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66th Paris-Nice - HC

France, March 9-16, 2008

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Stage 6 - March 15: Sisteron - Cannes, 206km

Complete live report

Live commentary by Bjorn Haake

Bonjour and welcome back to the Cyclingnews live coverage of Paris-Nice. The penultimate day is a tough one, going over 206 kilometres from Sisteron to Cannes. Before the riders can enjoy the Méditerranéen they will have to tackle no less than seven ranked climbs, all category two and three. There are also two sprints to contest. We expect some fireworks from Rebellin, Nocentini and Popovych, to try to take time out of overall leader Gesink.

Robert Gesink is in yellow and hopes to keep it that way until Nice.
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

14:02 CET    90km/82.5km to go
Currently there is a break of eight riders, some five minutes ahead of the pack. The break contains Bernhard Kohl (Gerolsteiner), Aleksandr Kuschynski (Liquigas), Bobby Julich and Chris Anker Sørensen (Team CSC), Matthieu Sprick (Bouygues Telecom), Gert Steegmans (Quick Step), Kevin Ista (Agritubel) and Clément Lhotellerie (Skil-Shimano). Kohl will likely prove valuable later in the race for his team captain Rebellin, should the Italian attack.

David Moncoutié (Cofidis) got the green light from Chavanel on the Ventoux, but didn't have the legs.
Photo ©: Petitesreines
(Click for larger image)

14:10 CET   
David Moncoutié (Cofidis) had two blank seasons because of injury and even thought of quitting the sport. He is now making his come-back and told CyclingnewsHedwig Kröner that "I felt good in the beginning of the season. Now, Paris-Nice is a difficult race and I'm a little behind. But I think that this may be a phase which I have to go through in order to recover all of my abilities." The Frenchman described the epic stage 4 that "On the Mont Ventoux, we had the yellow jersey, and Sylvain [Chavanel], who wasn't feeling well, told me to go for it. But I didn't have the legs to follow the best riders…" For today, he said that "My legs are a little hard and heavy. This Paris-Nice is really difficult, and I'm not feeling too well."

14:16 CET   
Bram Tankink (Rabobank) and American Tyler Farrar (Slipstream Chipotle - H30) have abandoned the race. This puts Rabobank in a bad position, who already lost Australian Mathew Hayman yesterday. They are down to six riders now.

14:19 CET   
Another Australian, Simon Gerrans (Crédit Agricole), didn't make it to the start today. And earlier in the day it was Albert Timmer (Skil-Shimano) and Eduardo Gonzalo (Agritubel) who stopped racing. This leaves the race with 127 riders.

14:23 CET   
Lhotellerie is not just content with the mountain points, he also takes the first sprint of the day, at km 87, ahead of Sørensen and Kohl. The others will not like it too much. There is likely to be an agreement for him to take the mountain points, as none of the others have a shot at the jersey. But there is also some prize money involved, and if they don't share it equally the riders may get into little 'discussions.' And so may be directeurs sportifs of the various teams involved...

14:26 CET    100km/72.5km to go
On the col de Luens it is Lhotellerie again who takes seven points, ahead of Sørensen, Sprick, Julich and Steegmans. Shortly thereafter, Lhotellerie had enough for the day and drops out of the front group, which now has an advantage of 5'35 over the peloton.

14:29 CET   
Slight correction, Lhotellerie took another four points on the col du Mousteiret, before dropping back. Kohl and Ista followed behind on this category 3 climb.

Clément Lhotellerie (Skil-Shimano) added more points to his polka dot jersey today, but is now dropping back to the peloton.
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

14:30 CET   
Today's stage finish is in the coastal town of Cannes. It is also known for its annual film festival. This year, it starts on May 14. There are some interesting movies in the selection, like a 3D-version of a U2 concert, or a movie called the 11th hour – for some the 11th hour will be today, if they want to have a shot at winning Paris-Nice this year. The riders with the best chances of unseating Dutchman Robert Gesink are Davide Rebellin and Rinaldo Nocentini, who are 32 and 35 seconds back, respectively. Yaroslav Popovych points at 42 seconds and also still has a chance. All other riders are more than a minute back, with the Quick Step duo of Juan Manuel Gárate and yesterday's stage winner, Carlos Barredo, in fifth and sixth.

