66th Paris-Nice - HC
France, March 9-16, 2008
Results & report
Stage 4 - March 13: Montélimar - Mont Ventoux, 176km
Complete live report
Live commentary by Bjorn Haake
Welcome back to Cyclingnews'
live coverage, this time from sunny southern France. The weather wasn't always
like this since the start in Amilly, and stage one had to be shortened significantly.
But that's why it's called race *to* the sun and not race *in* the sun. Today,
the riders will even pass snow when they head up the Mont Ventoux. This mountain
always looks like it has snow on top, but in the summer it is the white lava
rock that gives that impression. This time we really have very cold water up
The Mont Ventoux from the valley this
Photo ©: Hedwig Kröner
14:06 CET 85km/91km to go
The race this morning
started shortly before noon. A break with Bernhard Eisel (High Road), Niki Terpstra
(Team Milram), Aleksandr Kuschynski (Liquigas) and Jens Voigt (Team CSC) developed
after 11 km. The first KOM (la côte de Puy-Saint-Martin) was won by Eisel, ahead
of Voigt and Terpstra. They currently have an advantage of 7'15", with a good
80km already done.
Here is a view from the French CN
headquarters this morning. Doesn't the Ventoux look inviting? (yes, it doesn't
Both of the first two road stages
went to Belgian Gert Steegmans, who is showing good form ahead of the upcoming
classics. Finally yesterday, on stage 3, Hushovd had to give up yellow, as the
race ended with the tough ascent of the col de la Croix de Chaubouret, before
screaming down into St. Etienne. It was Kjell Carlström (Liquigas) who won the
stage and Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis), who took the overall lead.
The Mont Ventoux has been the place
of many epic battles, such as the one between Lance Armstrong and Marco Pantani
in 2000, where the Italian was off the back several times, but fought back on,
eventually heading to the finish together with Armstrong. The Texan gave the
victory to Pantani, while Pantani declared himself the stronger man that day.
But it also has been the place of tragedy. In 1967, Tom Simpson died on the
ascent, due to the usage of amphetamines. We hope for an epic battle today,
rather than a tragedy.
Usually, the Ventoux features in the
Tour de France and/or the Dauphiné Libéré. For Paris-Nice it seems a little
early for such a monster climb.
The riders are done with a long, gradual,
descent. The start of today's stage was going up, though. The second climb of
the day was la côte de Bourdeaux, with Voigt taking the maximum points ahead
of Eisel and Kuschynski in third.
Only 15 minutes later the leaders
went over the top of la côte de Serre de Turc (km 62.5). Here, it was Kuschynski
ahead of Eisel and Voigt. Quite an international break, with an Austrian (Eisel),
a German (Voigt), a Dutchman (Terpstra) and a Belarusian (Kuschynski). It is
not clear if Kuschynski could follow a conversation in German, which the other
three could use to their advantage if they need to talk things over for the
Sylvain Chavanel is holding the yellow
Photo ©: AFP
Cyclingnews' Hedwig Kröner
is back in the peloton after taking a little break from racing and she is on
the Mont Ventoux. The weather is good and she is happy to report that there
is no wind at the top. There are throngs of fans out, some riding up on their
bicycles, some waiting in the campers for the riders to arrive. It would be
truly a Tour de France atmosphere – if it wouldn't be for the snow on the side!!!
14:37 CET 110km/66km to go
At the first sprint
of the day, after 108 kilometres, it was Kuschynski ahead of Eisel and Voigt.
Terpstra is hanging back on all the passages of the sprint and KOM points.
Ok, our reader Martin is pointing
out: "There was only one inquest in to Tom's death. It found that he died of
a brain hemorage due to been taken to altitude when he was airlifted off the
mountain. This is a fact. The inquest was held in a Belgian court and was done
so to acertain whether he was covered under his life insurance, which had an
exclusion on death due to drugs. The court clearly found that he was not killed
And Joost is pointing out that the
Dutch people speak Dutch – but this is similar enough to German that the three
could still outfox the Belarusian. Most rider speak multiple languages anyway,
it is essential even within the same team. Robbie McEwen, who lives in Belgium,
frequently will give answers to questions in Flemish or Italian, depending on
who is asking (but English works, too)
Bernhard Eisel is the best-placed
rider in the mountains classification in the breakaway. But with his two points
at the start of the stage he will be no danger to the leader in that competition,
Clément Lhôtellerie (Skil-Shimano) with 34 points. Eisel has accumulated eight
points so far, so his total is ten at the moment. There are two more mountains,
the category 3 col de la Madeleine and the finish on the Ventoux (cat 1)
14:53 CET 122km/54km to go
Rabobank has joined
Cofidis, with yellow jersey Chavanel at the front and the gap has been reduced
a bit. It is now 5.40
Crash in the peloton at a roundabout!
