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61st Paris-Nice - 2.HC

France, March 9-16, 2003

Main page    Course map     Start list    Results

Stage 2 - March 11: La Clayette - Saint-Etienne, 182.5 km

Complete Live Report

Start time: 11:38 CET
Estimated finish time: 16:26 CET

Welcome to Cyclingnews' coverage of the second stage of the 61st Paris-Nice, a hilly 183 kilometres from La Clayette and Saint-Etienne. Today's stage has a tough finish, with the Cat. 1 climb of Croix Chaubouret (km 165) coming towards the end of the stage. Although the stage doesn't finish on the mountain, it's unlikely that riders will be able to make up much time on the descent into Saint-Etienne.

The other climbing difficulties today include the Cte de Saint-Claude (km 16, Cat. 3), Col de La Bche (km 23, Cat. 3), Col des Sauvages (km 58, Cat. 3) and Cte de Duerne (km 104, Cat. 2) and the Croix Chaubouret (Cat. 1, km 165). There are also two time/points bonus sprints at Amplepuis (km 49) and Saint-Chamond (km 144).

The race leader is Stuart O'Grady (Credit Agricole), who holds a 1 second advantage over Nico Mattan (Cofidis) and Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo). O'Grady will be doing well to hold onto it today, but the Australian is in good form at the moment and anything is possible.

15:00 CET - 122 km/60 km to go
Having been on the road for nearly three and a half hours, the situation is that we have a three breakaway containing Nicolas Jalabert (Team CSC), Christophe Oriol (Ag2r) and David Arroyo (ONCE) with two and a half minutes lead on the peloton (down from a maximum of 4 minutes). Chasing in between at approximately 2 minutes behind the leaders is David Canada (Quick Step).

15:08 CET - 126 km/56 km to go
Canada is closing in on the leading three riders, and should make contact. The peloton is being led by Quick Step and Credit Agricole, but there is no serious chase yet.

Today's stage has already seen several riders abandon: Daniele Nardello (Telekom), Ivan Quaranta (Saeco), yesterday's breakaway man Stephane Auge (Credit Agricole), Julian Usano (Kelme), and Jean-Patrick Nazon (Jean Delatour).

15:14 CET - 128 km/54 km to go
Arroyo, Oriol and Jalabert are passing through Fontanes with 54 km to go, holding a 4'10 lead over the still calm peloton. Quick Step's David Canada has got to within 1 minute of the leaders. Walter Beneteau (Brioches la Boulangere) is also chasing on his own, but is around 3 minutes behind the lead.

Earlier in the day, the first time bonus sprint was contested at Amplepuis (km 49), with Laurent Brochard (Ag2r) taking the three seconds ahead of Frank Vandenbroucke (Quick Step) and Franck Renier (Brioches la Boulangere).

15:19 CET - 131 km/51 km to go
Canada has now caught the leading three, and quickly takes a drink before coming through for a turn. Behind him, Walter Beneteau has been caught by the peloton.

15:24 CET - 136 km/46 km to go
David Canada (Quick Step), David Arroyo (ONCE), Christophe Oriol (Ag2r) and Nicolas Jalabert (CSC) are the leaders on the road in the second stage of Paris-Nice. Jalabert is the best placed on general classification, 34th at 21 seconds. Coincidentally on this stage last year, his more decorated brother Laurent escaped with Didier Rous and Aitor Osa to hold off the peloton into Saint Etienne.

Credit Agricole has increased the tempo in the bunch, and have reduced the lead to under three minutes. O'Grady is sitting in about 8th wheel looking quite comfortable.

15:33 CET - 140 km/42 km to go
Thor Hushovd, in the blue jersey of Best Young Rider, is really doing his bit for the Credit Agricole team, helping to bring the gap down to 2'40 now with just over 40 km to race. The leading four are still cooperating well, but are not really killing themselves to stay away.

15:43 CET - 144 km/38 km to go
The second and final bonus sprint in Saint-Chamond (km 144) is taken by Christophe Oriol, from David Canada and David Arroyo. That puts Canada on the same time as Jalabert as the virtual leader on the road, although that is starting to look a little academic at this point. The 17 km climb of the Croix du Chaubouret is rapidly approaching.

The peloton is now massing itself in preparation for the climb, passing through Saint-Chamond 2'20 behind the four man break.