14:35 CET   
Christian Wegmann, Gerolsteiner DS gave Hedwig Kröner an update on Gerolsteiner's medical situation before the start. He said that "Yesterday, Tom Stamsnijder had problems with his knee and had to abandon. Carlo Westphal had fever and wasn't feeling well, so he, too, abandoned. Andrea Moletta's knee is still swollen from a crash, and his back hurts." He added that "the rest of the team is okay: Davide feels great, Schumacher is getting better every day, Kohl also recovered well from his crashes." And Kohl is showing it, being in the break!

Current race situation

  • Bernhard Kohl (Gerolsteiner), Aleksandr Kuschynski (Liquigas), Bobby Julich and Chris Anker Sørensen (Team CSC), Matthieu Sprick (Bouygues Telecom), Gert Steegmans (Quick Step) and Kevin Ista (Agritubel)
  • Peloton at 5.35

14:39 CET   
Wegmann acknowledged that "Gesink is really strong, it surely won't be easy to beat him, but we'll try! His team is not complete anymore, either. They only have five riders left, plus Gesink. But in the finale yesterday, they were stronger than I thought they would be… they had a difficult day yesterday as they had to control the race early on, and it was fast! They had to ride against 16 to 25 riders in front, so it wasn't an easy task. Today, we'll see how they recovered from that effort.

14:41 CET   
Two more riders have abandoned. Manuele Mori (Saunier Duval-Scott), who was in the winning break yesterday, and Matteo Carrara (Quick Step) called it quits for the week.

14:43 CET   
Lhotellerie has added 18 points today to his mountain tally. This gives him a total of 59 points, with Kjell Carlström (Liquigas) 40 points behind. For today, there 22 more points on the line.

14:48 CET   
Tomorrow it looks like there are 30 more points to gather, so theoretically Carlström could get a total of 52 points, if he would win all the remaining points. That could net him the jersey, if Lhotellerie wouldn't get more than 12 points. So, to sum it up, Lhotellerie has all but secured the mountain jersey, which is probably why he dropped back. Now he just has to make it safely to Nice.

14:54 CET    120km/52.5km to go
The côte du Clos d'Espargon was taking first by Sørensen, followed by Kohl and Kuschynski

14:55 CET   
Lampre is making the pace in the peloton. Ista, who is in the break, is at the team car and gets some refreshment.

14:57 CET    92.5km/80km to go
It's going through the country side and the three spectators on the side of the road seem indeed belong to the same family... A Lampre rider 'decongests' his nose, fortunately he does it away from the brave three spectators, who are clapping their hands for the riders.

14:58 CET   
The descent into Bargemon is very scenic, but with the many turns and narrow roads a bit treacherous. There are more people cheering the riders on in the village.

Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) will try to win the overall and hopes on Ag2r to help make it happen
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

15:00 CET   
Gerolsteiner's DS Wegmann also told Hedwig that "Today is going to be hard, and we saw yesterday how fast a jersey can be lost in the very last day of Paris-Nice, so we'll try to do this the other way round this year! But Gesink is really strong… he rode beyond reproach these last few days, and hasn't shown any weaknesses yet. I think the only way to make him suffer is if the teams in his pursuit attack him together… AG2R, with Nocentini at three seconds [off Rebellin], is also an opportunity for us: that's somebody who's equally strong than Davide, who has the same interests… Of course, the risk is that Nocentini wins in the end, and we get second, or third. But it's certainly better to have this constellation with several teams still in contention, as opposed to just one rival left."

15:04 CET    100.5km/72km to go
The break is at the col de Saint-Arnoux.

15:07 CET   
Everybody is pulling through nicely. There is no contest at the top and it is Sørensen ahead of Sprick and Julich.

15:07 CET   
The gap has been reduced a bit and is now just over four minutes.

