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63rd Paris-Nice - ProTour

France, March 6-13, 2005

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Stage 7 - Sunday, March 13: Nice - Nice, 135km

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

Complete live report

Live coverage starts: 13:30 CET
Estimated finish time: 15:00 CET

13:13 CET   
Welcome once again to Cyclingnews for our live coverage of the 63rd Paris-Nice, which finishes today with a rather scenic 135 km stage around Nice. It's not quite as tough as the last few years which featured multiple ascents of the Col d'Eze, but with three Cat. 1 and one Cat. 2 climb, it's by no means an easy stage.

On the menu today are four climbs: Côte de Duranus (Cat. 2, km 25.5), Col de la Porte (Cat. 1, km 52), La Turbie (Cat. 1, km 89.5), Col d'Eze (Cat. 1, km 119) and two intermediate sprints at Levens (km 15.5) and Nice (km 107).

The race lead remains with Bobby Julich (CSC), who is very confident about keeping it, as he knows the climbs around here like the back of his hand, and he has a very strong team to support him. Saunier Duval's Constantino Zaballa and Illes Balears' Alejandro Valverde are both within 20 seconds on GC, but they'll have their work cut out to pull that back.

13:44 CET    50km/85km to go
Today's stage started in beautiful sunny weather in Nice, with not much wind blowing. It didn't take long for the first break to be established as seven men took off in the first 10 km: Charly Wegelius (Liquigas-Bianchi), Oscar Pereiro (Phonak), Alberto Contador (Liberty Seguros), Volodymir Gustov (Fassa Bortolo), Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel), Rik Verbrugghe (Quick.Step) and David Moncoutié (Cofidis). At km 35, they had 3'25 and Contador was the virtual race leader.

CSC has been chasing, and has the break pegged at under two minutes at the foot of the Cat. 1 Col de la Porte. There is also one Phonak rider riding, which is a little odd given that Pereiro is in the break. At the foot of the climb, the seven men have 1'30 on Joaquim Rodriguez (Saunier Duval), 1'45 on Mario Aerts (Lotto), 1'50 on Cyclingnews diarist Tom Danielson (Discovery), and 1'55 on the peloton.

A crash took out Ian McLeod (Française Des Jeux), who is on his way to hospital for x-rays to his hip. Luciano Pagliarini (Liquigas) has also abandoned.

13:45 CET   
Alejandro Valverde (Illes Balears) nearly missed the start today. At the depart fictif we saw him as the last rider with a bit of a gap to make up to the bunch. He did make it though.

We spoke to Jens Voigt (CSC), who has his eye on the sprinters jersey, currently being worn by Tom Boonen, who has 9 points advantage over the German. "It's always good to get some bonus points, make some money," said Voigt. "You never know, maybe I can get the jersey so there'll be two of us on the podium. And finishing second behind Boonen is not too bad in view of Milan-San Remo."

13:50 CET   
Moncoutié's presence in the break has all but confirmed his grip on the mountains jersey. It was under threat from Joerg Ludewig (Domina), who came within 3 points of taking it yesterday. "I'm only three points behind Moncoutié for the mountains jersey. I hope to have good legs today to catch him," said Ludewig at the start. But it doesn't look likely now.

Unfortunately, the German was suffering from gastroenteritis before yesterday's stage. "I didn't want to risk drinking a lot of carbohydrated water. That's why I got cramps." But he added, "I'd rather die in front than inherit nothing behind."

13:52 CET    54km/81km to go
Moncoutié takes the points on top of the Col de la Porte, and he is unbeatable for the mountains competition now. The seven leaders had 1'12 to Mario Aerts (Lotto) at the top, and 1'45 to the peloton. Rodriguez and Danielson went back to the bunch.

13:54 CET   
A little bit later on (and we hope before the stage finishes!), we'll be joined by CSC director Scott Sunderland, who will be able to provide a little more insight into what the team is doing.

14:02 CET    60km/75km to go
Mikel Astarloza (Ag2r) is on his own, chasing Aerts and the break of seven, which is still together on the descent of the Col de la Porte.

