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101st Paris-Tours - ProT

France, October 14, 2007

Complete live report

Live commentary by Hedwig Kröner

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

15:00 CEST   
Hello and welcome back to another edition of Paris-Tours, the great sprinter's appointment in the European fall. The sun is shining down on the bunch as temperatures have reached about 20° in the afternoon - a beautiful day for a ride!

Departing form Saint-Arnoult-en-Yvelines, the race is 256 kilometres long and usually finishes in a sprint - but beware! Because of this, the sprinter's teams sometimes leave breakaways too much time and fail to get their leaders to the line first. Last year, Frédéric Guesdon (Française Des Jeux) got the win over the sprinters coming out of an escape group that was formed at km 13... And well-known climber Richard Virenque once won this event in front of his compatriot Jacky Durand, also known for his looong breakaway capacities.

15:04 CEST   
175 riders started this morning at 11am, with one important non-starter: tall Swede Magnus Backstedt of Liquigas did not sign up. If we hear anything about the reason of his absence, we'll keep you posted.

15:10 CEST   
Very early on, the race was fast and nervous, with a group of 22 riders taking off at km 7: Breschel (CSC), Engoulvent (CA), Rousseau (AG2R), Fothen (GST), Longo (LAM), Hulsmans (QST), Vaitkus and Vandborg (DSC), Pütsep and Geslin (BTL), Hayman et Posthuma (RAB), Duclos-Lassalle (COF), Tjallingii, Goesinnen and Rooijakers (SKS), Terpstra (MRM), Kuschynski (LIQ), Coenen (JAC), Sinner (AGR), Belohvosciks and Musiol (WIE).

Under the pressure of Française des Jeux and Predictor-Lotto, who weren't represented in the escape, the bunch fell to pieces, with a chase group of about 80 riders forming behind the escapees. In the first hour of racing, 48,2 were covered (!). Still, the 22 riders in front resisted until km 93, where they were caught.

15:19 CEST   
After that, it was peloton groupé until km 106, when another breakaway formed, including Gilbert (FDJ), Cancellara, Bak, Breschel, Goss and Kroon (CSC), Hinault, Hivert and Kern (CA), Dion, Krivtsov and Riblon (AG2R), Gatto, Krauss and Stamsnijder (GST), Napolitano and Bono (LAM), Van Avermaet (PRL), Roeseler, Vasseur (QST), Voeckler (BTL), De Maar and Hayman (RAB), Boucher (LAN), Duclos-Lassalle and Minard (COF), Van Hummel and Vierhouten (SKS), Fischer, Kuschynski and Quinziato (LIQ), Lastras and Losada Alguacil (GCE), Anton and Isasi (EUS) as well as Pauwels (JAC). But Hayman punctured a few kilometres later, and had to reintegrate the bunch.

Too big and dangerous, this breakaway wasn't given too much space either: 30 kilometres later, it still only had 40 seconds over the bunch. After an unsuccessful attack of Roeseler and Voeckler, it was David Boucher (Landbouwkrediet), Manuel Quinziato (Liquigas) and Serge Pauwels (Chocolade Jacques) who finally formed a three-men escape out of the front group which was given the Go by the sprinter's teams.

15:29 CEST   
As the bunch slowed down to grab some food and drink, the breakaway quickly gained momentum, increasing its advantage to a maximum of 7'55" at km 172. During the third hour of the race, 47.4 kilometres were covered, which translated to an average of 48,9 km/h since the riders took off in Saint-Arnoult-en-Yvelines - no afternoon stroll!

Finally, Quick.Step joined Credit Agricole at the front of the bunch, together with one Rabobank rider, and the gap came down to 5'20" at km 190. Right now, Boucher, Quinziato and Pauwels have less than five minutes advance... The sprinter's squads don't want to make the same mistake again as last year, it would seem!

15:37 CEST    214km/42km to go
The gap is down to 3'40" with 42 kilometres to go to the finish in Tours, the famous Avenue de Grammont. Crédit Agricole is pushing the pedals hard for Thor Hushovd on these long, straight field-bordered roads southward.

15:44 CEST    221km/35km to go
The sky is blue on top of the riders, and there is not a lot of wind, either. Perfect conditions for a bunch sprint finish hopefully without crashes. In this event, the likely candidates for the top placings today are - in no particular order - Robbie McEwen (Predictor), Allan Davis (Discovery), Oscar Freire (Rabobank), Robert Hunter (Barloworld), Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne), Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas), two-times winner Erik Zabel and teammate Alessandro Petacchi (Milram), Gert Steegmans (Quick.Step), Danilo Napolitano (Lampre), Robert Förster (Gerolsteiner) and Alexandre Usov (Ag2R).