15:09 CET   
Julich is emptying his pocket – every ounce counts in the mountains. In this case it was just a wrapper of a sports bar that he decided he didn't need anymore. Julich won Paris-Nice in 2005.

Current race situation

  • Bernhard Kohl (Gerolsteiner), Aleksandr Kuschynski (Liquigas), Bobby Julich and Chris Anker Sørensen (Team CSC), Matthieu Sprick (Bouygues Telecom), Gert Steegmans (Quick Step) and Kevin Ista (Agritubel)
  • Peloton at 4.14

15:11 CET    105.5km/67km to go
The descent is very fast and fortunately it is dry, even though it is slightly overcast.

15:14 CET    107.5km/65km to go
The gap is now coming down quickly. It is only three and a half minutes, as the peloton is strung out in one long line. Nicolas Vogondy (Agritubel) is sitting at the very back, desperately trying to hang on at end of the peloton.

15:15 CET   
From the blimp the view is spectacular onto the peloton, which winds its way down some hairpins. Lampre has been joined at the front by Caisse d'Epargne.

15:18 CET   
The bunch heads through Seillans. There are a few folks on the side of the road and they get to see the riders for about 4.9 seconds. They are really flying right now. Julich is discussing things with Sprick in the break. Steegmans prefers to go talk to his DS, that way he also gets a bit of a draft...

15:19 CET   
With Lampre and Caisse pulling this is good news for Rabobank, which has only Flecha and Moerenhout with Gesink right now. The break is heading up the col de Bourigaille.

15:20 CET   
Hushovd is also close to the front. He will try to stay there, for some additional points to be gained at the final sprint of the day and the finish, of course.

15:21 CET   
Ista is slightly gapped in the break. He is out of the saddle and trying to hang on. Julich, on the other hand, is seated and looking good.

15:22 CET   
Nicolas Vogondy (Agritubel) is having trouble. He is falling off the peloton and is being passed by one team car after the other.

15:24 CET   
Wow - in a hairpin turn 5-6 riders show some local knowledge by taking a little short cut, at the inside of the switchback. Not that they saved much - a few metres at most. And a little steeper, too. But it looks good.

15:26 CET   
A young woman gets tired by just watching the riders go uphill so fast and sits down to take a rest. She has barely enough energy to look at the riders, but hopefully there are some good things in her back pack for a nice feed zone stop.

15:28 CET   
David Moncoutié (Cofidis) is close to the front, but the bunch is still led by Caisse, with Lampre right behind. The peloton looks unruly, as riders are out of their saddles and throwing their bike left and right to make it up the hill alright.

15:30 CET   
Steegmans is falling off the pace. He would like to wait for the bunch but is getting an earful from his DS, so he accelerates again. Kevin Ista is also falling behind. The gap is still 3'28.

Current race situation

  • Bernhard Kohl (Gerolsteiner), Aleksandr Kuschynski (Liquigas), Bobby Julich and Chris Anker Sørensen (Team CSC), Matthieu Sprick (Bouygues Telecom), Gert Steegmans (Quick Step) and Kevin Ista (Agritubel)
  • Peloton at 3.28

15:33 CET    117.5km/55km to go
Rémi Pauriol (Crédit Agricole) is trying to stay in touch with the backend of the peloton. The pace is fast enough that it is hard for the non-climbers to stay in the safety of the bunch.

15:34 CET   
Two CSC riders make it to the front of the peloton – one of them is Fränk Schleck.

15:35 CET   
Markus Eichler (Team Milram), Sandy Casar (Française des Jeux), Sylvain Calzati (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Nicolas Portal (Caisse d'Epargne), Jelle Vanendert (Française des Jeux) are some of the riders at the back of the peloton.

15:36 CET   
The front riders are half a kilometre from the top of the climb. There are little gaps developing. The CSC riders Julich and Sørensen look strong.

15:37 CET   
Now it's all back together, and they are riding in one line, minus Steegmans and Ista, of course.

