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66th Paris-Nice - HC

France, March 9-16, 2008

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Stage 7 - March 16: Nice - Nice, 119km

Complete live report

Live commentary by Bjorn Haake

14:01 CET   
Bonjour pour la dernière fois – Cyclingnews is again live at the action on the final day of Paris-Nice, where the GC got shuffled yesterday and Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) is now in the pole position. Today, the riders will be going from Nice to Nice, but on a not-so-Nice detour they will encounter a 119-kilometre stage, littered with three category one climbs. Of course, a few people are glad the last day is tough and will provide them with opportunities to attack. Rinaldo Nocentini (Ag2r-La Mondiale) is only three seconds behind Rebellin. But don't count out Yaroslav Popovych (Silence-Lotto) (third at 48 seconds) and previous leader Robert Gesink (Rabobank), who lost the maillot jaune yesterday on the downhill. He lies in fourth, 51 seconds behind Rebellin and will be eager to show on today's mountains that he is one of the best climbers in the peloton.

14:08 CET   
In a repeat from last year, we have the Italian Rebellin going into the final stage with the lead. In 2007 his lead was twice as much over Spaniard Alberto Contador – a staggering six seconds. The category two côte de Duranus will be missing this year, but Rebellin will encounter all the other climbs that were his demise last year. The riders will go up part of the Eze climb first, but there is no KOM the first time around. All of them are category one climbs:

km 51 – col de la Porte (7.2km at 7.2%)
km 88.5 – La Turbie (7.0km at 5.2%)
km 103 – col d'Eze (4.2km at 6.8%)

14:12 CET   
Today's start was a bit delayed for two reasons. The organisers delayed the start by ten minutes, so that the finishing time would approximately match up as it was advertised. The reason was a rock slide at La Turbie, which required a slight change of the route. The race will be a bit shorter, 115km instead of 119km. Rebellin will like this – a slight reduction of one difficulty of the day. But there is plenty of uphill left for some epic battles.

Kevin Van Impe experienced tragedy and still was subjected to a doping control, while making arrangements f the funeral of his infant son.
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
(Click for larger image)

14:22 CET   
The second delay was initiated by the riders. The peloton added another two-minute wait before the roll-out. When Philippe Gilbert was signing in, he announced the reason. All the riders declared themselves sympathetic with Kevin Van Impe, who had just experienced a great tragedy with the the death of his infant son. Despite that, he was controlled on when making arrangements for the funeral and the doping testers refused to leave without a sample. Gilbert said on the podium that "sometimes the doping testers are going to too far and there should be some humanity."

14:29 CET   
The race is underway and the first attack didn't wait long to occur. Five riders took off after only three kilometres of racing. Enrico Franzoi (Liquigas), Karsten Kroon (Team CSC), Geoffroy Lequatre (Agritubel), Lucas Euser (Slipstream Chipotle - H30) and Yann Huguet (Cofidis). But they were caught quickly again. A couple of kilometres later a big group of 30 riders split off the front.

14:32 CET    30km/89km to go
Just after the big group attacked, David Moncoutié (Cofidis) got second thoughts of riding too far away from Nice and abandoned the race. He could now just go to the beach and await the arrival of the peloton in a few hours. After all, the weather is very nice again. A slight breeze, but most spectators run around in T-shirts.

14:34 CET   
The first sprint of the day was won by Australian Trent Lowe (Slipstream Chipotle - H30), who is part of the big front-group split. He beat Thierry Huppond (Skil-Shimano) and Chris Anker Sørensen (Team CSC).

14:36 CET   
Clément Lhotellerie (Skil-Shimano), who confirmed his polka dot jersey with a strong ride yesterday, told Cyclingnews Hedwig Kröner before the start why he sat up three climbs yesterday. "Tactically, it was the best thing to do. I wanted to keep my forces for today. I had gotten the mountain points I wanted, and you can't have it all, can you! The break had more chances to go through without me. It was in the interest of all to sit up…" But he made clear he isn't done just yet, stating that "Today, I will try to attack again – maybe not in the first part of the stage, but later, in the finale."

14:42 CET   
The front group is extending the lead. It is now over the one-minute mark. There are five CSC riders in the break, including Bobby Julich, who got third yesterday.

