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66th Paris-Nice - HC

France, March 9-16, 2008

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Stage 5 - March 14: Althen-des-Paluds - Sisteron, 172.5km

Complete live report

Live commentary by Bjorn Haake

Bonjour and welcome back to Cyclingnews' live coverage from Paris-Nice. What an exciting stage it was yesterday, with the Aussie – Cadel Evans – winning the stage on the Ventoux! The yellow jersey was taken over by the Dutch climbing sensation Robert Gesink, who already had shown his uphill skills in the Californian mountains the last couple of years. But where he finds training grounds in the flat Netherlands remains a mystery. For the next few days, we expect some attacks from the Gerolsteiner team, to set up their captain, Davide Rebellin, for a winning move. Rebellin lies in second overall, some thirty seconds behind Gesink. Rebellin already finished second last year and would like to do one better this time around!

14:07 CET    65km/107.5km to go
We currently have a group of 25 riders, including yesterday's stage winner, Cadel Evans. Evans had lost enough time on stage three that the overall is out of reach, but his team-mate Yaroslav Popovych is still only 42 seconds back, so placing Evans in the group will be forcing the Gerolsteiners to work a bit. Right now the gap is only about 40 seconds. We are 65 kilometres into the race.

14:11 CET   
Cyclingnews' Hedwig Kröner checked out the start area before the race and reports that the weather is as expected, which means no wind, sun and temperatures around 20 degrees Celsius. What a change from the first few days! The rider (and Hedwig) sure deserve some sun out there.

Philippe Gilbert won Het Volk and now worries about time cuts? We don't think so!
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

14:11 CET   
One of the goals was to get a few words from David Millar. He had high hopes for Paris-Nice and was aiming for a podium spot, as he told Cyclingnews' Shane Stokes before the race started last weekend. Unfortunately he got a cold and the race did not go at all to his liking. With a lot of coughing still going the Scot decided to call it quits and flew back home last night. We hope he will feel better soon.

14:16 CET   
Philippe Gilbert was bridging up to a three-man break earlier in the day. This wasn't quite the plan, as he had told Kröner before the start that "the first few days were difficult with the wind and the rain. The last three stages don't concern me, really." He continued with the astonishing statement that "today, I am just looking to make the time cut."

14:21 CET   
Gilbert, who won Het Volk earlier in the month, did admit however that "tomorrow, I may try something, but I don't know yet." Well, try he did today, and he is still in the break that has an advantage of just over half a minute. But the group has been reduced a bit. Evans is one of those who dropped back to the comfort of the peloton. Spaniard Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank) dropped back earlier already. There are now 17 men in front.

14:29 CET   
The front group is made up of Karsten Kroon (Team CSC), Simon Gerrans, Pierre Rolland and Alexandre Botcharov (Crédit Agricole), Stef Clement (Bouygues Telecom), José Luis Arrieta (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Maxime Monfort (Cofidis), Carlos Barredo (Quick Step), David Arroyo and Mathieu Perget (Caisse d'Epargne), Benoît Vaugrenard (Française des Jeux), Manuele Mori and Aurélien Passeron (Saunier Duval-Scott), Christophe Moreau, Eduardo Gonzalo and Geoffroy Lequatre (Agritubel). They have an advantage of 1'15 over the main field.

14:30 CET   
Ivan Santaromita (Liquigas) is caught in the middle, riding some 15 seconds behind the front group.

14:34 CET    85km/87.5km to go
Time for a quick recap of the sprints and mountains so far. There was one sprint, at Saint-Saturnin-les-Apt, after 50km. It was Gilbert, adding a few bonus seconds for his planned fight against the time cut, ahead of Moreau and Pauriol.

Current race situation

  • Group of 17 with Karsten Kroon (Team CSC), Simon Gerrans (Crédit Agricole), Alexandre Botcharov (Crédit Agricole), Stef Clement (Bouygues Telecom), José Luis Arrieta (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Pierre Rolland (Crédit Agricole), Maxime Monfort (Cofidis), Manuele Mori (Saunier Duval-Scott), Carlos Barredo (Quick Step), Christophe Moreau (Agritubel), David Arroyo and Mathieu Perget (Caisse d'Epargne), Benoît Vaugrenard (Française des Jeux), Aurélien Passeron (Saunier Duval-Scott), Eduardo Gonzalo (Agritubel) and Geoffroy Lequatre (Agritubel)
  • Peloton at 1.15

14:39 CET   
The front group has an advantage of 1'25. The first two hours were raced at an average speed of 40,8 km/h...