15:39 CET    120.5km/52km to go
They don't sprint over the top. Sørensen leads them over, with Julich, Sprick, Kuschynski and Kohl behind. Right after the KOM they turn right and tackle the downhill.

15:42 CET   
Rabobank press officer Luuc Eisenga told Cyclingnews Hedwig Kröner before the start that "Bram Tankink and Koos Moerenhout are still hurting from their crashes, but they're doing relatively okay. And they're experienced enough to know what
to do when your team has the Yellow Jersey – it has got to be defended! They'll be alright." Of course that was before the start and Tanking has since abandoned the race.

15:43 CET   
The front group is flying down the hill, with the road not being to wide to leave any room for mistakes. But they look in control during the turns on this twisting one-lane road.

15:44 CET   
Hedwig asked point blank if Rabobank was afraid that Ag2r and Gerolsteiner would collaborate. Eisenga replied: "That's speculation. Moreover, race situations change so quickly – alliances that were there one moment ago are gone the next… We
just have to look to our own strength, and make the best of it."

15:46 CET   
The gap is still at 3'25. On the descent an agile small break has a bit of an advantage of the bulky peloton. Caisse is still in the front. Luis León Sánchez is looking for a stage win, after his plan to contend for the win in the overall vanished early.

15:47 CET    129.5km/43km to go
David Moncoutié (Cofidis) and Björn Schröder (Team Milram) are now marking the back end of the main bunch. Moncoutié was near the front earlier and as Eisenga said, race situations can change quickly.

15:48 CET   
Oh no, Gesink with a flat! He gets a back wheel from his team-mate.

15:48 CET   
Gesink has no team-mates to pace him back right now., he has to do all the pulling himself.

15:49 CET   
Marc De Maar (Rabobank) is back now, along with another Rabobank, possibly Flecha.

15:50 CET   
They should make it back alright, but still, it takes a bit of energy. Energy that he may need in the final.

15:50 CET    131.5km/41km to go
Yes, they entered the back end of the peloton, while the break storms on, still 3'14 ahead and unaware of the yellow jersey drama behind.

15:54 CET    135.5km/37km to go
Steegmans is being caught now. He ,must have won the argument with his DS to be able to sit up. Either that, or he won't get dinner tonight. Caisse is making it clear to Cofidis to stop pedaling until the yellow jersey is back at the front. It was Luis León Sánchez himself, who went to the front and gestured to the Cofidis rider to slow down. Sánchez is wearing the white jersey for the best young rider au lieu de Gesink in yellow. Can't wear two jerseys, can you?

Current race situation

  • Bernhard Kohl (Gerolsteiner), Aleksandr Kuschynski (Liquigas), Bobby Julich and Chris Anker Sørensen (Team CSC) and Matthieu Sprick (Bouygues Telecom)
  • Peloton at 3.08

15:57 CET   
Caisse has picked up the pace again. The yellow jersey is about 20 riders back. The break passes a roundabout, while Kohl goes up to the team car to get some advise. One more kilometre to the sprint.

15:58 CET   
Damiano Cunego (Lampre) told Hedwig that "I have fairly good legs, but my goals lie further in the season: Pais Vasco, the Classics… But this is a good test. I had a little fever during the first days, but then I recovered. I feel well now."

15:59 CET   
The pace is so high again that the peloton has split in two. About 50 riders make it around the roundabout on the left, with three riders taking the long way on the right and the rest of the bunch following suit, about 80m behind.

16:00 CET   
Ooops, Gesink has only Laurens Ten Dam left! The other Rabos got caught behind. Moerenhout is leading the second group.

16:01 CET   
The sprint was again taken by the CSC riders, with Julich ahead of Sørensen and Sprick.

16:02 CET    140.5km/32km to go
Ista has taken some bottles just before being caught by the bunch. He hands one to Moreau, one to Jalabert. A good deed after a long day up front.

16:03 CET   
Correction, it was actually Julich in front of Sprick and Sørensen in third at the sprint.

16:04 CET   
The gap has come down rapidly now. It is only two and a half minutes, with Caisse still leading the charge, desperately trying to get a stage win today.

