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63rd Paris-Nice - ProTour

France, March 6-13, 2005

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Stage 5 - Friday, March 11: Rognes - Toulon (Mont-Faron), 172.5km

Commentary by Jeff Jones, with additional reporting from Hedwig Kröner and Jean-Francois Quenet

Complete live report

Live coverage starts: 14:30 CET
Estimated finish time: 16:30 CET

14:18 CET   
Welcome to Cyclingnews for our continued live coverage of Paris-Nice, a race that has finally found some sunshine. On the menu today is a full length stage(!) of 172.5 km between Rognes and Toulon, finishing on top of the famous Mont-Faron climb. Mont Faron is well known to the cyclists, as it's used in the Tour of Med and occasionally in Paris-Nice. It averages a leg-snapping 8.9% for 5.5 km on a narrow, three metre wide road. It's a real race for position to the foot of the climb.

There are several other climbs along today's lumpy parcours, starting with the Cat. 3 Côte de La Cride (km 11), Cat. 3 Côte de Mazaugues (km 107), Cat. 3 côte de le Beausset (km 146), Cat. 2 Côte de Saint-Anne-d'Evenos (km 154.5) and Col du Corps-de-Garde (km 159), with the final climb to Mont Faron starting at km 167. There are also two intermediate sprints, at Peyrolles-en-Provence (km 33) and Signes (km 128). After days of shortened stages, this one will be an important one for the GC riders, even if the time gaps at the end won't be that great.

The current race leader, after his stage win yesterday, is Fassa Bortolo's Fabian Cancellara, who holds a 15 second gap over his teammate Juan Antonio Flecha. Neither of these riders are considered really good hill climbers, but you never know. In third place, at 20 seconds, is CSC's Bobby Julich, who is one of the top favourites to take the jersey today. Also Erik Dekker (5th at 33 seconds), Jens Voigt (7th at 37 seconds), Philippe Gilbert, Thomas Voeckler and Constantino Zaballa (all at 47 seconds), and Alejandro Valverde and Jörg Jaksche have an outside chance of taking the lead. Watch out for Alexandre Vinokourov and Davide Rebellin, both of whom have lost a bit of time in the early stages, but could bounce back today.

The temperature at the moment on Mont Faron is 10 degrees and there's no wind. The sky is a little patchy and we might get a bit of rain later on.

14:43 CET   
An update on the race so far:

Christophe Detilloux (Française Des Jeux) was a non-starter.

Seven men attacked from the gun. Koen de Kort (Liberty), Joost Posthuma (Rabobank), Victor Peña, Oscar Pereiro (Phonak), Francisco Ventoso (Saunier), Freddy Bichot (Française Des Jeux), Rafael Nuritdinov (Domina Vacanze). On the first climb, a few riders got dropped, including Thomas Voeckler (Bouygues), but he managed to get back on. At the top of the climb, there were six riders clear: Fred Bessy (Cofidis), Alberto Contador (Liberty), Aitor Osa (Illes Balears), Fred Rodriguez (Lotto), Bichot (Francaise des Jeux) and Ludovic Turpin (Ag2r). That break lasted until km 26.

Two riders pulled out in the first 30 km: Pierrick Fedrigo (Bouygues) and Torsten Hiekmann (T-Mobile).

At km 27, a new break went with Nicolas Jalabert (Phonak) and Jimmy Engoulvent (Cofidis). Jalabert took the points at the first sprint in Peyrolles-en-Provence (km 33) ahead of Engoulvent and Niermann (Rabobank). The two leaders were caught, then Jalabert went again at km 55 with Marco Serpellini (Gerolsteiner), Matt Hayman (Rabobank), and Nicolas Fritsch (Saunier Duval).

They were chased for a while by four Frenchmen: Jimmy Engoulvent (Cofidis), Jerome Pineau (Bouygues), Nicolas Vogondy (Credit Agricole) and Andy Flickinger (Ag2r), but the four couldn't bridge the gap. Next to try to bridge was Laszlo Bodrogi (Credit Agricole), who got to within 2'20 at km 73 before falling back. After 96 km, he was at 4'35 and the peloton at 5'00, and he was caught at km 100.

Serpellini was first over the second climb of the day (Côte de Mazaugues), ahead of Jalabert.

14:58 CET    122km/50.5km to go
The four man breakaway now has 5'00 lead on the Fassa Bortolo led peloton. Illes Balears and Liberty Seguros were helping the chase for a while, but no longer.

15:04 CET    125km/47.5km to go
The four leaders have been pegged back to 4'45. Jalabert is the virtual leader of the race, having started the day at 1'50 behind Cancellara.

