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67th Paris-Nice - HIS

France, March 8-15, 2009

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Stage 8 - March 15: Nice - Nice, 119km

Complete live report

By Susan Westemeyer

12:54 CET   
Welcome back to the final stage of the 2009 Paris-Nice. Who would ever have thought the race would be this exciting, or that we would see the drama and twists of fate that have happened? Pretty soon it will all be over, so stay around and follow the action of stage eight.

12:57 CET   
Here's how things stand right now: A group of 25 riders got away at 25km. They had a lead of up to 1:25 but now it has dropped again to under a minute. The group includes Nocentini (AG2R), Flecha, Garate and Tjallingii (Rabobank) , Lowe and Peterson (Garmin), Van impe (QuickStep), Dyachenko and Popovych (Astana), Pereiro and Lopez Gacia (Caisse d’Epargne), Casar (FD Jeux), Kolobnev and Kroon (Saxo Bank), Kuschynski (Liquigas), Taaramae (Cofidis), Hernandez, Perez and Verdugo (Euskaltel), Bonnaire (Bbox Bouygues), Eskov (Katusha), Bandiera (Lampre), Knees (Milram), Haussler (Cervelo) and De Kort (Skil Shimano).

Bram Tankink of Rabobank didn't start today, and David Millar of Garmin just crashed and decided to drop out. That leaves us with 118 riders in the race.

12:59 CET    42km/77km to go
And even since we wrote that, things have changed. The gap is down to 0:25. De Koot has dropped out of the lead group, and Taaramae has attacked out of it. And who jumps up to the now-chasing group but Alberto Contador

13:02 CET   
Taaramae has been caught and Contador is now leading the group as it goes up the first climb of the day.

13:04 CET   
A puncture for Luis Leon Sanchez – very bad timing for the yellow jersey wearer, now that Contador has seized control of the escape group.

13:05 CET    45.5km/73.5km to go
Contador, Hernandez, Lopez Garcia, Casar and Taaramae are now the escape group, one minute ahead of the Sanchez group.

13:07 CET   
Today's eighth and final stage is a jolly little 119km romp around Nice. Sounds like fun, right? Well, it might be, but (and you knew there was going to be a "but", didn't you?) there are a few hills along the way. OK, they aren't hills but mountains, and not just mountains but category one climbs. Just the thing for those tired legs!

13:08 CET    47km/72km to go
This is just not Luis Leon Sanchez' day – now he has punctured again!

13:11 CET   
Just in case you slept through yesterday's stage, let's take a look back: Alberto Contador bonked in the final kilometers, finished 2:53 down, and dropped from first overall to fourth. Yes, seriously! Will he come back today, or will Luis Leon Sanchez hold on to first place.

13:12 CET    70km/49km to go
Here's our answer: Contador is going for it! He drives on relentlessly, and only Taaramae and Lopez Garcia are able to stay with him, while Casar fights to hang on.

The field is now 1:40 back. Sanchez is back in the pack.

13:22 CET    51km/68km to go
Today's first climb is at 51km, the Col de la Porte, a Cat. 1 climb (as are all of them today). The 7.2km long climb has a gradient up to 7.2%. And who else but Contado took the lead.

Here's how they went over the top: 1. Contador, 2. Casar, 3. Taaramae, 4. Lopez Garcia, 5. Hernandez 6. Garate, 7. Oroz.

13:23 CET   
Yes, there is an obvious comparison here, where a leading rider lost significant time one day and then came charging back the next day. Who else but Floyd Landis in the 2006 Tour de France? But we do not wish to imply that Contador's performance is artifically enhanced.

13:25 CET   
Tony Martin and his polka-dot jersey have punctured on the descent.

13:28 CET   
Can you say "bonk"? Alberto Contador sure can. "It was so hard. Until 65km from finish, there was no real breakaway but complete chaos and always attacks. It made me tired. Due to the speed I neglected my nutrition. At 40km from the end, I was alone. I still could react on the attacks but at 15km it was over. I had no forces left any more. My only aim was to arrive at the finish."

You can be sure he has a different aim today!

13:29 CET    59km/60km to go
Hernandez has now caught up to the Contador group. They lead the Sanchez group by 2:12.

13:32 CET   
Nice – a 25-century-old city, right on the water, with the mountains coming down practically to the sea. Still a bit nippy for swimming or laying on the beach right now, though.

13:34 CET   
So what do you think of today's events? Will Contador be able to achieve a comeback? Run by the new Forums at Cyclingnews and share your thoughts!

13:37 CET   
There have been the usual number of dropouts in the race. Of the 20 teams, only four still have all eight riders on the road here today: Quick Step, Astana, Saxo Bank and Katusha. All the others have lost at least one rider, with the worst off being Garmin. The American team has only four riders out there now that Millar has departed the stage.