15:48 CET - 147 km/35 km to go
There is a fall in the peloton, with Andrei Kivilev, Marek Rutkiewicz (both Cofidis) and Volker Ordowski (Gerolsteiner) coming down. Kivilev does not look good, and is lying on the ground being attended by the race doctor.

The pace has really lifted in the peloton, with Fassa Bortolo and Credit Agricole doing the work. But O'Grady has dropped back a little already, as the climbers near the front. The gap to Arroyo and co. is 1'50, and falling.

15:51 CET - 149 km/33 km to go
Arroyo and Canada have a chat to each other on the climb - they know their efforts will eventually be in vain, as the gap has come down to 1'10. Nicolas Jalabert is not doing a great deal - maybe he's saving himself for when the peloton comes through.

Petacchi has been dropped, while in front his Fassa Bortolo teammates lead the peloton. Dario Frigo is sitting just behind Alexandre Vinokourov, with two Fassas in front of them.

15:54 CET - 151 km/31 km to go
The peloton pass over a damn wall halfway up the climb of the Croix du Chaubouret. Danilo Hondo (Telekom) is now at the front doing a lot of work for Vinokourov. Then his teammate Matthias Kessler attacks.

David Canada has succumbed to cramps and stops.

15:56 CET - 152 km/30 km to go
Jalabert, then Arroyo are dropped, leaving only Christophe Oriol in the lead. But how long will it be before he is caught by Kessler, who is having a great ride on this climb.

15:59 CET - 156 km/26 km to go
Kessler catches and passes Arroyo, and is now in pursuit of Oriol, with some seven km of climbing to go. Joaquim Rodriguez (ONCE), Kim Kirchen (Fassa) and Rui Lavarhinas (Milaneza) have got a little way off the front of the peloton in pursuit of Kessler, Arroyo and Oriol.

16:03 CET - 158 km/24 km to go
The peloton, still quite large, swallows up the Rodriguez group, but there is an immediate counter from Marcos Serrano (ONCE). Kessler can't stay with the fresh legs of Serrano and Arroyo, who are now in pursuit of Christophe Oriol (Ag2r).

Serrano leaves Arroyo and is now on his own in pursuit of Oriol. The peloton follows at 15 seconds.

16:06 CET - 159 km/23 km to go
Oriol has 15 seconds lead on Serrano, with the 20 man peloton another 10 seconds behind. O'Grady has been dropped, as has David Moncoutie.

16:08 CET - 160 km/22 km to go
Oriol is caught with 5km to go to the top. Immediately his Ag2r teammate Alexandre "Bobo" Botcharov attacks. There is no immediate reaction in the front group, until an ONCE rider lifts the pace - it is Mikel Zarrabeitia, who gets Volodomir Gustov (Fassa Bortolo) on his wheel. They get a small gap, but it's closing down again. David Latasa (Kelme) bridges.

16:10 CET - 161 km/21 km to go
The lead on the road is Alexandre Botcharov (Ag2r), who is wrestling with his bike on the Croix du Chaubouret. Behind him, Mikel Zarrabeitia (ONCE), Volodomir Gustov (Fassa Bortolo) and David Latasa (Kelme) are trying to close the gap. The peloton is at 25 seconds from the leader.

Brochard has been dropped.

16:13 CET - 162 km/20 km to go
Botcharov looks behind as he has 3km to go until the top of the climb. They are catching him though, with ONCE's Zarrabeitia doing a lot of work in pursuit. The gap is 10 seconds, and Botcharov looks back again, trying to get everything out of his legs for the mountain sprint.

The peloton is at about 35 seconds, and has grown to some 30 riders.

16:15 CET
Frigo attacks the peloton, with Rebellin, Vinokourov and Merckx following. The group is in one long line now. Frigo's attack has destroyed the peloton, and he tows Rebellin, Vinokourov, and a few others past Zarrabeitia, Latasa and Gustov.

16:17 CET - 163 km/20 km to go
Frigo is still doing all the work, with Rebellin, Vinkourov, Zarrabeitia, Gustov and Latasa on his wheel. They are some 5 seconds behind Botcharov, and will catch him before the top.

They do, but still no-one wants to take over from Frigo. Latasa has been dropped from the leading group, and is now with Euskaltel's Samuel Sanchez. There are six leaders: Frigo, Vino, Rebellin, Zarrabeitia, Botcharov and Gustov.

16:22 CET - 165 km/18 km to go
Frigo crosses the top of the climb first, followed by Rebellin, Vinokourov, Zarrabeitia, Gustov and Botcharov. Then Latasa and Sanchez, then Jaksche (ONCE) and Merckx (Lotto-Domo) at 15 seconds.