In the peloton, Fassa Bortolo has a bit of assistance from Domina Vacanze and Illes Balears now. Voeckler is suffering at the back, along with Arvesen.

15:10 CET    131km/41.5km to go
Cyclingnews spoke to Jens Voigt (CSC) before the stage this morning, and the German was in good spirits. "I know the last 25 kilometres of the stage from the Tour of Med. I'm really familiar with that part. I'm well prepared - I just have to play my cards on the last climb. It's not about team tactics today, I'll just go. The gaps will not be very big today. There are lots of very good climbers still here, all good riders. It'll be interesting until the last day."

Voigt added that he's prepared to work for someone else, if necessary. "I want one of us to win," he said. "Of course it would be nice if it was me, but if it's Bobby Julich it would be great too."

He also spoke about his Russian teammate Vladimir Gussev, who is in 9th on GC. "Gussev needs to train his climbing abilities. He's a huge talent, but I can see him more in one day classics, like Roubaix and Flanders."

The gap is down to 4'25 with just over 40 km to go. It's been a fast stage today, with the average speed around the 43 km/h mark.

15:12 CET    133km/39.5km to go
The peloton is in full chase mode now, as Liberty moves back to the front. The leaders still have around 4 minutes.

15:14 CET    137.5km/35km to go
The break is powering along, with all four men taking hard turns. It's a bit easier for them today, as there's not much wind. Jalabert is certainly one of the most active riders - he's been in everything in the last two days!

15:15 CET    138.5km/34km to go
We spoke to Alejandro Valverde (Illes Balears) this morning, and he told us, "It'll be difficult to get the jersey today but not impossible. I'll definitely try. The jersey can change on Sunday as well."

15:17 CET    141km/31.5km to go
The leaders are now flying on the descent towards the Cat. 3 côte de le Beausset. They have 3'35 lead on the bunch, which is being towed by CSC and Liberty at high speed. Cancellara is up there in the front ranks, in the wind a bit.

Marcel Strauss (Gerolsteiner) has abandoned.

15:19 CET    143km/29.5km to go
Liberty is really eating into this lead. 3'15 and falling fast. T-Mobile has moved up now, with Vinokourov the main man.

Mountains leader David Moncoutié is sitting on the back of the bunch.

15:21 CET    144.5km/28km to go
Hulsmans flies past the Liberty train on the descent, but it's not an attack. He's just good at going downhill fast. The bunch is spread out at the bottom. Hulsmans keeps the pressure on and gets into the train.

The leaders are on the côte de le Beausset (1.3 km at 6.3%).

15:23 CET    146km/26.5km to go
Fritsch rides at the front in his bright yellow Saunier Duval jersey. It's a bit of a rarity for a French rider to be in a Spanish team. Serpellini takes over, then Jalabert (looking comfy) and Hayman brings up the rear. The break has 2'50 as it nears the summit of the climb.

15:24 CET    147km/25.5km to go
Fritsch takes the points at the top (uncontested) ahead of Serpellini and Jalabert. Three more climbs to go in the last 25 km.

15:24 CET   
The peloton is shedding riders on the climb. Rogers is dropped - he's obviously not Quick.Step's GC man.

15:25 CET   
Igor Gonzalez attacks! Interesting tactic by Liberty.

15:26 CET    148km/24.5km to go
Igor gets a bit of a gap as he powers away on this short climb, but there is a solid chase going on behind him and he'll be caught over the top. He is, as the CSC team keeps the pace on. 2'26 is the gap to the four leaders.

15:30 CET    151km/21.5km to go
Davitamon-Lotto has now taken over the chasing, trying to set up Merckx who is well placed on GC, and Evans. The gap is 2'10, so the leaders might not make it to the foot of Mont Faron. We'll see.

15:32 CET    152.5km/20km to go
Jaksche and Kirchen are moving up to the front of the bunch, as the four leaders tackle the Cat. 2 Côte de Saint-Anne-d'Evenos (3 km at 5.5%).

15:33 CET    153.5km/19km to go
Fritsch is once again setting the pace on the climb, looking quite good.

In the bunch, Hulsmans and De Weert (Quick.Step) have attacked. Well, De Weert has. Hulsmans just gave him a lead out.

15:34 CET   
De Weert has 15 seconds, putting him 1'28 behind the four leaders. The young Belgian is going quite well. The pace lifts behind him...

15:36 CET    154.5km/18km to go
Jaan Kirsipuu is dropped, and he's not coming back today. Yesterday he rode remarkably to be a factor in the final. Fred Rodriguez, Nuritdinov and Kemps follow suit. It's general carnage at the back of the bunch.