A Liquigas rider takes out Tyler Farrar, who is not very happy. It is Kreuziger
who went down in front of the American.
The riders will tackle the Ventoux
from the other side than usual. Hedwig Kröner reports that this side seems
a bit more "stair-like", with little plateaus providing a bit of a 'rest' after
the inclines. There is even a bit of a downhill, starting at the flamme rouge,
indicating the last kilometre. But the last 500m are uphill again.
Cofidis is still on the front. The
penultimate climb is about to start. It is a very gradual ascent and there is
even an intermediate sprint coming up before the top. Terpstra knows he has
to eat, so eats a sports bar. Off goes the wrapper, the wind puts it somewhere
in the meadows.
15:06 CET 139km/37km to go
The break is 37km
from the finish now. About ten minutes ago the passed Aubignon , where reader
Ken knows a very good boulangerie (bakery), where they sell baguette
and croissants. Too bad the peloton didn't know about it.
Another roundabout, but no problems
this time. The break is still looking good, with the gap still above the five-minute
mark. Of course with the Ventoux, that isn't much for the non-climbers, although
Voigt has shown in the Tour of Germany last year how he can suffer on an uphill
if he needs to.
15:10 CET 142km/34km to go
Eisel is leaving out
some pulls. Kuschynski is looking at him a bit funny. Well, there is a sprint
coming up soon.
The sun is out and the riders can
actually see shadows. They even can ride in short sleeves! It's such a welcome
change from the days before. They are heading through scenic Modene now, with
its old church in the centre of the village.
The pace is definitely "pretty good"
now, with the road already pointing uphill. It is still Cofidis and Rabobank
at the front. Chavanel is a bit back right now, but still in the front third
of the peloton, riding on the right hand side of the road. Moreau is very close
to the front. He loves the Ventoux!
Farrar and Kreuziger are back in the
peloton. The roundabout tumble was not that severe. Going through the narrow
streets of ST. Pierre, there are many spectators out to cheer on the riders.
But there will be even more on the Ventoux!
Thor Hushovd had yellow yesterday, but
is in green today
Photo ©: JF Quenet
The peloton is strung out. Hushovd,
with the green jersey, is about five riders from the back. He is taking a good
sip from his bottle. He will have to stay hydrated, so he can stay with the
peloton as long as possible. Time elimination is the last thing he wants today.
15:23 CET 148km/28km to go
The riders pass Bedoin.
Voigt has his typical fighting grimace on, while the peloton seems to have slowed
just a tad. It is more bunched up. André Greipel (High Road) is riding towards
the back of the bunch. The Tour down Under winner will not get a chance for
a bunch sprint today.
15:26 CET 151km/25km to go
Voigt and Eisel are now at the true ascent of the Madeleine and will see the
summit in about 5 km. They will be still ahead of the peloton when they go over
the top. More chances for Eisel to get some points, although we have to wonder
if he confused all the KOM's today with points sprints when he looked at his
cheat sheet this morning.
Rabobank is riding for Gesink. The
young Dutchman is a very good climber. Chavanel is back at the front, in the
centre of the road, behind his Cofidis team-mates. Eisel is taking a strong
pull at the front of the breakaway. They are changing the leads in brief intervals,
not more than 10-20 secs. Even Voigt, who usually likes to pull for a day and
a half drops back after his burst of work. Well, it is downhill right now...But
the gap is now only 4'10.
A few riders are already getting shelled
off the peloton. This side of the Ventoux, via the Madeleine, is not tackled
very often for the races.
15:33 CET 155km/21km to go
They go over the Madeleine.
There is no sprint. Eisel, Voigt, Terpstra.
The lead has dropped under the four-minute
mark now. The peloton is strung out. It is still big, but the end is losing
Voigt is done with another pull, always
a relief for the breakaway companions. The peloton is now heading over the top
of the Madeleine, while the break is already looking at the Ventoux. Not a pretty
sight, if you have to race up the steep thing.
15:41 CET 160km/16km to go
Voigt is in third
position, with Terpstra behind him. The German is nice enough to put on his
left-turn signal, as a policeman has a yellow flag, indicating a danger spot.
The final climb has started!
Voigt attacks immediately! Kuschynski
goes after him, but Eisel and Terpstra are done for the day.
15:43 CET 161km/15km to go
Voigt is in his typical
style, with his tall body leaned over and stomping on those pedals. He passes
the 15km to go sign. The Liquigas rider cannot close in on the German.
Voigt has three and a half minutes.
Cofidis is done for the day, but Quick Step has taken over at the front. Well,
Moerenhout (Rabobank) has taken over, and actually gaps the Quick Step riders.
David Millar has been dropped off
the main group.
Moerenhout has now cooled off and
is right in front of the Quick Step train. Expect an attack from Gesink later.