13:39 CET   
The Contador group is pulling away from the seven chasers, with that gap now at 1:25. The field is gaining on the chase group, with that break down to 0:25. That makes a grand total of 1:50 between the first group and the peloton.

13:40 CET    72km/47km to go
Caisse d'Epargne is of course leading the peloton, and now Saxo Bank has moved up to help. The Danish team has Fränk Schleck in third place overall, which they naturally want to hold on to.

13:43 CET    76km/43km to go
The field has now caught the chasers, and they are all 1:25 behind Contador and company.

13:46 CET   
The race to the sun has lived up to its name! If you remember, we started in out in rain eight days ago, and here in Nice – the sun is shining!

13:48 CET   
And the lead is dropping dramatically – it is down to 25 seconds.

13:49 CET    42km/77km to go
Will that be it for Contador's chances? Or will he pull away again?

13:50 CET   
Here's a look at the special jerseys going into today's stage. We have Luis Leon Sanchez of Caisse d'Epargne in the leader's yellow. Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step) is sporting the green points jersey. Tony Martin (Columbia-Highroad) once again defended his polka-dots, and Kevin Seeldrayers of Rabobank is in the white jersey of the best young rider. And there's no special jersey for the honour, but Saxo Bank is leading the teams classification.

13:53 CET    83km/36km to go
The five leader are doggedly hanging on to their small lead, while the peloton behind them sees its chance to grab them.

13:55 CET    84km/35km to go
Contador leads the group of five as they hang on to a 30-second lead.

13:58 CET    86km/33km to go
The five leaders are now making their way up the second climb, La Turbe. It is 7.6km long with a gradient up to 4.8%.

13:59 CET   
If things stay like this, it stlll won' be enough for Contador to take back the leader's jersey from Sanchez. He fell 1:50 back in yesterday's stage.

14:00 CET    85km/34km to go
Hernandez has been dropped from the leading group o the climb, just as he was dropped on the first climb.

14:01 CET   
Team Milram has not had its best showing ever at this race, but DS Raoul Liebregts was happy with Martin Velits' performance yesterday. The Slovakian was in the leading escape group for a long time and attacked again as a soloist when the group was caught. "That was a super peformance by Martin," he said.

14:03 CET    86km/33km to go
Contador isn't going to turn his fate over to anyone else. He is leading his small group the whole way up this climb, and it seems to be going well. The gap is now up to 50 seconds.

14:04 CET    87km/32km to go
The pace was too high for Taaramae. Now we have just Contador, Casar and Lopez Garcia, 55 seconds ahead of the field.

14:06 CET    88km/31km to go
Casar is helping Cotador, hoping that they will build up the lead enough for Contador to take the overall win and leave the stage win to him. Lopez Garcia, of course, is doing absolutely no lead work at all.

14:09 CET    91km/28km to go
Contador gets a drink bottle from the team car – everyone is going to make sure today that he has enough to eat and drink!

14:10 CET    91.1km/27.9km to go
They are nearly at the top of the second climb now.

14:13 CET   
They have crossed La Turbie and in this order:
1. Casar
2. Contador,
3. Lopez Garcia
4. Taaramae 35 secs behind
5. Fuglsang 50 secs behind
6. Sanchez
7. Schleck

14:14 CET    94km/25km to go
The peloton wends its way down the mountain, with the gap falling to about 45 seconds.

14:14 CET   
Contador was not crushed by yesterday's events, and knows that sometimes things like that happen.

"Everybody raced against me but that is normal. I spoke with Luisle (Sanchez) in the final. We said we had to each do our part of the work in the breakaway. Then he told me he wanted to win the stage. Now he has the jersey as well. I am not happy about it, but I congratulate my friend."

14:17 CET    97km/22km to go
42 seconds are between the three leader and the on-rushing peloton. Will Contador make another move, perhaps attacking on the final climb?

14:19 CET   
The peloton is strung out singlefile and they fly down the descent. Of course the three leaders aren't wasting any tme either, but the lead is down to 25 seconds.

And Contador takes off!

14:20 CET    100km/19km to go
Casar can't follow, but Lopez Garcia has glued himself to Contador's rear wheel.

14:21 CET    100.4km/18.6km to go
The next and final climb is approaching, the Col d'Eze. It is 4.2km long with a gradient up to 6.8% – which isn't going to make the riders real happy.

And now Contador pulls away again.

14:22 CET   
Saxo Bank and Sanchez lead the peloton. They are anxious to keep the gap to Contador as low as possible.

14:22 CET    101km/18km to go
The field gathers in Casar.

14:23 CET   
Contador is up out of the saddle and going for all he's worth.

14:24 CET   
A sharp hairpin curve for the flying peloton, but everyone makes it through successfully.

Contador now has a lead of 30 seconds, as Lopez Garcia is now back in the peloton

14:26 CET   
The first attacks out of the peloton, as two riders take off. But Caisse d'Epargne charges right behind them.