14:49 CET    96km/76.5km to go
There were three mountain points so far: At km 30.5 the col de Murs, cat.2 (10,4 km at 4,3%). Then the col de Javon, cat.3 (8,5 km at 3,7%) after 64km. And the côte de Sault, cat.3 (1,7 km at 5,3%), after 79km. Unfortunately we don't have any info right now on who got the points on those. The last climb of the day comes 12km from the finish. It is the côte des Marquises, cat.3 (1,3 km at 6,3%)

14:53 CET   
Hedwig Kröner also chatted with Davide Rebellin this morning. The Italian thought that "today it is not a very hard stage, but we do have to watch out for attacks." But he thought that "thought that tomorrow and Sunday will be decisive," and he made it clear that he will try over the weekend to win the race to the sun. For today he is expecting "a long breakaway," which would be ideal for him to make it an easy day.

14:56 CET    101.5km/71km to go
Robert Gesink (Rabobank) is dressed all in yellow, including his shorts. As mentioned the sun is out and the colourful bike clothing of the peloton glows in the sun, as the break makes its way down a hill. The weather is spring like, but the trees haven't taken notice yet and are still in their winter outfit.

14:57 CET   
The gap has increased to over two minutes now.

Current race situation

  • Group of 17 with Karsten Kroon (Team CSC), Simon Gerrans (Crédit Agricole), Alexandre Botcharov (Crédit Agricole), Stef Clement (Bouygues Telecom), José Luis Arrieta (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Pierre Rolland (Crédit Agricole), Maxime Monfort (Cofidis), Manuele Mori (Saunier Duval-Scott), Carlos Barredo (Quick Step), Christophe Moreau (Agritubel), David Arroyo and Mathieu Perget (Caisse d'Epargne), Benoît Vaugrenard (Française des Jeux), Aurélien Passeron (Saunier Duval-Scott), Eduardo Gonzalo (Agritubel) and Geoffroy Lequatre (Agritubel)
  • Peloton at 2.00

15:00 CET   
Rebellin went on to tell Cyclingnews that Gerolsteiner had a lot of bad luck and a lot of his team-mates, who were involved in crashes, "hurt badly." Schumacher is reported to have pain all over his body, but Rebellin hopes that "that was it with bad luck."

15:02 CET   
The break is working well together for now, but with the size – 17 riders is a lot – don't expect that to continue all the way ton the finish. It is likely there will be some attacks even before the final climb of the day. Agritubel has the numbers, with three riders in the break, including French hero Christophe Moreau.

15:04 CET   
Rabobank is obviously leading the bunch. That's the responsibility that the team of the overall leader has, although there is one Skil-Shimano rider who slipped in as well. The yellow-clad Gesink is riding right behind Dutch champion Koos Moerenhout, and their different jerseys mark the end of the Rabobank train.

15:10 CET   
Kröner also talked with Rinaldo Nocentini (Ag2r-La Mondiale), who came in third yesterday. He wasn't really visible throughout the day, but was there when it counted. The Italian has had a good year so far, winning the GP Lugano. He said that "Rebellin is only three seconds ahead in GC, so I want to beat him. I am expecting a long break today and I hope there will be a team-mate in there. He added with a smile that "then I can relax." He also reiterated that "the first few days were difficult due to the weather. You know, I am Italian and I don't like the rain, so I am happy there is sun again!"

Rinaldo Nocentini (Ag2r-La Mondiale)
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

15:12 CET   
The Skil Shimano rider is actually taking pulls at the front, not just sitting in the Rabo train. But the objective is clear – keep his team-mate Clément L'Hottelerie in the polka-dot of bets climber. So they want to reach the break before the final climb, so L'Hottelerie can take maximum points!

15:17 CET   
Bram Tanking is back at the team car and stocking up for the team as the peloton passes some ruins (looks like nobody has lived in that one for a very, very long time...) It is slightly downhill and you have to be amazed on how the riders can easily handle all the bottles, food and advise at the high speeds on curvy roads!

15:20 CET    124.5km/48km to go
The peloton is still flying at the slightly downbound road. The gap is slightly bigger now, around two and a half minutes.

15:22 CET   
The snow capped mountain range looks pretty and the riders will be glad that they don't have to hit it today. But the speed has definitely increased, with riders gritting their teeth – especially the Rabo guys, who have to do all the work at the front.