Miller isn't the only one getting shelled. Hushovd, Steegmans are back too.
They will soon form the autobus.
Flecha has done a lot of work for
Rabobank, too. He drops off. Sandy Casar is gone , as are Gerrans, Calzati and
Schumacher. Cretskens and Lequatre as well. Albasini, Zubeldia. Boy, it looks
like a major battle field. The peloton is about 50 riders.
Voigt has maybe a minute on the duo
of Terpstra and Kuschynski, and three minutes on the peloton.
Surprise: Christophe Moreau has been
dropped. Maybe too early in the season for the French Champion.
Chavanel is still there, but he is
slipping back in the front group. Not a good sign. He still has David Moncoutié
Lhôtellerie and Popovych are still
in the front group, as is Bernhard Kohl, who is leading the bunch.
Sorry, Kohl is actually at the back
of the group. Rebellin is still sitting pretty, as is Frank Schleck. But the
front group is now only about 30 riders.
15:59 CET 166km/10km to go
Kuschynski has been
swallowed, as have the other two. This leaves only Voigt in front. Moreau is
on the drops and found a small group to ride with. Chavanel is still there,
as are Cunego and Efimkin.
Eisel and Terpstra are actually still
ahead of the peloton, but not by much. Eisel keeps turning around. He won't
get anymore mountain points today.
The gap is down to 2'18. This will
be tough for the German to hang on to his slim lead. Cadel Evans is also still
16:03 CET 168km/8km to go
Moreau shows fighting
spirit and is trying to get back to the front group. Voigt is labouring up the
road and breathing hard. 2'15" still.
The view is impressive, but the riders
have no time for that. Moreau has made it back to the group. Chapeau.
Voigt will be extra motivated, having
found out that CSC is pulling out as a sponsor at the end of the year. It means
some 20+ riders are looking for a new employer next year, in a tight market.
16:07 CET 170km/6km to go
in the polka dot is still there, while Igor Antón (Euskaltel-Euskadi) finds
the pace a little too high. Voigt has still over two minutes, with 6km to go.
Quick Step is taking over with Garate
and Efimkin. They are still in the tree line, which is nice for Voigt. The less
visible he is the better for him. Chavanel is now dropping... A small gap develops,
usually the first sign of a complete snap off the group. But it is still only
Maxime Monfort is with Chavanel, but
now the gap is growing. The two Cofidis rider are followed by David López García
16:12 CET 171km/5km to go
Now the group is shattering,
under the relentless pace of Quick Step. Of course, one of the victims is Efimkin,
who has done his work. Voigt passes the 5km to go sign. The lead is now less
than two minutes.
Luis León Sánchez (Caisse d'Epargne)
is also getting dropped, riding behind Cunego and Moncoutié, who have all dropped
off the group. Gesink himself is now taking over at the front. Rebellin is still
16:16 CET 172km/4km to go
Rebellin is the next
to drop off, victim of the pace of Gesink. Schleck, Evans and Popovych are still
There are only four chasing Voigt,
who looks like he is done.
Make that three, as Schleck is also
gapped. 3.5km to go. It looks good for Silence-Lotto now.
They now have snow on the left and
right. Evans works for Popo.
What Evans didn't realise is that
he dropped his team-mate and it is only Gesink behind him!
16:22 CET 174km/2km to go
Voigt has been caught,
so Evans and Gesink, two km from the line, will sprint for victory.
But now Gesink has to do all the work,
as Evans sits on and hoping that Popovych will make it back. He is not too far
behind. Rebellin is at 30 seconds. They pass the 2km to go sign.
The red Silence-Lotto jersey looks
nice against the white backdrop of the snow. Popovych fights and fights. He
is probably 20 seconds back
16:24 CET 175km/1km to go
Gesink is leading all
the time. They pass the flamme rouge. Evans looks up and checks the road ahead.
This is the downhill part we mentioned
earlier. The road is slightly wet here, but the duo makes it past just fine.
Gesink goes early!
It is uphill and the Dutchman tries
But Evans has no problems making it
What a nice victory for the Aussie,
that early in the season.
Nocentini gets third, unless we missed
Popovych coming in. Rebellin is right behind
L'Hotellerie is less than two minutes
The yellow jersey Chavanel comes in
with almost 4 minutes in arrears. Good bye jersey.
Well, we have a new leader in the
overall. It is Robert Gesink, who got second behind Cadel Evans, who was looking
flawless today. Evans won the stage easily, but couldn't help his team-mate
get closer to the front in the overall. Davide Rebellin is second, 30 seconds
behind. This should be a nice finale until Sunday. Finally racing is back on
the headlines, rather than the ASO/UCI mess. Thanks for reading and please join
Cyclingnews tomorrow for stage 5.
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