64th Paris-Nice - ProTour
France, March 5-12, 2006
Results & report
Stage 4 - March 9: Saint-Etienne - Rasteau, 193 km
Commentary by Jeff Jones
Live coverage starts: 14:30 CET
Estimated finish: 16:30 PT
Well, we've de-iced the blimp and
it's up and running again for our live coverage of the last four stages of Paris-Nice.
We are heading towards sunnier territory, with the fourth stage taking the riders
through the heart of Provence from St Etienne to Rasteau. It's a 193 km stage
with four climbs: Col de la Republique (Cat. 1, km 12.5), Col du Deves (Cat.
3, km 125.5), Cote d’Aleyrac (Cat. 2, km 149 ), and Cote de Buisson (Cat. 3,
km 184.5). There are also two intermediate sprints, at Chateaubourg (km 78.5)
and Valreas (km 164.5). The stage should suit Tom Boonen and his Quick.Step
team, despite the Cat. 3 climb with 9 km to go.
The race lead is
with Floyd Landis (Phonak), who rode aggressively on the last climb and descent
yesterday to move into yellow, aided by the Basque rider Francisco Javier "Patxi"
Vila (Lampre-Fondital), who won the stage and sits 9 seconds behind Floyd on
GC. These two riders will likely fight it out for the final victory in Nice
14:37 CET 100km/93km to go
The story at the moment:
We have a two man breakaway consisting of Eric Leblacher (Française des Jeux)
and Bas Giling (T-Mobile), who enjoy a 3'50 lead as the race passes the halfway
Leblacher was one of the early attackers, getting away with
Christophe Laurent on the first climb of the Col de la Republique. Laurent crossed
the summit first ahead of Leblacher, then mountains leader Nicolas Crosbie (Agritubel),
Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas), Joost Posthuma (Rabobank), Jerome Pineau (Bouygues
Telecom) and Jose Vicente Garcia Acosta (Caisse d’Epargne). That gave Laurent
the lead in the mountains classification.
All riders were swept up
by the peloton after 22 km, and the attacks continued, with Arrieta (AG2r),
Hayman (Rabobank), Failli (Liquigas), Augé (Cofidis) and Voeckler (Bouygues)
getting away for a short time. 46 km were covered in the first hour.
After 65 km, Renaud Dion (AG2R) attacked, but his effort didn't last long as
the race was stopped by protesters (striking practically is one of the French
national pastimes). But the race restarted at km 70 and Dion was allowed to
keep his 1'10 lead. He held on to win the first intermediate sprint at Chateaubourg
ahead of Erik Dekker (Rabobank) and Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner), but was
caught a couple of km later.
After 82 km, Leblacher attacked again
with Bas Giling (T-Mobile), and the pair was able to get clear, reaching a maximum
lead (so far) of 4'15 by the 99.5 km mark.
14:44 CET 122km/71km to go
Moos is on the front of the peloton, keeping things under control for his team
leader Floyd Landis. Meanwhile, Leblacher and Giling are making good their escape,
with 5'20 over the peloton.
14:47 CET 125km/68km to go
The conditions are
excellent at the moment, 18 degrees and cloudy. Most riders are in short sleeves
as a result. The riders should be able to see Mont Ventoux in the distance soon,
as they are approaching it from the "back" side. It's not an easy side to climb,
but they won't be doing it in Paris-Nice. The road is usually closed at this
time of year anyway.
Martin Elmiger has now taken over
from his teammate Moos on the front of the bunch. Neither of the fugitives are
a threat to Landis: Leblacher is the best placed on GC, lying in 87th at 17'32
14:52 CET 127km/66km to go
The two leaders are
on the Cat. 3 col du Deves, as the peloton makes its way alongside the TGV.
Jalabert is on the front now, with Cretskens (Quick.Step) on his wheel, plus
a couple of Lampres, who are also going to work today: for Vila and for Napolitano.