14:03 CET   
Astarloza only has about 20 seconds on the peloton, which is being towed by Dave Zabriskie and the CSC team. They only have to worry about two more climbs now.

14:05 CET   
Astarloza has been caught by the peloton.

14:07 CET    74km/61km to go
It's now Kurt-Asle Arvesen leading the peloton, and it looks as though CSC is upping the pace a bit. In front, Contador only needs 2'25 to take the leader's jersey. The gap between the break is still 1'55.

14:08 CET    75km/60km to go
The leaders are at the bottom of the descent now, with the Cat. 1 climb of La Turbie to come. It's Zabriskie back on the front, followed by Arvesen.

Mario Aerts (yes he was there) is at 55 seconds. The bunch at 1'50.

14:11 CET    79km/56km to go
The leading seven: Charly Wegelius (Liquigas-Bianchi), Oscar Pereiro (Phonak), Alberto Contador (Liberty Seguros), Volodymir Gustov (Fassas Bortolo), Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel), Rik Verbrugghe (Quick.Step) and David Moncoutié (Cofidis). Mario Aerts (Lotto) has done well to get within a minute. But the peloton is now at 1'40 and closing. Julich looks extremely comfortable.

14:12 CET    80km/55km to go
La Turbie is 7.6 km at 4.8%. Then it's just the Col d'Eze, which is 7.8 km at 6.1%.

CSC has really stepped on the gas, even though it's only Zabriskie and Arvesen working.

14:14 CET    82km/53km to go
We also spoke to yesterday's winner Joost Posthuma (Rabobank), who was extremely happy with his win yesterday. "I really wanted to get a ProTour point!" he said. Unfortunately, stage wins in ProTour races are worth almost nothing (1 point in normal ProTour races, 3 points in Grand Tours) compared to the overall GC (50 points).

Aerts is within 45 seconds of the seven leaders - he's doing well!

14:16 CET   
But Aerts is not good enough to hold off the peloton...He is caught at the foot of La Turbie. Now we're back to seven leaders. Zabriskie is burying himself at the front.

14:18 CET    83km/52km to go
The peloton is really doing some damage to this break, and has it under 1'00 on La Turbie. Oscar Pereiro takes the lead, then Rik Verbrugghe. It's 40 seconds.

The average speed after two hours: 36.9 km/h. The second hour was ridden at 35.1 km/h.

14:20 CET    84km/51km to go
The two Saunier riders, Rodriguez and Gomez, get to the front of the peloton and lift the pace. Gomez gets a small gap, but CSC won't let him go. The break is losing ground rapidly now.

14:21 CET    84km/51km to go
Rodriguez lifts the pace again, and again CSC come up beside him. Then Gomez attacks. He's a good climber. They only have to worry about Zaballa though.

14:22 CET   
Gomez has a bit of a gap now and is hammering in pursuit of the break. He was good on Mont Faron, so maybe he'll provide a springboard for Zaballa to go on the next climb...if he can.

14:25 CET   
Gomez is within 20 seconds of the break, which has lifted its tempo courtesy of Oscar Pereiro Sio (Phonak). The peloton is another 10 seconds behind Gomez.

14:26 CET    48km/87km to go
Voigt and Schleck are now left at the front to help Julich in the peloton. Three Sauniers, plus Jaksche, are lurking behind.

14:28 CET   
Kim Kirchen (Fassa Bortolo) is a fair way back in the peloton.

Pereiro has not left his position at the front of the break. But Gomez has lost his lead, and is slowly coming back to the bunch. The break is back to about 20 seconds.

14:29 CET   
Pereiro keeps driving the break, while behind it's Rodriguez stirring up the peloton with Voigt, Schleck and Julich marking him. The gap to the break is just 10 seconds.

14:30 CET   
The tempo eases in the peloton as Schleck takes over the pace making. Aitor Osa (Illes Balears) attacks!

14:30 CET   
Andrey Kashechkin goes after Osa, who is now on the back of the break.

14:31 CET    89.5km/45.5km to go
Moncoutié takes over in the break, with the peloton now very close. He'll want some more points for his mountains jersey. Why? Because he can.

