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67th Paris-Nice - HIS

France, March 8-15, 2009

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Stage 3 - March 10: Orval - Vichy, 178km

Complete live report

By Bjorn Haake

Bonjour and welcome back to Cyclingnews' live coverage from the 67th Paris-Nice. Today the riders face 178 kilometres between Orval and Vichy. While there are a few mountain points at stake today, the three category 3 climbs will probably not break it up enough to avoid a bunch sprint. From the top of Col de la Bosse it is still over 50 kilometres to the finish.

13:59 CET    62km/116km to go
Currently we have a five-man break with Stéphane Augé (Cofidis), Maciej Bodnar (Liquigas), Jürgen Roelandts (Silence-Lotto), Christophe Le Mevel (Française des Jeux) and Tom Veelers (Skil-Shimano). At the last time check they had six minutes and 55 seconds over the bunch.

Irish champ Daniel Martin could not start today
Photo ©: Stephen McMahon
(Click for larger image)

14:01 CET   
Unfortunately for the Irish fans, Daniel Martin was unable to start today. He was already sick for the last few days and stayed in the hotel.

14:07 CET   
There are three category three climbs in today's stage. After 81.5 kilometres the Côte de la Croix du Chêne, 2.3 km long at an average gradient of 4.1%. Six kilometres later the bunch heads over the Côte de Chavenon – 1.4 km long and an average of 3.5%. The final rise of the day is at km 125.5 with the Col de la Bosse - 6.9 km long and with an average of 4.4%. Nothing these guys couldn't handle

14:10 CET   
Unlike yesterday's sunny affair, today it is back to the rain we already had at the prologue. At the start it was seven degrees centigrade, the projected temperature at the finish is a whole two degrees warmer, but unfortunately with the same rain.

14:12 CET   
Besides Martin there were three others who didn't make it to the start today. Jose Angel Gomez Marchante (Cervélo) broke his arm in a crash yesterday. Rémi Pauriol (Cofidis) broke his collarbone, also during yesterday's stage. And Rabobank's Joost Posthuma (Rabobank) also did not start.

14:14 CET   
We know that many of you have been waiting for it and finally we can reveal the Cyclingnews forum! You can register at http://forum.cyclingnews.com/ and join the discussions. Enjoy!

14:16 CET   
Besides the DNS today, Anthony Charteau (Caisse d'Epargne) stepped off his bike after about 50 kilometres.

14:19 CET   
The first sprint of the day came in Lurcy-Levis, after 35.5 kilometres, Le Mevel took the top spot and a three-second time bonus, ahead of Roelandts and Augé. The only other sprint is way later, at km 160 in Escurolles. The feed zone is at km 91, in Chappes.

14:21 CET    79km/99km to go
The average speed so far is just under 40km/h. The front group is getting close to the first ranked climb of the day.

14:23 CET    82km/96km to go
Augé takes the points on top of the Côte de la Croix du Chêne, ahead of Le Mevel and Veelers.

Stéphane Augé (Cofidis) took the first KOM today
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

14:29 CET   
We will bring you live coverage from Paris-Nice for the rest of the week, but unfortunately cannot have a second ticker for Tirreno-Adriatico. We will however inform as best as we can from any major developments of the Italian stage race in the ticker here.

14:36 CET   
Bjarne Riis has admitted to doping and talked in length to Cyclingnews' Kirsten Robbins. Read part one of the two-part interview.

14:37 CET    92km/86km to go
It is still raining cats and dogs, as the leaders continue with a lead of 6:45.

14:39 CET   
There seem two teams in the peloton, the blue team and the black team. With all the rain riders have opted to cover their jerseys under their rain coats.

14:42 CET    95km/83km to go
Astana is on the front, interestingly enough with a mix of jackets - even one team couldn't agree on a colour... Astana is cutting down the lead to 6:25, while Roelandts grabs a bottle from one of his soigneurs. Augé is coming back, too, as the riders passed the feed zone.

Riders on the back of the bunch stop for a nature break, while Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Silence-Lotto) has to stop for some other reason: His front wheel is flat.