Leblacher takes the points at the
summit ahead of Giling, as a couple of drops of rain fall. A small crowd at
the top cheers them on.
14:58 CET 129km/64km to go
leader Christophe Laurent (Agritubel) picks up the final point on the Col du
Deves. The gap to the leaders is 4'43.
15:03 CET 132km/61km to go
A Bouygues rider -
Stef Clement - goes on the counter attack on the descent. That's fairly enterprising,
as the bunch has started to pick up speed. Oh well, you do what the bossman
The average speed after three hours is 42.8 km/h.
Clement is a rarity in Bouygues Telecom:
he's a non-French rider. He's Dutch, in fact.
15:05 CET 133km/60km to go
The two Lampre riders
on the front of the bunch don't seem to be too concerned by the Dutchman, who
is dangling about 25 seconds ahead. He is 4'30 behind the two leaders.
Clement sits up as Bernard Hinault
draws up alongside him in the director's car and tells him to ride. Nahhhhh....
The Dutchman has time to put on his arm-warmers as he waits for the bunch. He
did have quite a gap, but there was no way he was going to catch the two leaders,
Leblacher and Giling.
15:11 CET 138km/55km to go
It's now Phonak on
the front with their three riders, then Cretskens for Quick.Step, followed by
three or four Lampre-Fondital jerseys. The gap has started to fall again, and
it's now 4'44.
15:14 CET 140km/53km to go
The pace is still
a little bit relaxed in the peloton, as Koos Moerenhout rides in front of yellow
jersey wearer Floyd Landis. The American will have no problems in defending
his lead today.
Burghardt (T-Mobile) does an interesting
stretch by putting the top of his right foot over his saddle. Thankfully, he
doesn't do it in the middle of the bunch.
15:20 CET 143km/50km to go
The two leaders approach
the foot of the Cote d’Aleyrac (Cat. 2), a 6.5 km climb. They still have 4'14,
which is not nearly enough with three teams chasing. All eyes will be on Boonen
for the stage win today, but perhaps Allan Davis or Danilo Napolitano can get
around the World Champ.
15:21 CET 144km/49km to go
Giling reacts very late, and puts himself in the red zone to try to close the
gap to the Frenchman. He does, just.
15:22 CET 145km/48km to go
Giling doesn't budge
from Leblacher's wheel. He did look a little weak before, and Leblacher's director
probably spotted that. But it was a bad call.
Can Leblacher get any
further forward on his saddle? Is that physically possible?
15:25 CET 147km/46km to go
Leblacher eases himself
back on the saddle, as Giling moves up closer. Back in the peloton, it's Wilfried
Cretskens (Quick.Step) on the front setting tempo. The gap is now 3'45, coming
down slowly but surely.
15:29 CET 148km/45km to go
Leblacher has done
all the work on this Cat. 2 climb, which is actually neither very long nor steep.
He tried to drop Giling early on, but failed.
Lampre leads the peloton
at a somewhat faster pace behind.
Leblacher takes the seven points on
top of the Cote d’Aleyrac, ahead of Giling. That will continue to move him up
in the mountains classification.
It's Loosli and Franzoi setting tempo,
with Cretskens in third wheel. The pace is not savage, but there are riders
hurting at the back.
15:35 CET 151km/42km to go
Laurent and Crosbie take the next two places over the top of the climb, some
four minutes behind the two leaders, who are motoring on the descent.
15:38 CET 153km/40km to go
Franzoi and Cretskens
lead the peloton on the descent. They'll probably start to turn the screws a
bit more as they hit the final 40 km. It's a very manageable 3'40 to the two
15:44 CET 157km/36km to go
The gap is down to
3'10 now as the race hits the flats again. It's still very overcast as the riders
head through the côtes du Rhône vineyards and sleepy Provence villages.
15:50 CET 163km/30km to go
Giling and Leblacher
are almost in the last 30 km of this 193 km long stage, being pursued by a peloton
hungry for a bunch sprint. But the cat. 3 climb near the finish might shake
things up: Vinokourov attacked there a few years ago to win in Rasteau.