Current race situation

  • Bernhard Kohl (Gerolsteiner), Aleksandr Kuschynski (Liquigas), Bobby Julich and Chris Anker Sørensen (Team CSC) and Matthieu Sprick (Bouygues Telecom)
  • Peloton at 2.33

16:07 CET   
Australian champion Matt Lloyd (Silence-Lotto) told Hedwig that "There's still something to reach out for in this race, with Popovych in
forth position, and Evans winning the other say… But it's been a hard race so far. It's only my second stage race this year, so I'm here more to train and support my team-mates. I'm trying to take things one step at a time."

16:08 CET   
A sharp right hand bend is indicated by a yellow flag. It is very helpful to warn the 120+ riders ahead of a sharp turn. The front riders will also indicate it, so the folks in the back, who don't have a good view on the road, will know what is going on.

16:10 CET   
The break is descending like a Savoldelli! It looks a bit scary, even with the inside pedal up. They lean so much into the corner, you have to be afraid that they scrape the tarmac with their knees!

16:10 CET   
Hushovd loves the speed, so he is taking over the peloton at the downhill. The break rides over a very narrow bridge - let's hope the peloton doesn't get stuck there!

16:12 CET   
Attack by Sørensen With two CSC riders it was clear that either he or Julich would be the first to go. But it is still 25km to go and the peloton is coming up fast. It is uphill again and Sørensen looks good. Silence-Lotto has come close to the front.

16:13 CET   
The peloton has no more truce, either, with Crédit Agricole attacking!

16:13 CET    148.5km/24km to go
Steegmans is getting dropped, which is not surprising. Voigt is also gone.

16:14 CET   
Kohl is leading the break and they are slowly getting back to the Dane in front.

16:14 CET   
Monfort and Cunego are following close behind Fofonov.

16:16 CET   
Dmitriy Fofonov is the Crédit Agricole who took off. Luis León Sánchez and Monfort went after him.

16:17 CET   
Jurgen Van den Broeck (Silence-Lotto) is now making the pace. The attack has been Silence-d. Rebellin is close to the front. Gesink is in about tenth position. They are 1'13 behind.

16:18 CET   
Now it's David López García (Caisse d'Epargne), who attacks, but Rebellin does not react.

16:19 CET   
Sylvain Chavanel is the next to go. It's a bit chaotic, but Quick Step is taking control now of the peloton. Chavanel is the only rider off the front.

16:20 CET   
Evans is making the pace now for Popovych. Rebellin is right behind the two, but Gesink is close to the front, too

16:21 CET    151.5km/21km to go
It looks like they are stopping the team cars from the break, so the gap must be small. It is only Julich and Sprick in front. Garcia is still off the front of the peloton, too.

16:21 CET   
The two riders at the front are 700m off the peak of the final climb of the day.

16:22 CET   
The peloton is maybe only 40 riders, with Evans still leading them. He looks around to check the damage.

16:23 CET   
Sprick takes over the lead from Julich right before the KOM, after sitting for a while. Monfort (Cofidis) is taking over the front of the peloton.

16:24 CET   
Over the top Schleck shows himself at the front as well. Right over the line it is Chavanel who attacks. Four riders are creating a gap.

16:24 CET   
Rebellin and Cunego are in the group of four!

16:25 CET   
Gesink is taking over the front now, he has to try to catch Rebellin by himself.

16:25 CET    155.5km/17km to go
They are not too far, only 40m. But it's another effort to do for the young Dutchman.

16:26 CET   
Popovych is sitting on Gesink's wheel, getting a free ride. Once they catch the quartet, Popo could attack.

16:27 CET    156.5km/16km to go
The gap doesn't come down and now Gesink is passed by other riders! He is trying to catch on to the six or seven riders who passed!

16:28 CET   
Schleck goes down in a left hand turn, as does Monfort! They head for the ditch, but it looks like they are OK.