14:47 CET   
There are five CSC riders, three Slipstreamers and also three riders from Saunier Duval. Two Rabobankers have made it into the front as well. Here is a complete list of the front group:

Anthony Charteau and Alberto Losada (Caisse d'Epargne), Mirco Lorenzetto (Lampre), Michael Albasini, Claudio Corioni and Ivan Santaromita (Liquigas), Jurgen Van den Broeck (Silence-Lotto), Bobby Julich, Alexandr Kolobnev Chris Anker Sørensen, Jens Voigt and Karsten Kroon (Team CSC), Rémi Pauriol (Crédit Agricole), Philippe Gilbert and Lilian Jégou (Française des Jeux), José Alberto Benítez, Juan José Cobo and Aurélien Passeron (Saunier Duval-Scott), Jérôme Pineau (Bouygues Telecom), Morris Possoni (High Road), Yann Huguet (Cofidis), Marc De Maar and Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank), José Luis Arrieta and Hubert Dupont (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Matteo Tosatto (Quick Step), Geoffroy Lequatre (Agritubel), Björn Schröder (Team Milram), Trent Lowe, Danny Pate and Thomas Peterson (Slipstream Chipotle - H30) and Thierry Huppond (Skil-Shimano)

Current race situation

  • Anthony Charteau and Alberto Losada (Caisse d'Epargne), Mirco Lorenzetto (Lampre), Michael Albasini, Claudio Corioni and Ivan Santaromita (Liquigas), Jurgen Van den Broeck (Silence-Lotto), Bobby Julich, Alexandr Kolobnev Chris Anker Sørensen, Jens Voigt and Karsten Kroon (Team CSC), Rémi Pauriol (Crédit Agricole), Philippe Gilbert and Lilian Jégou (Française des Jeux), José Alberto Benítez, Juan José Cobo and Aurélien Passeron (Saunier Duval-Scott), Jérôme Pineau (Bouygues Telecom), Morris Possoni (High Road), Yann Huguet (Cofidis), Marc De Maar and Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank), José Luis Arrieta and Hubert Dupont (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Matteo Tosatto (Quick Step), Geoffroy Lequatre (Agritubel), Björn Schröder (Team Milram), Trent Lowe, Danny Pate and Thomas Peterson (Slipstream Chipotle - H30) and Thierry Huppond (Skil-Shimano)
  • Peloton at 1.05

14:59 CET   
There is a string of abandonments. The High Road trio of Bernhard Eisel, André Greipel and Marcel Sieberg, along with Gert Steegmans (Quick Step), decided to go to the beach also.

The race to the sun is always happy to arrive at the beach and trade the rain and snow with some sun
Photo ©: Hedwig Kröner
(Click for larger image)

15:04 CET   
Four riders have slipped away from the bigger group. Anthony Charteau (Caisse d'Epargne), Michael Albasini (Liquigas), Jurgen Van den Broeck (Silence-Lotto) and Morris Possoni (High Road) pedal a few seconds ahead of the rest. The main peloton is now one and a half minutes back.

15:09 CET   
The riders are on the col de la Porte. The group of four has extended the lead to about 40 seconds. The pace is high enough that the peloton is losing some riders, among them Wilfried Cretskens (Quick Step) and Ralf Grabsch (Team Milram).

15:12 CET   
As expected, Lhotellerie left the peloton in pursuit of the front runners, trying to add some points to his polka dot jersey and living up to his promise to race actively today.

15:17 CET   
There are now two riders in front, Morris Possoni (High Road) and Rémi Pauriol (Crédit Agricole). They climb up the narrow road towards the summit of the first mountain of the day.

Yellow jersey Davide Rebellin before the start today
Photo ©: Hedwig Kröner
(Click for larger image)

15:19 CET   
The main peloton is riding up fast, with Kohl leading his captain Rebellin. All of Rebellin's main rivals are with him in this group.

15:19 CET    57km/62km to go
The Rebellin group is 1'15 behind the two leaders.

15:22 CET   
The road is twisting around now that they have passed the top and tackle the downhill. There are concrete walls on the side - let's hope nobody crashes. The view is spectacular.

15:24 CET    60km/59km to go
The motor bike with the camera is trying to descend fast enough as not too impede the riders. But on those narrow roads the cyclists are a match to motorised traffic. They are descending like crazy.

15:24 CET   
There is a crash. It is Nocentini and Gesink!

15:25 CET   
Gesink is shaking his left hand. They slipped in a switchback. Nocentini went down first, slipping at the exit of the right hand turn. Gesink was right behind and couldn't avoid going down. Both were back up quickly again.

