102nd Paris-Tours - HC
France, October 12, 2008
Live commentary by Hedwig Kröner
14:00 CEST 109km/143km to go
Bonjour les amoureux
du cyclisme, et bienvenue à la 102ème édition de Paris-Tours! Okay, let's try
this again in English: Good day cycling lovers, and welcome to the 102nd edition
of Paris-Tours! The race, as you know, is a sprinter's delight, but the hopes
of the fast men could very well be spoiled by late attackers or a breakaway,
as has been done several times in the past.
The bunch got underway
in Saint-Arnoult-en-Yvelines at 11.10am - almost three hours ago - and is steadily
moving towards Tours at the moment. We have a breakaway of five riders at the
front: David Zabriskie and Lucas Euser (both Slipstream), Sébastien Delfosse
(Landbouwkrediet), Cyril Lemoine (Crédit Agricole) and Tom Veelers (Skil-Shimano).
They currently have an advantage of just over 7 minutes over the bunch.
At first, the breakaway included
only four riders: Euser, Delfosse, Lemoine and Veelers, who jumped out of the
peloton at km 7. They quickly gained a serious gap, but after 30 kms raced,
Zabriskie counter-attacked and went after the group. Even though the American
had to chase back on a break that was already 3'25 away, he gave it full gas
and joined them at km 47.
It was in the town of Bonneval (km 66.5)
that the break peaked its advantage with the peloton 11'15 minutes adrift. Since
then, a few teams have started to reel them in again for a possible bunch sprint
finish later on Tours' Avenue de Grammont.
The first two hours of
the race were completed with an average speed of 42,7 km/h.
The riders were seen off under clear
skies this morning, and we're happy to announce that the weather conditions
have been virtually unchanged since then. Even though the sun is veiled by a
few hazy clouds, temperatures are up to about 22° Celsius and there is no wind.
Ideal conditions for a ride on a beautiful autumn day.
News from the anti-doping front:
UCI inspectors proceeded to a total of 53 controls this morning before the start
of the race. Riders from teams Garmin-Chipotle, CSC Saxo Bank, Cycle Collstrop,
Caisse d’Epargne, Columbia and Skil-Shimano were tested, and all declared apt
14:23 CEST 127km/125km to go
The gap is down
to 4'50 minutes. The teams Rabobank, Liquigas and Silence-Lotto are the ones
doing most of the work to reel the break in. The Dutch team is obviously doing
its job for Oscar Freire, the Italian for Daniele Bennati and the Belgian for
But Kevin Hulsmans (Quickstep) is
also lending a leg or two in the chase, as would be his duty for team leader
The sprinters are eager to win again in Paris-Tours.
Robbie McEwen, Tom Boonen and Oscar Freire have never been able to put this
prestigious race on their palmarès - unlike Erik Zabel (Milram), who is also
here today and could add a fourth victory of the event to his long list of success
This is his farewell race in pro cycling...
La Française des Jeux rider Christophe
Mengin is also lining up for the very last time at the event, as well as French
team Crédit Agricole, which will fold at the end of the year after 10 years
of existence in the peloton. No wonder they have a rider in the break: Cyril
14:44 CEST 144km/108km to go
It seems the bunch
doesn't want to catch the break too early, either, for fear of dangerous counter-attacks.
Its pace has smoothed a bit, and the gap to the escape increased to over five
minutes again. There's still some way to go, guys!
The riders have passed the feed zone
in Vendôme and received some much needed energy. The beautiful landscapes of
the Loir-et-Cher département are flying by...
Alessandro Petacchi has to watch the race on TV today. Organiser ASO did not
invite his LPR Brakes team as it is apparently not part of the biological passport
programme of the UCI. ASO, which makes a point of its zero-tolerance policy
with regards to cheating, also refused entries to Cycle Collstrop and Mitsubishi
at first, but then allowed Cycle Collstrop in again after the UCI declared that
its riders complied with the programme.