16:29 CET   
The quartet has been caught, but Gesink is still behind. He has maybe 100m. Sprick also crashed! Oh no, it is Julich all by himself at the front now.

16:30 CET   
Rebellin and Nocentini are in the group, ahead of Gesink. Gesink loses time in the downhill. He doesn't descent very smoothly.

16:32 CET    160.5km/12km to go
Kohl, Rebellin, Sanchez and Cunego have slipped off the front again and are ten seconds ahead of the chasers. Julich is still in front.

16:33 CET   
Gesink is about 20 secs behind, shadowed by Evans and Lhotellerie.

16:34 CET    162.5km/10km to go
Will the Dutchman lose Paris-Nice now? Fortunately for him Lhotellerie will help him. The Rebellin group with Chavanel, also, is 8 seconds ahead of the chasers. They are catching Julich.

16:35 CET   
Gesink is suffering. His mouth wide open he tries to bridge the gap, but it looks like he has lost his 30-second lead that he had in the overall!

16:36 CET   
37 seconds for Gesink!

16:36 CET   
He is out of the saddle and trying desperately, but Rebellin and Nocentini have now the upper hand.

16:37 CET    164.5km/8km to go
Less than eight to go and Paris-Nice is about to tumble! The front group is riding like crazy into Cannes.

16:38 CET   
Hushovd is pulling in the Popovych group, with Gesink still behind them. Several riders have caught up with the yellow jersey, maybe he finds some help there.

16:39 CET   
Monfort and Pineau are also in the Popo-group. Popo himself takes a long pull.

16:40 CET    167.5km/5km to go
The front group passes a roundabout. Five more km! And no help for Gesink, other than from Lhotellerie!

16:41 CET    168.5km/4km to go
Julich is sitting in the back, he has no reason to pull. Maybe he can recover enough for a stage win.

16:41 CET   
Cunego talks to Chavanel, while they pull through. It's hard to talk at those speeds! One minute for Gesink!!! The Popo group at 32 seconds.

16:42 CET   
Rebellin in virtual yellow!

16:42 CET    169.5km/3km to go
They are at the ocean, riding along the avenue in Cannes! It's windy.

16:43 CET   
Nocentini pulls through, Rebellin follows him.

16:43 CET   
The rail road tracks at the left and the ocean to the right the front group pedals ahead over 30secs of Popo group. Gesink has reached the ocean, 1'07 back.

16:44 CET   
Now it's already 1'20 for Gesink. Good by overall.

16:45 CET   
Julich is shaking his legs, trying to loosen them up from the effort in the break.

16:45 CET   
Attack by Sanchez and Cunego! Julich follows.

16:46 CET   
Now it's Chavanel who takes off! Rebellin and Nocentini gapped, no time bonuses for them.

16:46 CET   
This looks good for Chavanel! He has a gap.

16:46 CET   
Chavanel is riding down the finish straight by himself!

16:47 CET   
He wins it!

16:47 CET   
Chavanel comes in ahead of Sanchez and Julich.

16:48 CET   
Rebellin takes over the yellow jersey! Gesink has lost one and a half minutes.

16:59 CET   
What a fast finish near the ocean. As we speak Davide Rebellin is on the podium to receive his yellow jersey. He worked very hard for it. Before the race he thought the Ventoux would be too hard. But now he smiles from the podium. Of course he only has three seconds on compatriot Nocentini! Cyclingnews hopes you will able to stop by again tomorrow, when Paris-Nice will be decided. Until then, thanks for reading and à demain. Merci.


1 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone    5.00.25
2 Luis Leon Sanchez Gil (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne                   0.02
3 Bobby Julich (USA) Team CSC                                        
4 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre - Fondital                         0.06
5 Davide Rebellin (Ita) Gerolsteiner                                 
6 Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) AG2r - La Mondiale                         
7 Matteo Tosatto (Ita) Quickstep                                     
8 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crédit Agricole                                 
9 Jérôme Pineau (Fra) Bouygues Telecom                               
10 Aurélien Passeron (Fra) Saunier Duval - Scott                     

General classification after stage 5 

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

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