14:45 CET   
The bunch is heading through Sazeret. Astana is currently not having the yellow jersey on the road - that belongs to Bodnar in the break, who started the day 31 seconds behind. The Liquigas rider is getting instructions right now from his directeur sportif, along with a bottle.

14:46 CET   
Bodnar was stagiaire with Liquigas in 2006 and has been riding for the Italian team since.

14:49 CET   
The wind is coming from the right but it is not only the wind that bothers the riders. The driving rain is not a favourite weather pattern. Augé has an interesting colour combination. His red Cofidis outfit is accompanied by a black west. The back of his shorts have yet another colour, but that's just the dirt from the road and will wash out tonight.

14:51 CET   
Roelandts has shorts with the Belgian colours on it he is the reigning Belgian champion. Roelandts was supposed to be the leader for Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne but did not have a good day and finished more than eight minutes down. He will try to get his season back on track which started out good in the Tour of Qatar and the Ruta del Sol, where he had a few top five finishes.

14:53 CET    99km/79km to go
The break's lead has dipped below the six-minute mark for the first time since a while. The maximum lead was around seven minutes.

Current situation

  • Stéphane Augé (Cofidis), Maciej Bodnar (Liquigas), Jürgen Roelandts (Silence-Lotto), Christophe Le Mevel (Française des Jeux) and Tom Veelers (Skil-Shimano)
  • Peloton at 5.58

14:58 CET   
The peloton is pretty strung out, still led by Astana. That is what you get for taking the yellow jersey on the first day.

Tony Rominger once won the Giro d'Italia by leading the whole race and he said afterwards that it was the hardest thing he had ever done and even thought it accelerated the end of his career. It is mentally hard to be in the lead for three weeks. Fortunately for Contador, Paris-Nice is only one week

14:59 CET   
Quick Step is also wearing black rain coats, as well as Liquigas. The Euskaltel riders are easier to spot, with their orange jackets.

15:03 CET    106km/72km to go
Veelers pulls through in the break. He won the U23 Paris-Roubaix race in 2006.

The bunch comes to a sharp right. They have to be careful on the slippery pedestrian crossing. They get really slippery in the rain. For the 1991 World Championships they put carpet on top of them. But it is impossible to do it on a point to point race. Astana takes the turn nicely, the back end of the field has to come to a screeching halt.

It is the "accordion effect" that makes racing at the back much harder, as the riders have to stop and start constantly.

Philippe Gilbert had a good start to the season, racing actively in the Omloop
Photo ©: Bjorn Haake
(Click for larger image)

15:08 CET   
Augé also took the top spot in the second climb of the day, the Cote de Chavenon. He was ahead of Le Mevel and Bodnar. The Frenchman now leads the KOM classification with eight points, ahead of Aitor Hernandez (Euskaltel - Euskadi) who was in the break yesterday.

Philippe Gilbert (Silence-Lotto) has gotten rid of his jacket, as the rain has stopped for now. The lead has increased again to 6:01. Will Astana be content to give up the jersey and avoid the Rominger effect? Contador made it clear that for him all that counts is to have the jersey on Sunday in Nice.

15:12 CET    110km/68km to go
Roelandts seems to be getting cold hands. He goes to the team car and gets some full finger gloves to put on. He needs some help from his teeth to get all settled.

The gap is going down again, it is 5:50 now.

15:15 CET   
Contador's black jacket covers his yellow jersey, making it harder for the spectators to catch a glimpse of him as the peloton speeds by. Heinrich Haussler made it a little easier for the fans, his green points jersey visible under a clear rain coat.

Roelandts has switched sides and is now to then right of his team car. His teeth didn't do a good job and the passenger fixes up the left glove of the Belgian.

15:18 CET   
In case you missed the earlier announcement, Cyclingnews has started its forum, so you can log on and discuss Paris-Nice, Tirreno-Adriatico and all the other great races this year. Or you can ask a tech question. Or.... well, just check it our for yourself at the Cyclingnews Forum.

15:21 CET   
It is windy again, the rain jackets and wests flapping in the wind. It is not very aerodynamic, but at least warm. Everybody is of course on overshoes and leg warmers. And sunglasses, which they don't need for the UV rays today, but it helps to keep the dirt out of their eyes. Most riders have opted for clear lenses, but a few have dark ones. We hope they still can see the road on a dark day, where all cars and motor bikes have their lights on.