De Weert is caught, as Lotto's Vansummeren leads the pace making with Evans in second wheel. Then Rebellin and Vino.

15:37 CET    154.5km/18km to go
Fritsch leads the break over the top of the climb, still looking good. Serpellini takes second ahead of Hayman and Jalabert.

Hulsmans and Boonen are dropped, chatting to each other on the climb. Zabriskie is back with them.

15:38 CET    156km/16.5km to go
Vansummeren and Evans are on the front of the peloton, which is getting rid of most of the FDJ team now. Bichot, one of the earlier attackers, is gone. At the top, the gap is about a minute. Jaksche looks good in fourth wheel.

15:39 CET   
The leaders are now on the Cat. 2 Col du Corps-de-Garde, which comes right after the Côte de Saint-Anne-d'Evenos.

Simoni has moved up behind Vansummeren in the peloton. Voigt is up there, with Julich, Valverde, Jaksche, Rebellin, Vino...

15:42 CET    158km/14.5km to go
The thinned down bunch is now being towed by Thomas Dekker the Younger, in pursuit of the break that has been away for over 100 km now.

15:42 CET   
This climb is only 1.8 km at 5.4% - a bit soft for a Cat. 2, but it is early in the season and late in the stage.

15:43 CET    159km/13.5km to go
Erik Dekker punctures - very bad timing. He gets a wheel from a teammate and is on his way. Not good for the Dutch champion.

15:44 CET   
Fritsch leads the break on the climb, putting Hayman in difficulties. The Australian digs deep and closes the gap again. Serpellini and Jalabert are in second and third wheel.

15:45 CET   
Axel Merckx attacks the peloton! There's a reaction as a Credit Agricole rider closes the gap.

The leaders are nearly at the top of the Corps-de-Garde. Fritsch and Serpellini have a little gap on Hayman and Jalabert.

15:47 CET    160.5km/12km to go
Merckx is joined by Kashechkin and a Saunier rider - is that Zaballa? He takes over and is a little way ahead of the peloton. There is a general regrouping.

Fritsch takes the points on the climb ahead of Serpellini. Hayman and Jalabert get back on on the descent.

Dekker is still chasing on, helped by a teammate.

15:47 CET   
This descent is very technical, and Dekker might be able to get the bunch before the bottom.

The four leaders have 45 seconds.

15:48 CET    161.5km/11km to go
Serpellini leads on the descent. Fritsch is now last wheel, having problems hanging on, jersey unzipped and flapping.

Illes Balears is leading the bunch on the descent at 32 seconds.

15:49 CET    162.5km/10km to go
This descent is incredibly technical. Dekker is making up ground and is at the back of the peloton now.

In front, Fritsch is about 50m off the back.

15:50 CET    163.5km/9km to go
The gap is 30 seconds between the break and the peloton as it nears the bottom of the descent. Osa and Valverde are the two Illes Balears chasing on the front.

15:51 CET    164.5km/8km to go
Fritsch is still chasing the three leaders. He can climb a lot better than he can descend. A zipped up jersey would be better, but he can't think about that now. He should get back on.

15:52 CET   
Merckx is in third wheel behind Osa and Valverde in the peloton. Then two Saunier riders, then Kirchen. The bunch is in a very long line as it enters Toulon, 25 seconds behind the break.

15:53 CET    166km/6.5km to go
Fritsch is still chasing the leaders, gradually closing the gap to JaJa, Serpellini and Hayman. He'll get them, just in time for the bunch to swallow them all up. Such is the life of a breakaway rider.

15:55 CET    167km/5.5km to go
The leaders hit the foot of the climb with an 18 second advantage. Fritsch is still not on the back wheel of Hayman. He finally chucks his jacket off to a team car. He is caught.

Hayman looks back and can see the bunch coming. He sits up, as do Jalabert and Serpellini. This is steep.

15:56 CET    167.5km/5km to go
The first acceleration is made by a Saunier rider. Jaksche marks him, looking comfy. Voigt is up there, as is Valverde. Schleck now takes the lead with Pellizotti in tow.

Cancellara is dropped. Then Landis.

15:57 CET   
The peloton is about 25 men as it hits the first bend. Jaksche hammers with Vino on his wheel. This will hurt the peloton. Vino changes down to a lower gear as Jaksche eases off. Evans is up there, Voigt...

15:58 CET    168km/4.5km to go
Moncoutié attacks next! He's good on this climb - he's won here before. But it goes nowhere. Then Contador counters.