15:27 CET   
Kohl is still making the pace, but Rebellin is slowing down and checking on his rivals. He doesn't want to take advantage of the situation. Rebellin is now leading the peloton. Kohl will soon hear some instructions over the radio.

15:28 CET   
There it is. Kohl is sitting up and turns around. Rebellin says something to him. Do they talk in Italian, German, English or French?

Current race situation

  • Morris Possoni (High Road), José Alberto Benítez (Saunier Duval-Scott) and Rémi Pauriol (Crédit Agricole)
  • Remnants of earlier breakaway scattered on the descent
  • Yellow jersey group at 1.27

15:31 CET    65km/54km to go
There are now two Gerolsteiner riders making the pace for their captain. The front group has swelled to three, with José Alberto Benítez (Saunier Duval-Scott) having joined Possoni and Pauriol.

15:32 CET   
The little villages nestled in the steep hills are very pretty. The valley offers nice views, but the riders better concentrate – a little mistake and they are gone.

15:34 CET   
They are riding next to the rail road tracks on their left now, and they are almost as fast as a train. Well, not the TGV, but the downhill gives them good speed. Oh boy, the front group almost crashed in a right hand bend. Magically, they managed to get around the turn without hitting the parked car.

15:36 CET   
Lhotellerie is in a bigger group with a few Lampre riders. They are catching the front trio and are ahead 90 seconds of the peloton now.

15:37 CET   
Possoni and Cunego are driving the pace right now, with Lhotellerie near the front. Trent Lowe is still there also, for the Slipstream team. Gerolsteiner has their work cut out for them.

15:39 CET   
The front group is still on a descent, 1'10 ahead of the peloton. They are flying down those switch backs. Cunego still on the front. Looks like he wants a stage win today.

15:41 CET   
The front group consists of about 15 riders. Over the col de la Porte, the points were taken by Rémi Pauriol (Crédit Agricole), ahead of Morris Possoni (High Road) and Benítez. Chris Anker Sørensen (Team CSC), Jurgen Van den Broeck (Silence-Lotto), Trent Lowe (Slipstream Chipotle - H30) and Jérôme Pineau (Bouygues Telecom) were following.

15:45 CET    79km/40km to go
Kohl is making the pace, but Ag2r has joined the party. They are just under a minute behind the front now, which is maybe 20 riders strong. There was a bit of discussion in the front about taking pulls, which has slowed them down a bit, but they are back up to full speed now.

Clément Lhotellerie (Skil-Shimano) will try to get more points today.
Photo ©: Hedwig Kröner
(Click for larger image)

15:47 CET   
Matthew Lloyd (Silence-Lotto) is pacing back through the team cars, with Gesink at his wheel. The Rabobank team isn't visible anymore, and Gesink had to get back to the team car by himself, to get a bottle.

15:50 CET   
The Rebellin group passes a scenic roundabout. It's so small they don't even have to swerve and go straight through. The gap is still around a minute. They will hit the second climb of the day, La Turbie, soon.

15:52 CET   
The front group also approaches a roundabout, with some riders deciding last minute to use some gaps in the divider and go around on the right hand side. The peloton also splits up left and right to get around.

15:54 CET   
It is still Gerolsteiner and Ag2r at the front end of the peloton. Lhotellerie takes a good pull and leaves some riders suffering. The break is splitting up again into two.

15:56 CET   
Lhotellerie takes a sip out of his bottle. The group is back together. But Lhotellerie attacks now, leaving the group in an attempt to get the most points on the top.

15:56 CET    85km/34km to go
He has about a good 100 metres, on a road that tilts upwards.

15:57 CET   
Cunego counters, with Pauriol on his wheel. But they don't get a gap and everyone follows. But the lone leader has opened up a big gap now.

15:58 CET    86km/33km to go
Possoni now tries to accelerate, switching over to the left hand site of the road. Everybody in the group is very attentive and attacks are prevented. Good news for Lhotellerie

16:00 CET   
Kohl is still riding on the front of the peloton. Both Rebellin and Nocentini have two team-mates. Equal opportunities. Lhotellerie has 30 seconds on the group and 1'20 on the yellow jersey group.