15:52 CET 164.5km/28.5km to go
It's all Lampre
and Quick.Step working at the moment, with Phonak taking a second row seat.
The bunch is sitting on 50-60 km/h, really moving.
The two leaders
enter Valreas and Leblacher takes the sprint uncontested ahead of Giling.
15:55 CET 166.5km/26.5km to go
Moos and Voeckler
have a chat near the back of the peloton. They don't have to do any more work
Lampre's men, Napolitano and Vila, are sitting just behind
the combined train, while Landis and Merckx follow them. The bunch passes the
sprint in Valreas at 2'50, with Schumacher beating Schleck for third and that
15:57 CET 168km/25km to go
The speed should start
to pick up now, as there is still a bit of work to do to catch the leaders.
Leblacher is probably happy that he still has Giling with him to help.
15:59 CET 169km/24km to go
There are eight Quick.Step
and Lampre jerseys at the front of the bunch in a line, clicking up a sprocket
and starting to really drive the pace. Landis sits behind the train, with a
teammate and another three Lampres next to him. Tom Boonen is moving towards
the front now.
The gap has come down to 2'10 and
they still have over 20 km to go. It would take a miracle for the two leaders
to hold on, and they'll probably get caught on or around the last climb. We
16:01 CET 171km/22km to go
Behind the Lampre/Quick.Step
train, various teams and riders are manoeuvring into position. Boonen is now
well placed with his lieutenant Hulsmans protecting him.
16:03 CET 173km/20km to go
Ventoux looms in the
background, to the riders' left. But not many will be checking it out, as the
pace is quite high in the bunch now. Cretskens does a strong turn, then drops
back to second wheel. Tres handy guy to have on your team.
It's 1'40 now as the leaders pass
20 km to go, the skinny Leblacher doing another turn in front.
16:06 CET 175km/18km to go
and Lampre, Liberty and Rabobank are fighting for position. An occasional CSC
jersey shows itself, but the Danish team has been very quiet today. Landis is
20 riders back or so.
16:08 CET 176km/17km to go
the gap is coming
down very quickly now, even though the leaders haven't really slowed down. It's
1'15 and dropping under the impetus of Quick.Step. Some Davitamon jerseys are
also nearing the front, for Steegmans and maybe Steels.
Van de Walle
and Vasseur do their work for Boonen. The peloton is lined across the road in
the crosswind, but it's not strong enough to break things up yet.
You can bet that there will be some
action on the last climb. Cofidis has taken over as they race through Visan,
just 45 seconds behind the doomed breakaways. 35 seconds.
16:10 CET 178km/15km to go
The pair has been
away since km 82, and will have almost spent 100 km out in front. But they'll
be caught in a couple of kilometres. A good ride by the two, who earned their
16:11 CET 179km/14km to go
Under 15 km to go,
and the bunch is rapidly approaching the two breakaways, Eric Leblacher and
Bas Giling. The Frenchman looks back and sees that it's just about over. But
he doesn't sit up quite yet.
Lampre and Quick.Step are back on
the front as Mont Ventoux looms large in front of the riders. An attack from
a Cofidis rider: Thierry Marichal.
16:13 CET 180km/13km to go
No reaction from the
bunch, and Marichal gets a gap. He'll catch the two leaders first, and he does
with 13 km to go.
16:15 CET 181km/12km to go
The pair grab Marichal's
wheel, as the bunch hovers 10 seconds behind. It's slightly downhill before
they hit this Cat. 3 climb of the Cote de Buisson.
16:16 CET 182km/11km to go
Marichal does a strong
turn with Leblacher and Giling sitting in his slipstream. The situation hasn't
changed in front of the bunch - no panic.