We're slowly but steadily nearing
some bumps on the route's profile. At kms 179 and 189, nasty little ascents
to Cangey and Amboise await the riders. These won't be race-decisive, though,
as three other Côtes are strategically better-placed further towards the finish:
The Côte de Crochu (29 kms to go), Côte de l'Epan (10 kms to go) and Côte du
Petit Pas d'Ane (6 kms to go). It will be an exciting race finale!
15:10 CEST 162km/90km to go
The gap is back to
4'30 minutes and holding.
Bernardo Riccio (Tinkoff) has abandoned.
During the fourth hour of the race, the rider averaged 41 km/h - that makes
an average speed of 42,1 km/h since the start in Saint-Arnoult-en-Yvelines.
Amongst the German sprinters, there
is not only Erik Zabel to watch during the race finale. Team Columbia has brought
Gerald Ciolek to France today, and Gerolsteiner is placing some hopes on Robert
15:26 CEST 176km/76km to go
3'25 minutes left
for the breakaway. It's funny that David Zabriskie is wearing a skin suit today...
on a 252 kms classic!
Kevin "Hulse" Hulsmans is still leading
out the bunch. Good job.
They're riding along a vineyard now.
The vine's leaves are still green, but already have a golden glow.
"Hulse" gets some help from a Lilence-Lotto rider.
The riders are now in the département
of Indre-et-Loire, the home of Crédit Agricole's Cyril Lemoine. The Frenchman
was born in Tours almost 25 years ago.
We still wonder about Zabriskie's
skin suit. Did he forget to bring his jerseys and knicks? Was his suitcase lost?
Or is he wearing his TT kit on purpose? Looks like he hasn't shaved since the
Worlds, where he finished third in the race against the clock.
Some riders got caught off-guard
by a road narrowing and had to hop on the sidewalks. All went fine, though.
A few riders are chasing back to the end of the bunch within the team car caravan.
The bunch has passed the château
d’Amboise, an impressive fortress looking down on the Loire river. The gap between
the break and the peloton keeps shrinking, now down to a mere 2'20.
We have news from Italy: Contrary
to what we thought, 2007 Paris-Tour winner Alessandro Petacchi is not currently
sitting in front of his TV to watch the French race. He actually raced - and
won! - the Grand Prix Beghelli this afternoon. Sorry about that, and congrats
to he Ale-Jet!
Zabriskie bends down to aero position
as he drives the escape group. Behind him, Kevin Hulsmans is still one of the
main drivers of the bunch. The road is large and dead straight at this point,
passing through a forest.
The new world champion, Alessandro
Ballan (Lampre), sits comfortably in the middle of the peloton. Will he be one
of the guys to attack during the finale? Other strong punchers here today are:
Olympic Champion Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel), Philippe Gilbert (Française des
Jeux), Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas), Nick Nuyens (Cofidis), Stijn Devolder (Quick
Step) and Thomas Voeckler (Bouygues Telecom).
Mike Dawson from Illinois wrote in
to guess that Zabriskie may be a rolling billboard for a new Pearl Izumi skin
suit. Any other guesses?
16:06 CEST 207km/45km to go
With 45 kilometres
yet to go, the break still leads the bunch by 2'30 minutes.
Espoir race just ended here in Tours, with Tony Gallopin - the son of Alain
Gallopin, Astana directeur sportif - took the victory on the Avenue de Grammont.
A quick update on the weather: The
sky is totally clear, and there is not even a light breeze to be felt on the
road today, so the finale will all be down to pure pedal power.
Gregg from Ohio offers us this as
an explanation why Dave Z is wearing a skin suit today: The skin suit's reduced
drag offsets the added wind resistance of the beard... Dave has actually gotten
rid of his moustache, Gregg, but he still has some facial hair left.
16:16 CEST 215km/37km to go
1'30 minutes between
the break and the bunch. Riders are starting to get nervous as the finale approaches.
A traffic island just gave a good
fright to some riders as the rode around a left hand bend. No-one crashed, though.