The gap is down to 5:25.

15:23 CET    116km/62km to go
The road is rolling, with meadows to both sides of it. There are occasional farm houses – we are in true French countryside.

15:27 CET   
Contador wipes the rain drops off his face. At least the frame of his glasses are yellow, to make it easier to recognise him.

The bunch takes a left on a roundabout, without problems. Astana has given up on the front and leaves it to the sprinters to close the gap. Cervélo and Columbia-Highroad take over. They will have to make up 5:07 over the remaining 60 kilometres.

The bunch passes Lapeyrouse, the tennis courts to the right. But they don't stop for a match, heading straight through a roundabout and past a lake on their right.

15:29 CET   
Le Mevel moved over Française des Jeux from Crédit Agricole after the latter team stopped last year. He is often in breaks and an aggressive rider. He finished 40th in the Tour de France last year.

15:32 CET    120km/58km to go
All riders in the break look rather serious, but smile when they come by the TV camera. Better to let the peloton think that they are doing OK. But the bunch is going full gas now, with the lead closing in to five minutes.

Too fast for Thomas Voeckler (BBox Bouygues Telecom), who drops off the back as the peloton rides over a bridge that marks the start of the final climb of the day.

15:34 CET   
The break has about five, more km to go to the top. They switch through nice and smoothly.

Voeckler is having a bad time, trying to adjust his gloves. He is still within the cars though and could use that to come back on the descent.

15:34 CET   
David Millar is joining Voeckler at the back end.

15:36 CET   
Bodnar is the next to try to get his gloves on, using his teeth to try to pull them over his frozen hands. His efforts leave him some 100m behind the front group.

15:37 CET   
So there are two Bbox and two Garmin riders at the back, but they appear to making it back to the peloton.

The same is true for Bodnar. The gap between the two groups is 4:24

Current situation

  • Stéphane Augé (Cofidis), Maciej Bodnar (Liquigas), Jürgen Roelandts (Silence-Lotto), Christophe Le Mevel (Française des Jeux) and Tom Veelers (Skil-Shimano)
  • Peloton at 4.24

15:40 CET    125km/53km to go
The front group is back together and so is the peloton, with Millar and Voeckler back in the mix.

Paul asks if the descent is treacherous. Yes, it is still wet and the biggest danger is the white centre line, which can get very slippery. The road itself shouldn't be so bad - it is often more dangerous when it just started to rain and the dirt mixes with the water to make it slippery.

One km to go for the break to the top and soon we will know how the descent looks.

15:41 CET   
The front group makes it look a flat piece of road. They switch through in a counter clockwise rotation. Will they sprint for it?

15:42 CET   
Augé sits in next-to-last, ahead of Roelandts. He is out of the saddle, Bodnar leads the group.

15:43 CET   
Now Augé moves to the front, passing the others on the right. Le Mevel sits behind him.

15:44 CET    126km/52km to go
Augé gets it, the others don't really contest. Le Mevel follows in second, Veelers in third.

The gap is below four minutes.

15:46 CET   
The bunch is still led by Cervélo and Columbia. The pace isn't all-out, but definitely fast enough that you can see some riders gritting their teeth. Iñigo Cuesta (Cervélo TestTeam) is leading the bunch.

They ride over the top 3:13 behind the leaders

15:48 CET   
The break has made it down to Lalizolle safely, The descent wasn't so bad, on a wide road and fairly straight. The break now rides through a bit of a forest.

15:50 CET   
Rabobank is also near the front. The Dutch team lost its main rider, Joost Posthuma. He was sixth before today's stage but was unable to start today. Posthuma won the stage race in De Panne, Belgium, last year.

15:51 CET    132km/46km to go
The bunch has passed Lalizolle as well, heading into the forest area. Michael Barry (Team Columbia - Highroad) leads the charge.

15:52 CET   
Now Rabobank takes over at the front; five riders of the Dutch team take control and leave Barry behind.

The pace has gone up again, the bunch is string out in a long line.