14:33 CET    90km/45km to go
Moncoutié drives it all the way to the top, with Verbrugghe taking second, then Pereiro, Martinez, Wegelius, Contador. Gustov has dropped off the break and is replaced by Osa.

Voeckler is nearly off the back of the peloton, but is digging deep over the top of the climb.

14:34 CET   
CSC director Scott Sunderland joins us now. Hello Scott!

Scott: Hello people. Just finished a late lunch and ready to get into some commentating now. As the weather finally is improving, I took the opportunity to go out for a ride with a few mates for a couple of hours this morning.

14:35 CET    92km/43km to go
The break is now 15 seconds in front of the peloton, which had almost caught it at the top of the Turbie. Seven men (six of the originals + Osa) are in it. CSC has an extra rider on the front of the peloton now.

14:37 CET    93km/42km to go
It's Nicki Sorensen on the front for CSC as the break starts to disintegrate a little. They're on the descent at the moment.

14:38 CET    94km/41km to go
Pereiro drives the break on the descent, trying to keep that slender advantage over the peloton. Then Egoi Martinez takes over, but not very hard.

Sorensen has hurting as he leads the bunch of about 50-60 riders. Peloton is at 0'14.

14:39 CET   
Pereiro is flying on the descent, leading all the way. He's very close to the TV motorbike.

14:40 CET    96km/39km to go
The motorbike tries to get a bit of a lead over Pereiro. Spare a thought for the cameramen, who typically stand up with the cameras on their shoulder on these descents - hairpins and all! Their backs must be completely shot to pieces by the time they're 50.

14:42 CET    97km/38km to go
Pereiro is really motoring, and has increased the gap to 20 seconds over the peloton. Still three CSC riders plus Julich in front.

Scott: Everything looks to be very much in control. It's good to have that break in the front to keep things in the peloton a bit calmer. Kurt Asle Arvesen and David Zabriskie are doing work in the front. Frank Schleck and Jens Voigt look particularly strong today. Nicky Sorensen has come back to the front of the peloton now too.

14:43 CET   
Egoi Martinez is on the front of the break again, still not doing much. It seems to be up to Pereiro to do all the work.

14:44 CET    100km/35km to go
The gap has grown to half a minute. No panic in the peloton, and no risks. Vinokourov moves up, as does Landis. Voigt and Schleck have a bit of a discussion.

Pereiro has assumed the position again in front. Osa is sitting in last wheel.

14:45 CET   
Scott: This race was the first objective for the team this year; it being the first ro-Tour race and also because the team won it last year. When I sat down last year to talk about the team's program, Bjarne Riis immediately said that this race was the first real goal for the team. It definitely has been a bonus for us to be successful already in Qatar and the Tour du Med.

It has been a fantastic race for the team so far; Jens took the first Pro Tour victory by winning the first stage. Touch wood now that Bobby will be on the podium later today as the first winner of a Pro Tour stage race. The team has worked very hard for this. We did the training camp in January before the season started, and then another 12 day camp after the Tour du Med.

14:46 CET    102km/33km to go
Pereiro has stretched the break out as he nears the foot of the descent. They're in the streets of Nice now. Wegelius takes over in front.

14:48 CET    102.5km/32.5km to go
It's 35 seconds back to the peloton, where Sorensen hasn't moved from first wheel.

Pereiro is doing his best to get away, but can't quite break the elastic on the descent.

14:49 CET    103km/32km to go
The rest of the break slowly comes back to Pereiro, who refuses to give up. They're on the flats in Nice, with the peloton at 40 seconds.

14:50 CET    106km/29km to go
Verbrugghe takes a turn in front as the break makes its way along the waterfront in Nice. That water looks good! 1 km until the second sprint.

14:52 CET    107km/28km to go
They're now racing along the Promenade des Anglais, where a fair sized crowd is out to see the finish. Contador leads with one lap to go, Pereiro gets second in the sprint, followed by Wegelius. Martinez, Verbrugghe, Osa and Moncoutié are all there too.