15:47 CEST   
In the escape, Pauwels can't hold the pace anymore and is slowly giving in. He is dropped now. We're left with two men in front: Quinziato and Boucher.

15:53 CEST    228km/28km to go
Now, the Italian has decided to leave behind the Belgian and give it a go by himself. Quinziato has his elbows on the handlebars time trial-style... but will one man in front be able to keep off the sprinter's teams?

15:57 CEST    230km/26km to go
But even if everything points to a bunch sprint at the moment, in Paris-Tours you never know. There are many experienced last-minute attackers in the peloton who could use one of these small climbs towards the end of the parcours, like the Côte du Crochu that Quinziato is climbing right now.

There are quite some spectators along the side of the road on this beautiful autumn day. The gap is still three minutes.

15:59 CEST   
Quickstep and Davitamon are driving the bunch over the fill. This must hurt after a fast 220 kilometres... A Liquigas rider is also lending a leg (pardon the pun).

16:00 CEST    233km/23km to go
A Skil-Shimano rider is trying to break away out of the bunch, but he doesn't succeed. Now it's Sébastien Langeveld (Rabobank) who has 20 metres.

16:02 CEST    234km/22km to go
Quinziato is still hammering. Until further notice, he does have a chance!

Langeveld's caught again as the peloton drives over a motorway bridge out of the woods.

16:05 CEST   
Thomas Voeckler (Bouygues) is grinding his teeth as he's taking the front of the bunch for his team captain Aurélien Clerc. At the back, more than a few riders are in trouble with this terrible pace being put on.

Quinziato is still out there alone against the clock. He's passed the 20 km-mark and still has more than two minutes.

16:07 CEST   
In the last ten kilometres of the race, several small hills will again do some more damage: the Côte de l'Epan, the Côte du Pont Volant and the Côte du Petit Pas d'Ane. They will add some additional spice to this already tight race situation!

16:09 CEST    239km/17km to go
Ah... Quinziato is suffering and losing time. Voeckler is still leading out the pack - what an effort he's putting in! The gap is down to 1'28".

16:12 CEST    241km/15km to go
The bunch is strung out as they pass through nice little French villages and around the more than occasional roundabout. The tempo is being kept very high indeed to prevent any more breakaways. They hit another small climb now.

16:15 CEST    244km/12km to go
Cédric Vasseur (Quickstep) has taken over at the front of the swarm. All the sprinters are getting ready for position fighting as the race moves fast through the countryside.

Only 44 seconds left for Quinziato.

16:19 CEST   
Robert Förster (Gerolsteiner) is having trouble to hang on at the back. That is not a good sign for the German.

Quinziato is approaching the Côte de l'Epan with 7.5 kilometres to go. His advantage has crumbled to 20 seconds - he might get caught very soon!

16:20 CEST    249km/7km to go
That is it for Quinziato, who sits up. The finale is on! And Gilbert (FDJ) tries to get away on the climb...

16:22 CEST   
Gilbert, Kroon (CSC) and Pozzato (Liquigas) are being followed by four riders, with the bunch close behind. There are no huge gaps - it might come together again if they don't work together properly.

16:24 CEST    252km/4km to go
Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank) bridges up to them. This attack could be successful!

16:25 CEST   
The four men push hard on the next climb, giving it everything! They have 20 seconds.

16:26 CEST    253km/3km to go
But Flecha didn't make it all the way to the trio, chasing behind. There's Cancellara, too, just behind Flecha.

16:27 CEST   
They are approaching Tours now, and this looong finishing straight. Will it be enough in the end??

16:28 CEST   
No, it won't. The bunch comes up to them with 2 kilometres to go. They sit up.

16:29 CEST    255km/1km to go
AG2R drives it for Usov. Steegmans is on the front now.

16:30 CEST   
The sprint is on.... and Petacchi wins!

16:32 CEST   
Zabel led out the Italian, and McEwen unclipped in the last metres. Chicci second and Freire third.

16:35 CEST   
Thank you for having joined us again in France today. Next Saturday, we will bring the last ProTour race of the season to you from Italy: the Giro di Lombardia. Until then, ciao and au revoir!