14:27 CET   
This is by no means the whole peloton. The speed was so high that many have dropped off the back.

14:27 CET    103km/16km to go
Contador nears the top of the climb, sitting down and riding comfortably.

14:28 CET   
The three who attacked out of the peloton were Antonio Colom (Katusha), Schleck and Garcia Lopez. When last seen, they had a lead of a few meters on the field.

14:29 CET    104km/15km to go
Luis Leon Sanchez attacks out of the field.

14:30 CET    104km/15km to go
Contador ignores the drama behind him and keeps on going.

14:33 CET    106km/13km to go
Colom, Schleck and Garcia Lopez are about 20 seconds behind Contador, with Sanchez leading the peloton another 20 seconds behind.

14:33 CET   
Chavanel has a mechanical, looks like his chain.

14:34 CET    107km/12km to go
Contador puts his head down and tears across a high bridge. Garcia Lopez is not far behind him now.

14:35 CET    109km/10km to go
Garcia Lopez has obviously pulled away from Colom and Schleck, who are stll sticking together ahead of the field.

14:36 CET   
Sanchez and a Skil Shimano rider have now pulled away. from the field. Contador has been caught by Schelck and Colom – no idea waht happened to Garcia Lopez!

14:36 CET   
The field has splittered now, with everyone for himself.

14:37 CET   
Contador is trying to shake off hs companions Schleck and Colom.

14:40 CET   
Contador, Colom and Schleck are hanging on to a 14-second lead over the field.

14:41 CET   
Contador continues to lead the trio into Nice.

14:42 CET   
The other two go and Contador has trouble keeping up with them.

14:43 CET   
They have 17 seconds over the field and all three are together going into the finale.

14:43 CET   
Schelck leds the way and now Colom catches Contador as they go into the final km.

14:44 CET   
Schleck leads the way as Contador is a bit behnd the other two.

14:45 CET   
Contador takes off but Colom counters!

14:45 CET   
Colom takes the win!

14:48 CET   
Schleck came in third, one second down.

The overall win goes to Sanchez, who came in with the field 17 seconds later.

14:50 CET   
Congratulations to all the riders on another fine day of riding. It will be hard to match this race for drama and excitement!

But there is another biggie coming up – join us this coming Saturday for Milano-Sanremo!

Provisional Results

1 Antonio Colom (Spa) Team Katusha                  2.47.49
2 Alberto Contador (Spa) Astana                            
3 Fränk Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank                   0.01
4 Jonathan Hivert (Fra) Skil-Shimano                   0.17
5 Christophe Moreau (Fra) Agritubel                        
6 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Quick Step                        
7 Juan Manuel Garate (Spa) Rabobank                        
8 Mevel Christophe Le (Fra) Française Des Jeux             
9 Jens Voigt (Ger) Team Saxo Bank                          
10 Sandy Casar (Fra) Française Des Jeux   

Final general classification

1 Luis-Leon Sanchez (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne         30.53.51
2 Fränk Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank                   1.00
3 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Quick Step                    1.09
4 Alberto Contador (Spa) Astana                        1.24
5 Antonio Colom (Spa) Team Katusha                     1.47
6 Jens Voigt (Ger) Team Saxo Bank                      1.59
7 Kevin Seeldrayers (Bel) Quick Step                   2.29
8 Jonathan Hivert (Fra) Skil-Shimano                   2.57
9 Yury Trofimov (Rus) BBox Bouygues Telecom            3.37
10 Mevel Christophe Le (Fra) Française Des Jeux        4.00

15:28 CET   
Tirreno-Adriatico update: Danilo Di Luca is rolling towards the finish line. Ivan Basso has made it already, he is 54 seconds down.

15:32 CET   
Tirreno-Adriatico update: The current standings:

1 Stijn Devolder (Bel) Quick Step 41.52
2 Michele Scarponi (Ita) Serramenti 0.01
3 Mikhail Ignatiev (Rus) Katusha
4 Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank 0.20
5 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Columbia-Highroad 0.32

Andreas Klöden (Astana) is the next to arrive.

15:33 CET   
Tirreno-Adriatico update: In fact the German takes the best time, by 20 seconds! He clocks in at 41:32

15:35 CET   
Tirreno-Adriatico update: There are eight more riders to come. Thomas Lövkvist (Columbia-Highroad) is pushing a large gear, his yellow bottle aerodynamically parked behind the saddle.

15:47 CET   
Tirreno-Adriatico update: Di Luca loses two and a half minutes

15:48 CET   
Tirreno-Adriatico update: Lövkvist is in third, 21 seconds behind Klöden

16:01 CET   
Tirreno-Adriatico update: Rodriguez comes in almost three minutes after Klöden. The German takes over the GC lead.

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