14:52 CET   
Scott: The front group isn't working together that well. The attacking is leaving gaps and they aren't making sure that they'll keep in the front this way. They should be working together better to make the escape work.

If Simoni has the legs like the other day on Mont Faron, he can easily close this 40 sec gap on the Col d'Eze.

14:53 CET   
The gap is 49 seconds to the peloton at the line. Interesting position - remember how close the bunch was at the top of the last climb.

14:54 CET   
Kevin Hulsmans (Quick.Step) crashed early in the stage too, and has abandoned. Fortunately, he hasn't broken anything and will be in action for Tom Boonen at next week's Milan San Remo.

14:55 CET   
Scott: The weather is very different to what we saw a few days ago; when the riders were still riding through the snow covered landscape. Yesterday we already saw the palm trees waving along the promenade in Cannes; and today the temperature is up too. This definitely is the race to the sun.

14:56 CET    110km/25km to go
The leaders navigate a narrow section en route to the Col d'Eze. They're working a bit better now, and they'll need every second to hold off the peloton's attacks.

14:58 CET    112km/23km to go
Sorensen guides the bunch through the narrow section, pegging the gap to about 50 seconds.

We spoke to Cadel Evans (Lotto) at the start today, and the Australian who was second on Mont Faron was happy with his race. "It's a pretty good start to the year. I wanted to test myself on Mont Faron and that's been ok. I'll try to keep my placing on GC but basically at Paris-Nice I wanted to see how it was going and it's been good so far. My goal was top 10.

"Today will be harder. Today it's going to be on."

14:58 CET   
Scott: The front group crosses the peloton as they each ride on one side of the Promenade des Anglais in Nice. This is one of the beautiful spots along the Cote D'Azur, with very expensive hotels offering great views on the Mediterranean Sea.

Contador takes the lead and goes hard at the foot of the Col d'Eze. Moncoutié and Osa follow. The rest are gapped.

14:59 CET   
Sorensen leads the bunch up at 41 seconds as Erik Dekker attacks first!

15:00 CET    113km/22km to go
Dekker doesn't last long, but Sorensen is now gone. Vinokourov attacks!! Big chainring....

The break is disintegrating. Pereiro is caught.

15:01 CET    114km/21km to go
Contador is now solo, having dropped Moncoutié and Osa. Vinokourov is coming though - he's no threat to GC, so CSC can let him go. He definitely wants to win this stage again though!

15:02 CET   
Scott: I can see that the other classement teams are bringing their riders to the front; ready to tackle the Col d'Eze. Brandt came through on the inside and almost took out the whole CSC team!! I think they're getting nervous...

front group is splitting up. The peloton is still being lead by Nicki on the col d'Eze. Dekker is launching an attack. The guys in front don't have much more to hope for now...

Frank and Jens got to earn their money now; the attacks are on. They're keeping their cool and riding a high tempo. They'll let Vino out there to swim a bit.

15:03 CET   
Valverde attacks next! But Voigt is right on his wheel.

Wegelius is caught.

15:04 CET   
The peloton is down to about 20 men, led by Jens Voigt. All the GC riders are there.

Contador is on his own, driving up the Col d'Eze.

15:04 CET   
Scott: Jens will keep a nice high tempo with Bobby comfortably in his wheel and cover all the attacks; like he's just chasing Valverde now.

15:06 CET    115km/20km to go
Vino has made it up to Osa and Moncoutié, who are 13 seconds behind Contador. The peloton is at 0'35. Looks like Martinez and Verbrugghe have been caught.

Valverde attacks again, hard. But Voigt and Julich are right on him. Voigt counters, again just because he can. Vino, Moncoutié and Osa are caught. Just Contador in front now.

15:06 CET   
Scott: Jens is looking bloody strong, just throwing a glance over his shoulder now and again, to see how things are going. Think Bobby would be feeling very safe having Jens looking after him like that.

Contador looks good too according to me.

15:07 CET    116km/19km to go
Julich, the man in the hot seat, looks great. He's in second wheel behind Voigt. The 20 man peloton is now 45 seconds behind Contador, who is looking good for the stage win...