15:55 CET   
We will call the quality of this road as a typical French country side road, with a pretty rough surface. The break comes through Vicq and take the roundabout, located at the town's entrance, at full speed. The Rabo work brings the lead down below three minutes.

15:58 CET   
Mayhem at the back of the field. Riders are single file, with the wind coming from the right. The bunch lines up from right to left to avoid the wind, but the last riders have nowhere to go. So they are single file and are unprotected from the wind.

A Cervélo rider is gapped and it will be very difficult for him to get back.

15:59 CET   
An AG2R rider receives the same fate. It is a frustrating situation, because you are only a few metres off and think you can close the gap, but you can't.

And Rabobank causes a split!

16:01 CET   
The Dutch team knows about riding in the wind! More and more riders drop out of contention, but Rabobank has forced a split from the peloton with about 15 riders, including five Rabobankers.

Gert Steegmans (Team Katusha) and Marcus Burghardt (Team Columbia - Highroad) seem to be in the break.

Astana is behind, the gap is maybe 100m.

16:02 CET    143km/35km to go
Evans is in a group further back, heading over a railroad crossing.

16:05 CET   
Contador is in the third group and tries to time trial back to the second group!

But it is hard and he is glad he gets help from Christophe Moreau.

16:07 CET    147km/31km to go
The group of 20 is about 200m ahead of the peloton, and a small group is in-between. Many behind have sat up.

Bodnar is out of the front group.

16:11 CET    147km/31km to go
The group of 20 is about 200m ahead of the peloton, and a small group is in-between. Many behind have sat up.

Bodnar is out of the front group.

16:13 CET   
This is amazing, the whole peloton has fallen apart.

Contador looked good going back to the group on a climb, but he has no teammates left. His group is still behind the Rabobank leaders, which appears to have gobbled up the break.

16:15 CET    151km/27km to go
Yes, the Rabobank group is now leading the race, with the Contador group at 21 seconds. He has a couple of teammates left here.

16:17 CET   
Haussler has been dropped off the front group. He is with Tanking and Taaramae, waiting for the next group.

The ten leaders cross a bridge. They have 25 seconds on the Haussler group and 35 on Contador - so Contador is losing time.

16:18 CET   
The Haussler and Contador group have merged, as the leaders pass the 25km to go sign.

Frank Schleck (Team Saxo Bank) is also in the second group.

16:19 CET   
The four from the initial break (Auge, Le Mevel, Veelers and Roelandts) hang tough in the front group.

David Millar has a flat on his back wheel!

16:21 CET    156km/22km to go
He gets a quick change and is up and riding again.

The front group consists of Jürgen Roelandts (Silence-Lotto), Juan Antonio Flecha, Juan Manuel Garate, Sebastian Langeveld (Rabobank, Sylvain Chavanel, Kevin Seeldrayers (Quick Step), Christophe Le Mevel (Française des Jeux), Marcus Burghardt (Team Columbia - Highroad), Stéphane Auge (Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne), Tom Veelers (Skil-Shimano) and is now 36 seconds ahead of the Contador group.

16:22 CET   
Saxo Bank takes over the lead in the second group, hoping to keep Schleck in contention.

16:24 CET    158km/20km to go
The front group works well together and they have only 20km left to race. This could be quite an interesting move and certainly offers an unexpected end to the third stage.

Instead of a bunch sprint we get an interesting constellation for the overall.

16:25 CET   
A typical long, absolutely straight road - and the second group can see the first one, but the gap has increased to 40 seconds.

16:25 CET   
The wind is coming from the right, the front group takes very quick changes, moving out to the right and dropping back.

16:26 CET   
It helps to have riders like Chavanel, Flecha or Langeveld pulling...

16:28 CET    161km/17km to go
Chavanel has one of those nose patches that help with breathing and it seems to work for him. He takes the sprint ahead of Garate and Seeldrayers

16:29 CET   
Voigt has taken things on in the second group, but the gap stays at a little more than half a minute.

Evans is still further back in a third group.

16:30 CET    163km/15km to go
It is a high-speed chase down into Vichy. Only 15km left. Who will have yellow tonight?