16:02 CET   
Nocentini told Cyclingnews' Hedwig Kröner before the start that "I slept well, I'm relaxed. Today, I'll go flat out; no choice! It will be in the interest of Gerolsteiner to let a break go away, because of the sprint bonus seconds. (3-2-1, in the finish it will be
10-6-4) I won't make my team ride in the first part of the race, there's no use. We will try to catch them in the finale. That's where it's all going to happen!"

16:03 CET    88km/31km to go
The riders are on the climb. Lhotellerie has 35 seconds on the break and 1'35 on the peloton. He is close to the summit.

16:05 CET   
Tosatto attacks out of the front group and takes Pineau with him. Will they be able to reach the leader before the summit?

16:06 CET    90km/29km to go
Lhotellerie is out of the saddle and pushes hard, while the break passes under a giant bridge. The break catches the two others and Cunego is next to try and leave the formation.

16:08 CET   
Lhotellerie talks into his radio. Apparently the answer was Yes, as he takes his bottle and drinks something. The group behind is still together, as the various accelerations have not broken it up.

16:09 CET   
Lhotellerie is now also sucking down a PowerGel, as he approaches the summit at fast speed.

16:11 CET    94km/25km to go
The group follows over the summit a half minute later. Several Cofidis riders are still near the front end of the peloton, but all the work is shared by Gerolsteiner and Ag2r. They are a minute and a half behind at the top.

16:14 CET   
The riders are on the twisty descent and the riders can see the ocean. Over the top, it was Lhotellerie ahead of Pauriol and Pineau, then Lowe, Cunego, Benítez and Anton.

Current race situation

  • Clément Lhotellerie (Skil-Shimano)
  • Damiano Cunego (Lampre), Trent Lowe (Team Slipstream), Bobby Julich (Team CSC), Igor Anton (Euskaltel - Euskadi), Ivan Santaromita and Michael Albasini (Liquigas), Jurgen Van den Broeck (Silence-Lotto), Hubert Dupont (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Rémi Pauriol (Crédit Agricole), Morris Possoni (High Road), Alberto Losada (Caisse d'Epargne), Jérôme Pineau (Bouygues Telecom), Matteo Tosatto (Quick Step) and José Alberto Benítez (Saunier Duval-Scott) at 0.34
  • Yellow jersey group at 1.51

16:16 CET    98km/21km to go
Finally the group has split a bit. There are nine riders chasing after Lhotellerie. Julich is in the group, as well as Cunego. They are 38 seconds behind. The peloton is at 1'50.

16:18 CET    99km/20km to go
Boy, Lhotellerie takes the right hand switchback at full speed. He makes it around and as a reward the road goes uphill again. He is on the col d'Eze. This has to be the decision maker of the overall in the 2008 Paris-Nice!

16:19 CET   
The peloton has reached the same right hand turn, 1'40 behind the leader. Hushovd quits the peloton. He will now pedal to Nice and check out the vistas.

16:20 CET   
Several riders are getting shelled. Gilbert, Kroon, Voigt, Kolobnev and others. Not much left now from the powerful CSC group earlier in the race.

16:21 CET   
Anton accelerates to try to split the group. Julich is still there, as is Pineau and Pauriol.

16:22 CET   
Aussie champ Matthew Lloyd is still in the peloton. Lhotellerie looks good, as does Anton. It looks as Julich is dropped, but Trent Lowe is still there.

16:22 CET   
Sánchez attacks! Rebellin reacts. But Sánchez goes again.

16:23 CET   
Rebellin still has a helper. Nocentini and Popovych are still there as well. But the GC is on the line now, as Lhotellerie fights on.

16:24 CET    102km/17km to go
Anton has shaken his rivals. The others are slowly coming back together behind him. The Euskaltel rider has about 50m.

16:26 CET   
Actually, Benítez is ahead of Anton, it looks like. A bit chaotic, as the groups break up. Monfort attacks the peloton, but Rebellin doesn't care.

16:27 CET   
Anton is reached by Cunego and the others. Benítez is only 15 secs behind the leader, who is 500m from the summit.

16:27 CET   
Lhotellerie is sweating. The road turns right and another 300m.

16:28 CET   
If he'd turn around he could see Benítez, but he doesn't, opting to push on. And he makes it across the line in first.

16:29 CET    104km/15km to go
Benítez reaches Lhotellerie. The two will be able to work together now. Popovych attacks!

16:30 CET   
Kohl is trying to hang onto the backend of the group, so he can help Rebellin in Nice. They are on the descent now.