16:23 CEST 222km/30km to go
Teams Columbia and
Milram are now also active at the front of the bunch. The sprinters' teams will
want to keep the pace as high as possible. The gap will drop below the minute
Thomas Voeckler is amongst the first
of the bunch as the gap is down to 40 seconds. Everybody checks their shoulders.
The first attacks go...
Cyril Lemoine is alone at the front
now, while the others are getting caught by various small groups preceding the
Voeckler and a Maarten Tjallingii
(Silence-Lotto) are in his pursuit. The bunch is torn apart and strung out.
Lemoine holds on but the chasers have him in eyesight on a bridge.
16:34 CEST 230km/22km to go
Lemoine is caught
by a group of 11 riders - which is now splitting apart again.
The group has 11 seconds over the
bunch. There's Tony Martin of Columbia, too.
Jos van Emden went down and caused
a traffic jam on a small bridge. He didn't hurt himself, fortunately. But at
this point in the race, it will be hard to chase back to the front for those
riders who got trapped there!
Tom Boonen (Quickstep) has bridged
up to the leading group around Voeckler and Martin! The bunch is right behind
16:40 CEST 235km/17km to go
The Côte de l'Epan (10 kms to go) and the Côte du Petit Pas d'Ane (6 kms to
go) are still coming up, and should shake up things again.
16:42 CEST 236km/16km to go
from Bouygues didn't wait that long and is off the front, now joined by two
other riders: Nicolas Vogondy (Agritubel) and a FDJ rider.
But they only have a few seconds,
even if another rider joined them. They are four: Sébastien Turgot (Bouygues),
Nicolas Vogondy (Agritubel), Mickaël Delage (FdJ) and Jan Kuyckx (Landbouwkrediet).
18 seconds for the quartet. Quick
Step controls them.
16:48 CEST 241km/11km to go
Löwik crashed towards the back of the bunch, but he's back on his feet. Nothing
to worry about.
16:49 CEST 243km/9km to go
23 seconds. They are
at the foot of the Côte now.
Kuyckx is driving it in front, while
an AG2R rider jumps out of the bunch, but he can't make a difference.
A Caisse d'Epargne rider is now leading
the peloton out as they made it over the Côte de l'Epan. Philippe Gilbert in
third position... Pozzato is there, too.
16:53 CEST 246km/6km to go
The gap is down to
12 seconds. The last climb, the Côte du petit pas d'ane, is just coming up now.
Pozzato and Gilbert grind their teeth
on the climb, but can't get rid of the bunch. It's a very fast race now.
16:56 CEST 248km/4km to go
All the big sprinters
are still in the bunch, while Gilbert bridged up to the break. Pozzato is sandwiched
16:57 CEST 249km/3km to go
The break only has
a few seconds over the bunch, maybe 15. Still, you never know...
Delage leads out for Gilbert. The
sprinters' train is set up. They're on the Avenue de Grammont, it's dead straight.
Delage doing his job. Vogondy in
third position. Vogondy goes.
And Gilbert wins!!!
The bunch comes in just behind. The
sprinters tricked, once again! This Paris-Tours is treacherous... Kuyckx second
and Turgot third.
And Tyler Farrar of the USA took
the sprint of the bunch, just 4 seconds back. He got fifth.
was an exciting finale of Paris-Tours. Again, the sprinters arrived just a tad
late on the Avenue de Grammont, and a great Belgian Classics hopeful scored
his first major victory.
Join us again next week-end for the Giro
di Lombardia in Italy. And have a good ride yourselves!
1 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Francaise des Jeux
2 Jan Kuyckx (Bel) Landbouwkrediet
3 Sébastien Turgot (Fra) Bouygues
4 Nicolas Vogondy (Fra) Agritubel
5 Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin Chipotle - H30
6 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Silence-Lotto
7 Erik Zabel (Ger) Team Milram
8 Daniele Bennati (Ita) Liquigas
9 Kristof Goddaert (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen
10 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step