16:31 CET    165km/13km to go
Chavanel is the best placed rider in the break, 19 seconds down and in seventh place. Millar was sixth, but his flat caused him all chances.

16:33 CET   
The front group looks still fluid, while the second group seems to have given yp a bit. Some riders can sit up and take off their jackets.

Indeed, the gap is now 50 seconds!

  • Jürgen Roelandts (Silence-Lotto), Juan Antonio Flecha, Juan Manuel Garate, Sebastian Langeveld (Rabobank), Sylvain Chavanel, Kevin Seeldrayers (Quick Step), Christophe Le Mevel (Française des Jeux), Marcus Burghardt (Team Columbia - Highroad), Stéphane Auge (Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne)
  • Contador group (30 riders) at 0:50

16:34 CET   
It doesn't help to have a Rabobank rider in third spot of the second group. He will do nothing for the chase and in fact interrupt the rhythm.

The gap is now one minute!!!

16:35 CET    167km/11km to go
The front group is closing in on Vichy. They are still pulling through nicely.

Contador doesn't look happy behind, but not much he can do.

16:36 CET   
The Ardoissier passes the front group and holds up the sign with the new gap and the group likes the sign: 1:06.

16:37 CET    169km/9km to go
Haussler sits at the back of the Contador group. There will be no sprint victory for him today, but he wants to keep the jersey. He is five points ahead of Contador.

16:37 CET   
In the front Roelandts is a good sprinter, but he may be a tad tired after his long break today.

16:38 CET    170km/8km to go
A tight roundabout with a divider in the middle of the road after the roundabout slows down the second group - slows it down more than the front runners, which can go around much more fluid.

16:40 CET    171km/7km to go
Quick Step and Rabobank have done all the work. This could also be a chance for Burghardt, who didn't have to work and was not in the break of the day.

Seven more kilometres.

16:40 CET   
Now the group hits a very narrow road, which will further help them against the bigger group. The road widens again some three km for the finish.

16:41 CET   
Burghardt lifts his arm. A problem? Or just a last advise?

16:41 CET    173km/5km to go
A problem! Poor guy has a flat. He will be out of the running. A slow change, too.

16:42 CET   
Burghardt flatted on his back wheel, that was bad timing.

Kroon is leading the bunch, 1:10 behind

16:43 CET   
Chances of Roelandts have increased, he was able to "rest" since being caught. Auge is also still there, but not with his sprinting legs.

16:44 CET   
Columbia helps with the chase now, as Burghardt is out of the picture, but the front group is slowing a bit. Tactics already?

16:45 CET   
No, just a turn for which they slowed. The gap is 1:20. Chavanel will be thinking of yellow, not the stage.

16:45 CET    176km/2km to go
The road has widened again, with a divider in the middle. They ride on the left hand side of it.

16:46 CET   
Contador sits in the group, pedals along.

A Rabobank rider attacks the front group!

16:46 CET   
He passes the flamme rouge with 50m, Chavanel goes after him.

16:47 CET    177km/1km to go
It was Flecha and Chavanel has caught up with him.

16:47 CET   
But the others come back, with a few hundred metres to go,

16:47 CET   
Everything together

16:48 CET   
Flecha goes again, he opts for a ling sprint.

16:48 CET   
He is marked once again by Chavanel.

16:49 CET   
Flecha looks spent, his legs giving in as he approaches the line. Can he hold?

16:49 CET   
No!!! Chavanel passes him just before the line. Nice win!

16:49 CET   
Roelandts was too tired, he finished last in the group.

16:49 CET   
A dejected Burghardt comes in some half minute later.

16:50 CET   
Haussler takes the sprint of the bunch on the line and should keep his green jersey.

17:04 CET   
Well, this was quite a surprising finish what before hand was looked at as a stage for the sprinters. Contador lost his overall lead but certainly there is enough road for him to make up time.

Rabobank's Dutch wind training provided the perfect battle ground on a rainy and windy day in France. What will come tomorrow? Join us again at 14:00 for our live coverage and find out.

And if you want to discuss today's events, don't forget you can do so now in the Cyclingnews Forum.

À Bientôt

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