15:58 CET    168.5km/4km to go
Jaksche closes the gap to Contador with Voigt on his wheel. Evans is in fourth wheel. Then a bit of a gap to Pellizotti and Valverde. Contador is hammering!!

16:00 CET    169km/3.5km to go
Contador's acceleration is really doing some damage and we have Jaksche, Voigt, Evans all there. But Piepoli (Saunier) is leading the next group up to their back wheels. Simoni is now there, as is Moncoutié, Pellizotti, Rebellin (further back).

16:01 CET   
Popovych and Vino are dropped as Jaksche and Voigt continue to sit behind Contador. Evans is hanging on, as are Simoni, Julich, Moncoutié, Piepoli.

Voeckler is back with Rubiera and Beltran.

16:02 CET   
Vino is riding at his own tempo. It's not going to be his stage today.

16:03 CET    170km/2.5km to go
The lead group has: Voigt, Jaksche, Contador, Evans, Rebellin, Simoni, Piepoli, Julich, Moncoutié, Zaballa, Valverde, Pellizotti and another Saunier rider: Jose Angel Gomez, who attacks! Simoni counters and closes the gap.

16:04 CET    170.5km/2km to go
Simoni takes over from Gomez and puts time into the Spaniard. But the Saunier man comes back to Simoni. 2 km left, and they have 10 seconds to the Jaksche group.

16:04 CET    171km/1.5km to go
Simoni accelerates and drops Gomez. In the bunch, there is also some action as Moncoutié goes, with Evans on his wheel. Evans now leads. Jaksche in third wheel.

16:05 CET   
Simoni is alone as Gomez can't hang on. In the bunch, Voigt is in trouble. Julich looks much better, in third wheel. Even Jaksche has dropped back a bit.

16:06 CET    171.5km/1km to go
Gilberto Simoni is realising the benefits of a solid early season racing program as he races towards the summit of Mont Faron. Gomez is still second, then the group led by Evans, which has Piepoli, Pellizotti in it. Those three accelerate.

Voigt is dropped.

16:07 CET   
Gibo Simoni has less than 1 km to go and looks to have this stage won. Gomez is falling back to the Evans/Pellizotti/Piepoli group. Then Rebellin, Julich, Moncoutié, Zaballa, Jaksche... Voigt is no longer there.

16:08 CET    172km/0.5km to go
Simoni is suffering, but he still looks to have it under control. He looks back as he reaches a flatter part. Gomez is at 10 seconds, then the Pellizotti / Evans / Piepoli group, which has been joined by Moncoutié.

16:09 CET    172.5km/0km to go
Gomez grits his teeth, trying to hold onto second place as the next group draws closer, but it will be Simoni's day today on a climb that perfectly suits him. The Lampre-Cafitta rider wins on Mont Faron!!

16:10 CET   
Gomez is caught, and it's Evans second ahead of Moncoutié, Gomez and Pellizotti, Then Valverde, Piepoli, Zaballa, Rebellin and Julich.

Julich could well have taken the jersey! Yes he has - he has a 19 second lead over Constantino Zaballa (Saunier). Valverde is in third overall, ahead of Voigt and Jaksche. The next two stages should be interesting.

Boonen keeps the lead in the points classification, while Moncoutié is still the mountains leader. Until tomorrow!


1 Gilberto Simoni (Ita) Lampre-Caffita                         4.07.26
2 Cadel Evans (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto                               0.19
3 David Moncoutie (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit Par Telephone      
4 Jose Angel Gomez (Spa) Saunier Duval-Prodir                     0.21
5 Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Liquigas-Bianchi                        0.24
6 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne         0.33
7 Leonardo Piepoli (Ita) Saunier Duval-Prodir                      
8 Constantino Zaballa (Spa) Saunier Duval-Prodir          
9 Davide Rebellin (Ita) Gerolsteiner                              0.36
10 Bobby Julich (USA) Team CSC                                    0.41

General classification after stage 5

1 Bobby Julich (USA) Team CSC                                 14.18.18
2 Constantino Zaballa (Spa) Saunier Duval-Prodir                  0.19
3 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne         0.20
4 Jens Voigt (Ger) Team CSC                                       0.44
5 Jorg Jaksche (Ger) Liberty Seguros-Würth  
6 Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Liquigas-Bianchi                        0.55
7 Frank Schleck (Lux) Team CSC                                    0.58
8 Cadel Evans (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto 
9 Juan Antonio Flecha (Spa) Fassa Bortolo                         1.12
10 Jose Angel Gomez (Spa) Saunier Duval-Prodir                    1.20

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