Paris-Nice Redux: First Boonen, Now Floyd
Yes folks, it’s time for the “Race to the Snow”, or was that “Race to the Sun”. If you are worried about global warming, a trip to the Paris-Nice will convince you that it might not be so bad … as Boonen is still hot from the desert, and Floyd brought some California ‘heat’ to warm the first 4 days.
The prologue took place in Issy-les-Moulineaux, a suburb of Paris which is also home to the ASO, organizers of the event. CSC has dominated this race for the last two years, and they came out strong with Bobby Julich winning the event. Bobby almost seemed surprised, saying that he had been taking it easy, doing a lot of cross-country skiing, and not as much cycling as perhaps would warrant a win.
The first stage was 193 km from Villemandeur to Saint-Amand-Montrond, heading south under not the best of conditions. It was, as sprinters stages so often are, fairly uneventful. However, there was an interesting ending; Tom Boonen won the stage with his Rainbow Jersey and became the first World Champion to win a stage at Paris-Nice since Jan Raas in 1980. Boonen narrowly beat the Australian Alan Davis who didn’t have the team support Boonen benefited from, but his second place was still impressive. Julich got knocked into 2nd overall, and Davis’ teammate, Andrey Kashechkin, ended up 3rd on GC.
Stage two came with rain and snow, and plenty of jackets, gloves, and rain capes for accompaniment. The stage was 200 km from Cerilly to Belleville, a town in the valley just west of the Alps. For yours truly, the highlight of the day was the incredible solo breakaway by the French rider Nicolas Crosbie. Nicolas rides for Agritubel, the new pro-tour team which impressed me so much in last years Paris-Roubaix as a wild-card, placing two riders well ahead of many of the big name teams. Crosbie was away by himself from the 1km mark, and stayed away for 190 km, just being caught within the final 10. Again it was Boonen who won the stage, with Davis right behind, leaving the GC unchanged. Davis moved up to 6th, 24 seconds back.
Stage three saw the first real climbing as the riders took on six climbs over 169 km from Julienas to St. Etienne. Many riders abandoned, as the cold, crashes, and precipitation took their toll. Everyone knew the race would be wide open today, as Boonen had already announced he wouldn’t be defending his yellow jersey, and the climbers were happy to have something more their style.
The peleton splintered as the mountains came, until there were only a few true contenders left, including David Moncoutie, Jose Azevedo, Floyd Landis, Frank Schleck, Samuel Sanchez, and the surprise stage winner Patxi Vila Errandonea. He and Landis escaped from the bunch on the last summit and came in together. It was a huge day for the Basque rider, as it was his first professional win. Landis was quite pleased as well, as he took the yellow jersey from Boonen, and promised to defend it tomorrow. Vila Errandonea moved into 2nd on GC with Samuel Sanchez in third. Boonen may have lost yellow, but he still keeps his points jersey and the daily prize that goes with it.
Tomorrow is a pretty flat run down to Rasteau, with the only obstacle being the 1161 m climb over the Col de la Republique right out of the blocks, so don’t expect any shaker on gc – that will happen Friday, Saturday and Sunday when the route gets decidedly ‘bumpy’.
Paris-Nice GC After Stage 3
1. Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak Hearing Systems 14.46.28
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. Josй Azevedo (Por) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 1.35
7. Haimar Zubeldia (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 1.37
8. Pietro Caucchioli (Ita) Credit Agricole 1.39
9. Stefan Schumacher (Ger) Gerolsteiner
10. Josй Luis Rubiera (Spa) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 1.40
11. Christopher Horner (USA) Davitamon-Lotto 1.43
12. Erik Dekker (Ned) Rabobank
13. Axel Merckx (Bel) Phonak Hearing Systems 1.47
14. Luis Sanchez (Spa) Liberty Seguros-Wьrth Team 3.02
15. Vladimir Guysev (Rus) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 3.12
16. Cйdric Vasseur (Fra) Quick Step-Innergetic 3.33
17. Sandy Casar (Fra) Franзaise des Jeux 3.51
18. Marcus Zberg (Swi) Gerolsteiner 3.59
19. Matteo Carrara (Ita) Lampre-Fondital 4.00
20. Alexandre Botcharov (Rus) Credit Agricole 4.01