Current race situation

  • Group of 17 with Karsten Kroon (Team CSC), Simon Gerrans (Crédit Agricole), Alexandre Botcharov (Crédit Agricole), Stef Clement (Bouygues Telecom), José Luis Arrieta (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Pierre Rolland (Crédit Agricole), Maxime Monfort (Cofidis), Manuele Mori (Saunier Duval-Scott), Carlos Barredo (Quick Step), Christophe Moreau (Agritubel), David Arroyo and Mathieu Perget (Caisse d'Epargne), Benoît Vaugrenard (Française des Jeux), Aurélien Passeron (Saunier Duval-Scott), Eduardo Gonzalo (Agritubel) and Geoffroy Lequatre (Agritubel)
  • Peloton at 2.36

15:25 CET   
The break is now really going for it, with the gap opening up. It is 2'50, with 45km to go. Right now, everybody in the break is pulling, which means 17 guys against the four Rabo's in the front. Hushovd, in his green jersey, was at the team car and is now riding back through the caravan to the peloton. A bit of a draft there, off the High Road car.

15:27 CET    129.5km/43km to go
Three paintings appear on the side of the road. Looks like one is of Philippe Gilbert or maybe Sandy Casar. It is hard to note details at those speeds!

15:28 CET    131.5km/41km to go
Moreau is pulling through in the break. The popular Frenchman won the French championships last year after a very long solo break. Maybe he can pull off another amazing win today?

15:31 CET    133.5km/39km to go
There are four Rabobank riders (including Flecha and Moerenhout) in front to make the pace for Gesink. Behind them there are three Caisse d'Epargne riders and the cyan-blue jerseys of Gerolsteiner. The gap is steady for the moment at 2'51.

15:33 CET   
The subjective feeling of the faster pace is backed up by the fact that the average speed after two hours was 40,8km/h. Now, after three hours of racing, it is 42,5km/h!

15:35 CET   
The riders are going through a very forested area, but with most of the trees not having their leaves yet, it does look a bit depressing. Soon, soon, everything will be better, though! At least the sun helps to make it a beautiful day.

15:36 CET   
Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas) is riding towards the back end of the peloton. He looks alright and the little spill he had yesterday in the roundabout does not seem to bother him.

The gap is now slightly over three minutes!

15:44 CET    137.5km/35km to go
Several riders have already abandoned today, possibly marked by the efforts yesterday from the Ventoux. So far Stef Clement (Bouygues Telecom), Freddy Bichot (Agritubel), Mario Aerts (Silence-Lotto), Rémy Di Gregorio (Française des Jeux), Johan Van Summeren (Silence-Lotto), Carlo Westphal (Gerolsteiner) and Fumiyuki Beppu (Skil-Shimano) have put their feet down. Unfortunately for the Australians, it is also Bradley McGee (Team CSC) who did not continue.

15:45 CET   
For McGee, this is not so nice, as he just was on his way back to bigger and better things. We hope it's no major setback for him in the 2008/2009 seasons.

15:48 CET    143.5km/29km to go
Boy, that is one long straight road, as the peloton is still strung out. Monfort just put in a good effort on the front of the break, where in the peloton it is still Rabobank. There are actually little cuts now, at the backend of the peloton. The road has slight ups and downs, so power riders have an advantage.

15:49 CET    146.5km/26km to go
There is some good news for Rabobank, as a few other rider shave joined in, realising that Rabobank is not able to reduce the gap. It is still almost three minutes and Gerolsteiner and Bouygues Telecom are now at the front as well.

15:51 CET    148.5km/24km to go
Oh, there is a tree that is already blooming! Bottles are flying left and right, as the main field is screaming though the French country side. Barredo pulls through in the break.

15:53 CET   
The peloton passes a bus stop where nobody is waiting. Of course, today is not a day where the sprinters need to build an autobus. Yesterday was different and everything went fine. No rider was eliminated by time and Hushovd is still in green.

15:54 CET   
Attack by a Crédit Agricole! Looks like Botcharov.

15:55 CET   
The riders have now entered the final circuit. Botcharov has only 50m.

15:56 CET    153km/19.5km to go
But the group is looking at each other. Who is willing to take up the chase in earnest. This may be a chance for the Crédit Agricole rider.

15:57 CET   
He is joined by an Agritubel rider, as they head over the finish line for the first time. But they have only 50m

15:58 CET    154.5km/18km to go
It is only six more kilometres until the climb starts. They pass a roundabout, which looks scenic, but with the concrete in the middle also dangerous. Let's hope the peloton passes alright!

15:59 CET   
Lampre has joined the men on the front of the main field. They are now on the finishing straight.

16:00 CET   
The peloton passes through, 2'23, behind the leaders.

16:01 CET   
The front group is now not very cohesive, with several attacks breaking things up. A group of 5 is ahead now.