16:31 CET   
Benítez is dropping Lhotellerie, who doesn't seem to have much left. But the Frenchman fights back.

16:32 CET   
Sánchez attacks again. The points for the final climb go to Lhotellerie, Benítez, Cunego, Pineau, Pauriol, Tosatto and Lowe.

16:33 CET   
Lhotellerie manages to just about hang onto the wheel of Benítez. Sánchez descends like a madman. He is now in the Cunego group!!!

16:34 CET   
The Cunego group are eight riders. They pass over a large bridge, then go under a small tunnel.

16:35 CET   
Sánchez is trying to get Gesink's young rider jersey, so he does all the work right now. He pedals along the coastal highway like a man possessed.

16:36 CET   
Sánchez needs to make up 33 seconds, but there are also time bonuses on the line for the first three riders. Gesink is now leading the Rebellin group, desperately trying to keep at lest one of his two jerseys that he still had yesterday.

16:36 CET   
The chasing group is as follows: Igor Anton (Euskaltel - Euskadi), Trent Lowe (Team Slipstream), Jérôme Pineau (Bouygues Telecom), Matteo Tosatto (Quick Step), Rémi Pauriol (Crédit Agricole), Damiano Cunego (Lampre) and Alberto Losada and Luis Leon Sánchez (Caisse d'Epargne)

16:37 CET   
The Sánchez group is only seven seconds behind the leading duo. They can see them already.

16:37 CET   
Chavanel attacks the out of the peloton, with Gesink trying to get into his slipstream.

16:38 CET   
The duo holds up for now, they still have eight seconds.

16:39 CET   
The duo is caught by the Sánchez group. And the peloton is only ten seconds behind now. A wild chase on the French coastal highway.

16:40 CET   
It looks good for Rebellin, but one still has to keep in mind the time bonuses. Gerolsteiner should just let the break go now.

16:40 CET   
The group is starting to look at each other. The beginning of the end, usually.

16:41 CET    115km/4km to go
Sánchez attacks again!

16:41 CET   
He is trying to get a few more seconds out of this plus the bonus. Three and a half km to go now!

16:42 CET    116km/3km to go
Sánchez has a gap of almost 100m, with the peloton still 6 secs behind the break.

16:42 CET   
Sánchez takes a high speed left turn, then goes out of the saddle to accelerate again.

16:43 CET    117km/2km to go
It's twisty in Nice now - the finish is different than last year.

16:43 CET   
There are cones to his right. he's gritting his teeth, turns around. It will be hard.

16:44 CET    118km/1km to go
He is pushing a monster gear, riding close to the spectators.

16:44 CET   
There are barriers now, as he enters the final km.

16:44 CET   
His gap is maybe 100m

16:45 CET   
Tosatto is closing in on Sánchez.

16:45 CET   
Monfort comes up as well!

16:45 CET   
The duo gets close to Sánchez, can he hold on?

16:46 CET   
It's tight, but he makes it! What a victory on the Promenade des Anglais!!

16:50 CET   
Well, it was actually Carlos Barredo who was chasing. Sánchez held them off with brilliant stamina to take the victory, but Davide Rebellin will be happiest man tonight, winning Paris-Nice with the margin of three seconds, after over 1,000km of racing!

16:57 CET   
With his power ride into Nice, Sánchez was able to get past Garate in the overall and ends the race in fifth spot. Thanks for joining us on today's live coverage. You can find the full results and a detailed report on the race later today on www.cyclingnews.com. Merci et ciao until Milano-Sanremo next Saturday. Hope you can tune back into Cyclingnews' live coverage then.


1 Luis León Sánchez (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne
2 Maxime Monfort (Bel) Cofidis
3 Carlos Barredo (Spa) Quick Step
4 Christophe Moreau (Fra) Agritubel
5 Alexander Efimkin (Rus) Quick Step
6 Matteo Tosatto (Ita) Quick Step
7 Simon Spilak (Slo) Lampre
8 Alexandre Botcharov (Rus) Crédit Agricole

Final general classification 
1 Davide Rebellin (Ita) Gerolsteiner                     
2 Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) Ag2r-La Mondiale                   0.03
3 Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Silence-Lotto                      0.48
4 Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank                               0.51 
5 Luis León Sánchez (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne                   1.09
6 Juan Manuel Gárate (Spa) Quick Step                        1.12                             

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