15:08 CET   
Scott: Valverde is giving everything but Jens counters and goes straight over him. Now that's psychological war-fare! Jens takes Vino back too. Julich still very comfortable in Voigt's wheel.

15:09 CET   
Voigt has eased up a little bit, as Frank Schleck comes up to help out. Dekker is last wheel in the peloton, along with Kirchen. They both have very similar national champion's jerseys.

15:11 CET    117km/18km to go
It's now Osa and Valverde on the front of the peloton again, as Voigt and Schleck consult hurriedly with each other. Jens talks on the batphone to his team.

But it's still Alberto Contador (Liberty) who is looking superb as he climbs the Col d'Eze.

15:12 CET   
A Lampre rider attacks next, then one of the Discoverys goes over him and drops back.

Contador has a nice view over Nice now, as Valverde gets on the drops and tries to shake Voigt. No chance.

Moncoutié is dropped.

15:12 CET    118km/17km to go
Evans is in about 6th wheel behind Pellizotti, Zaballa, Julich and Voigt.

Pellizotti attacks!

15:13 CET    118km/17km to go
Scott: Bobby's O-Symmetric chain rings have caught the eye of the camera man. Those chainwheels avoid the dead spot in the pedal stroke. Bobby's been a fan of these since winning a stage in the tour of Pays Basque last year, where he first used them.

Jens and Frank are still there looking after Bobby. Valverde must be thinking, I can't go away by myself so we'll go for a bunch sprint and try my luck in that.

15:14 CET   
Contador still has 45 seconds as he nears the top of the Col d'Eze. Pellizotti has about 5 seconds lead over the Voigt-led train, which has just about got Bobby Julich over the top of the final obstacle.

15:14 CET    119km/16km to go
Contador crests the summit, suffering a little in the final 500m.

Pellizotti has 10 seconds now.

15:15 CET   
Scott: Kim Andersen and Bjarne Riis will be keeping an eye on that TV they've got in the car! It's cool to have those as you can follow the whole race closely and notice who's looking strong and who's not.

15:16 CET   
Pellizotti is coming back to the peloton again. It's Jaksche who's doing the damage. Interesting, as he's got Contador in front.

Evans attacks right at the top with Valverde on his wheel. They get Pellizotti.

15:16 CET   
Dekker and Dekker are dropped at the top, as is Rubiera.

15:17 CET    121km/14km to go
The Evans attack goes nowhere, especially with Valverde there. Too dangerous. Contador has 35 seconds of his lead.

Pellizotti took second on the climb, then Jaksche. Contador was first, of course.

15:18 CET   
Scott: Evans attacks with Valverde in his wheel. I don't see the reason for that, as they're at the top of the climb.

The descent towards the finish line is a big wide road; so Contador will have to work very hard on that!

15:19 CET    122km/13km to go
The gap is 27 seconds as Gomez and Pellizotti lead on the descent. Valverde in third wheel. The bunch is about 15 strong.

15:20 CET    122km/13km to go
Vinokourov attacks now, but Voigt and Schleck are driving it behind him. He doesn't get a big gap, but he still has it.

Contador is being careful on the descent.

15:20 CET   
Vino takes a nice line through the corners and keeps his gap. It's small.

15:21 CET   
Scott: The last climb of this Paris-Nice has been dealt with and it's looking good for the CSC boys. There's only a group of about 15 riders left...

Vinokourov's trying again now; the first part of the descent is a bit dangerous but very fast. The big straight road into the centre of Nice is screaming for a nice bunch sprint.

15:22 CET    125km/10km to go
The main group has: Julich, Voigt, Evans, Pellizotti, Jaksche, Valverde, Zaballa, Kirchen, Gomez and Popovych (and a couple of others) in it.

Vino is 25 seconds behind Contador, with the bunch at another 5 seconds.

15:24 CET   
Vino is really driving it on the descent, opening up a lead over the peloton. Cana he get Contador though...

Ooohhhhh!!!!! Contador clips out of the pedal after his chain slips. That had to hurt... Amazingly he doesn't come off. 17 seconds.