16:02 CET    157.5km/15km to go
Karsten Kroon (Team CSC), Pierre Rolland (Crédit Agricole), Manuele Mori (Saunier Duval-Scott) .Carlos Barredo (Quick Step) Christophe Moreau (Agritubel) on the front

16:03 CET   
Gerolsteiner leads the peloton now. The intermediate sprint was taken by Geoffroy Lequatre (Agritubel), ahead of Botcharov and Mathieu Perget (Caisse d'Epargne)

16:03 CET   
The five have an advantage of 30 seconds ahead of the break.

16:06 CET    159.5km/13km to go
They are now on the climb. It is 12km from the top to the finish.

16:06 CET    160.5km/12km to go
Moreau is pulling hard and passes in front over the top.

16:07 CET   
The main bunch is splintering. Several riders are getting shelled out the back as the pace is relentless up the hill.

16:09 CET   
Barredo and Mori were following Moreau over the top of the climb. But they weren't sprinting for it. Instead, they are trying to increase the gap. It is now 40 seconds over 7 or 8 chasers, including Monfort.

16:09 CET    162.5km/10km to go
A tight right hand bend after a little downhill! But they get around fine.

Barredo attacks with 10km to go!

16:10 CET   
He is joined by Kroon, but Moreau brings them back. Barredo had attacked right at the 10km to go sign.

16:10 CET   
It is uphill again and Barredo goes again! This time he gets a bigger gap. He must be feeling great!

16:11 CET    163.5km/9km to go
The peloton is still at 2'28, so they are unlikely to get back now.

16:12 CET   
Barredo is over 4 minutes back in the overall. He has now a gap of maybe 100m. Moreau is pulling hard again, with Kroon coming through.

16:13 CET   
Barredo is now on a downhill section, tucking down to get a bit aero. Then he starts pedaling again like a madman. He is ever so slightly increasing his lead.

16:14 CET   
Kroon is taking off, not too happy with the work of the others. The gap is 7 seconds.

16:15 CET   
Gesink has his jersey zipped open. He is feeling the heat! Kroon has been joined by the others again and they pull evenly now. The lead increases to 9 seconds. Probably another 6km

16:15 CET    167km/5.5km to go
Barredo tries to get into a TT position, with his hands resting over the handlebars.

16:16 CET    168.5km/4km to go
Moreau's pulls are strong, but the gap is now 11 seconds. Rolland has a hard time even following the wheels of the other four.

16:16 CET   
Barredo turns around and likes what he sees. It is Moreau again at the front of the chasers.

16:17 CET   
Rolland is now pulling through. The peloton is 2'53 back!

16:17 CET    169.5km/3km to go
Barredo passes the 3km to go sign. It will be close, but he is looking good!

16:18 CET   
He is riding on a straight road, next to the rail road tracks. A slight uphill - that hurts!

16:19 CET    170.5km/2km to go
He is on the left hand side of the road, but now switches back over to the middle . We can see his tongue! It's hanging out, albeit briefly.

16:19 CET    170.5km/2km to go
Two more km and Barredo has now 15 seconds! His radio is still in his ear and he'll be hearing encouragement.

16:20 CET   
Barredo out of the saddle as Rolland is trying to pull through.

16:20 CET    171.5km/1km to go
The gap looks manageable for Barredo He passes the flamme rouge.

16:21 CET   
But the gap is down to 10 seconds!

16:21 CET   
He is stomping a big gear.

16:21 CET   
Out of the saddle again for Barredo. He turns around one more time.

16:22 CET   
He made it!!! He punches the air!

16:22 CET   
It looks as Kroon got second, ahead of Mori, a few seconds back.

16:30 CET   
Well, what an effort by the Spaniard! A great win for him and Quick Step. It's their third win, after the two victories by Steegmans!

16:32 CET   
Barredo moved up to sixth in the overall! No changes for the first five places, though. We hope you can join us again tomorrow at 14:00 CEST - this race is far from over. Thanks for being with us today!


1 Carlos Barredo (Spa) Quick Step
2 Karsten Kroon (Ned) Team CSC
3 Manuele Mori (Ita) Saunier Duval-Scott
4 Christophe Moreau (Fra) Agritubel
5 Pierre Rolland (Fra) Crédit Agricole  
6 Simon Gerrans (Aus) Crédit Agricole
7 Maxime Monfort (Bel) Cofidis
8 Alexandre Botcharov (Rus) Crédit Agricole

General classification after stage 4

1 Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank             
2 Davide Rebellin (Ita) Gerolsteiner  
3 Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) Ag2r-La Mondiale
4 Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Silence-Lotto
5 Juan Manuel Gárate (Spa) Quick Step
6 Carlos Barredo (Spa) Quick Step
7 Luis León Sánchez (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne
8 Gorka Verdugo (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi

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