The six leaders now have 17 km of descent in front of them.

16:25 CET - 168 km/15 km to go
We have 15 km to go and the six leaders: Dario Frigo, David Rebellin, Alex Vinokourov, Mikel Zarrabeitia, Volodmir Gustov and Alex Botcharov, have 30 seconds on Sanchez and Latasa, who are in turn being chased by Jaksche and Merckx on the descent. But it's going to be tough to bring the six back, unless they stop working.

It looks like Merckx, Rodriguez and Jaksche have caught Latasa and Sanchez, and are 30 seconds behind the six leaders. Another peloton is at 50 seconds, with several Milaneza riders and Didier Rous.

16:29 CET - 171 km/12 km to go
Frigo and his teammate Gustov are hammering on the front of the lead group on his last descent, and this should be a crucial break for the overall shape of the race. The five behind them are not making much ground. They are at 35 seconds, and the peloton at 50 seconds.

Although Fassa Bortolo has the numbers in front (two versus four), Vinokourov is probably the one to watch in the sprint. David Rebellin should get second or third :-)

16:33 CET - 176 km/7 km to go
Just 7 km to go for Frigo and co., who lead a group of five (Merckx, Rodriguez , Jaksche, Latasa and Sanchez) by 30 seconds. The peloton is still at 50 seconds. No news of Tyler Hamilton, for those who've been asking.

16:35 CET - 179 km/4 km to go
The six leaders, Dario Frigo, David Rebellin, Alex Vinokourov, Mikel Zarrabeitia, Volodmir Gustov and Alex Botcharov, still have 30 seconds with 4 km to go, and should stay clear into Saint Etienne. This descent is fast, but moderately technical.

The time bonuses will be important in determining the GC today, with Vino the best placed at the moment.

16:38 CET - 182 km/1 km to go
Botcharov attacks with 1 km to go, but they all get on his wheel. The chasers are at 17 seconds.

16:39 CET - 182 km/0 km to go
Vino goes very early, but Rebellin gets on his wheel and easily comes past him. Then Vino, Botcharov, Frigo, Zarrabeitia and Gustov. I stand corrected!!

Sanchez wins the sprint for seventh in front of Latasa at 20 odd seconds. The next peloton comes in at 46 seconds, then a 15 man group with VDB, Joachim Simoni, and Virenque at 1'58. O'Grady comes in at 3'19, with Nico Mattan.

So Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) takes over the lead in Paris-Nice with a great stage win in St Etienne. In second place is Alexandre Vinokourov, who looks in great form to defend his title from last year. But Frigo showed his strength today, as did Zarrabeitia and Botcharov, not forgetting a great ride by Gustov for his team leader Frigo. In the other classifications, Jerome Pineau is the leader in the mountains GC, Stuart O'Grady in the points, and Joaquim Rodriguez in the Young Rider Jersey.

Cyclingnews will have a full report, results and photos coming soon.

Provisional results

1 Davide Rebellin (Ita) Gerolsteiner         5.01.14
2 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Team Telekom 
3 Alexandre Botcharov (Rus) Ag2R Prevoyance
4 Dario Frigo (Ita) Fassa Bortolo
5 Mikel Zarrabeitia (Spa) ONCE-Eroski
6 Volodomir Gustov (Ukr) Fassa Bortolo          0.03
7 Samuel Sanchez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi        0.18
8 David Latasa (Spa) Kelme-Costa Blanca
9 Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) ONCE-Eroski
10 Jorg Jaksche (Ger) ONCE-Eroski
11 Axel Merckx (Bel) Lotto-Domo

General classification after stage 2

1 Davide Rebellin (Ita) Gerolsteiner        10.20.25
2 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Team Telekom       0.03
3 Dario Frigo (Ita) Fassa Bortolo               0.13
4 Mikel Zarrabeitia (Spa) ONCE-Eroski           0.22
5 Alexandre Botcharov (Rus) Ag2R Prevoyance
6 Volodomir Gustov (Ukr) Fassa Bortolo          0.26
7 Jorg Jaksche (Ger) ONCE-Eroski                0.37
8 Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) ONCE-Eroski           0.45 
9 David Latasa (Spa) Kelme-Costa Blanca         0.46
10 Axel Merckx (Bel) Lotto-Domo                 0.54

Results      Mail the commentary team