15:25 CET    127km/8km to go
That cost Contador a bit of time, but Vino is still not with him yet. He can see the young Spaniard though. It's a very fast descent now.

15:26 CET   
Schleck is towing the bunch now with Julich also taking the lead for a bit. They might want to get Voigt up for the win.

The Dekkers are back.

Vino has caught Contador!

15:27 CET    129km/6km to go
Vino and Contador are now leading with a 15 second gap to the Schleck led bunch. Voigt's victory chances are slim, given that Valverde is also in the bunch.

The bunch is at 13 seconds.

15:28 CET   
Contador is not working. Vino is not happy.

15:29 CET   
Scott: Frank Schleck is pulling on the front now; for Jens that is now. If Jens finishes in the first ten he'll take the points jersey.

Contador's foot came and of the pedal and he almost threw himself against the wall. Bloody hell, that would give a serious adrenaline injection! Sure he'll be washing his shorts tonight!

That points jersey will be a huge motivation for Jens today too. Him and Bobby are good friends; room mates at the races and them both being on the podium today would make the party complete.

Dekker is joining the back of the bunch. Valverde is getting ready.

15:30 CET    132km/3km to go
3 km to go and Vino/Contador have 16 seconds lead. But without Contador's help...it might fail.

Discovery has two men on the front now - Popovych and ?

15:30 CET    133km/2km to go
Scott: Vino and Contador have a small gap; it's going to be very close. Very exciting.

15:31 CET    134km/1km to go
The peloton is closing...10 seconds. Contador won't work. Three Discoverys chasing: Beltran, Rubiera and Popovych. 1km to go.

15:32 CET   
Vino has led all the way to the finish. Contador is waiting, waiting... Vino signals, but no. Contador knows he has to wait.

Dekker the Elder attacks the bunch!

15:33 CET    135km/0km to go
Vino continues to lead at a decent tempo, Contador is out of the saddle, then at 300m to go they are caught. Contador should have done a turn earlier, but there ya go.

And it's Valverde who wins the stage ahead of Pellizotti and Kirchen!! Julich wins Paris-Nice.

15:37 CET   
Scott: Valverde wasn't strong enough to do it in the climbs but he's a very good all-round rider and showed his class in the sprint. Vino lost the race by 30 metres by looking back too much.

Jens finished 6th today. He's got the points jersey! This has been a fantastic week for team CSC. Bobby wins overall and Jens finishes a strong 4th, Frank Schleck 7th! Normally the team's classification should be ours too. Bjarne has had the guys working hard during the winter months, but they are reaping the rewards now.

Valverde is another candidate for Milan-San Remo; this guy has got great abilities on all fronts, a very strong climber but a good sprinter as well.

15:43 CET   
OK, that's all from us here at the Cyclingnews commentary box. Thank you to Scott Sunderland for joining us today, and thanks to all our readers who have followed the racing this week. It's been a great race, as it always is, and a beautiful place to finish.

We'll be back for the classics!


1 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne        3.28.28
2 Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Liquigas-Bianchi 
3 Kim Kirchen (Lux) Fassa Bortolo                
4 Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team    
5 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) T-Mobile Team                         
6 Jens Voigt (Ger) Team CSC                                        
7 Alberto Contador (Spa) Liberty Seguros-Würth                  
8 Davide Rebellin (Ita) Gerolsteiner                             
9 Thomas Dekker (Ned) Rabobank  
10 Constantino Zaballa (Spa) Saunier Duval-Prodir

Final general classification

1 Bobby Julich (USA) Team CSC                            
2 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne           0.10
3 Constantino Zaballa (Spa) Saunier Duval-Prodir                    0.19
4 Jens Voigt (Ger) Team CSC                                         0.44
5 Jorg Jaksche (Ger) Liberty Seguros-Würth                          0.45
6 Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Liquigas-Bianchi                          0.49
7 Frank Schleck (Lux) Team CSC                                      0.58
8 Cadel Evans (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto                                     
9 Jose Angel Gomez (Spa) Saunier Duval-Prodir                       1.20
10 Davide Rebellin (Ita) Gerolsteiner                               1.21

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