16:17 CET 183km/10km to go
Marichal signals for
the other two to come through, but that's a little optimistic at this end of
the bike race. The climb starts, with the Cofidis rider leading. It's only 1.5
km at 5 percent, but it's enough for some action.
16:18 CET 183.5km/9.5km to go
Leblacher can do
a turn but it's a big ask to keep this break live. Marichal comes through, with
a grimacing Giling on his wheel. But the bunch is relentless.
explodes and Leblacher attacks, using his last energy to try to reach the summit
for some more points.
Chavanel and a Liquigas rider counter
over the top of Leblacher, who is finally caught by the peloton.
16:20 CET 185km/8km to go
The two are joined
by Voeckler, who obviously hasn't done his job for the day. The Liquigas rider
is Nibali, and he takes the points ahead of Chavanel and Voeckler. They hammer
on the descent, with Nibali signaling for Chavanel to come through. They are
chased by another four, then the bunch.
The four counter attackers are caught
by the strung out peloton, which still has Lampre and Quick.Step in the driver's
seat. Nibali rides away from Voeckler and Chavanel on the descent.
16:23 CET 187km/6km to go
The Italian keeps his
gap, with Chavanel and Voeckler trying to close. The peloton is just 7 seconds
16:24 CET 188km/5km to go
The three are now back
together again - that's their best chance. Davitamon and Quick.Step have now
got competing trains in the peloton. This is probably not good for the three
16:25 CET 190.5km/2.5km to go
and Nibali have three seconds with about three kilometres to go. The gap looks
big at 60 km/h, but it's not enough, I don't think.
16:26 CET 191km/2km to go
There is a lot of looking
around among the three leaders. That won't get you to the finish. Now Mattan
does a big turn in the bunch, with Steegmans in third wheel. Boonen is sixth.
The break is caught.
16:27 CET 192km/1km to go
Another Liquigas rider
attacks, but Tosatto marks him. Davitamon still has control of the peloton with
Steels and Steegmans. 1 km to go. Steegmans in front too early it looks like.
yep. Steels pulls off at 900m then
Steegmans has to drop back behind Boonen, who is now in third behind two teammates.
500m to go.
16:29 CET 193km/0km to go
Boonen gets a good
leadout, but it's challenged from behind by Schumacher, then Boonen loses it
(clicked out of pedal? chain?), comes back and wins the stage!!! Davis second
from Napolitano. Impressive sprint by the World Champ.
That's all folks, from stage 3. Boonen
looked to have the rails run there, until Schumacher anticipated, then Boonen
had a chain problem with 200m to go. An amazing recovery still won him the stage
by a length. What an animal!
The GC doesn't change, with Floyd Landis
still leading Patxi Vila by nine seconds, and Samuel Sanchez in third.
Join us again tomorrow for stage 5, between Avignon and Digne-les-Bains.
1 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick.Step 4.40.29
2 Allan Davis (Aus) Liberty Seguros
3 Stefan Schumacher (Ger) Gerolsteiner
4 Elia Rigotto (Ita) Team Milram
5 Gert Steegmans (Bel) Davitamon-Lotto
6 Sebastian Siedler (Ger) Team Milram
7 Lilian Jegou (Fra) Française des Jeux
8 Marcus Burghardt (Ger) T-Mobile Team
9 Jérôme Pineau (Fra) Bouygues Telecom
*3rd placed Danilo Napolitano was relegated for irregular sprinting
General classification after stage 4
1 Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak Hearing Systems 19.26.57
2 Patxi Xabier Vila Errandonea (Spa) Lampre-Fondital 0.09
3 Samuel Sanchez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 1.13
4 Antonio Colom (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears 1.23
5 Frank Schleck (Lux) Team CSC
6 José Azevedo (Por) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 1.35
7 Stefan Schumacher (Ger) Gerolsteiner 1.37
8 Haimar Zubeldia (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi
9 Pietro Caucchioli (Ita) Credit Agricole 1.39
10 José Luis Rubiera (Spa) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 1.40
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