb now.

16:39 CET
Popovych doesn't look back. He'll make it! He's on the final straight...

16:40 CET
Second consecutive stage win for Discovery Channel! And Francisco Ventoso (Saunier) wins the bunch sprint some 15 seconds behind. What a ride by Popovych!


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