March 10, 2011 6 Comments
Andréas Klöden edged out Samuel Sánchez in the final sprint from an elite lead group of eight riders to win Paris-Nice‘s toughest mountain stage. The 35-year old RadioShack rider had not won a non-time trial stage for six years, but was doubly rewarded for his victory by taking over the yellow jersey ahead of tomorrow’s potentially decisive individual time trial.
After a number of unsuccessful breakaway attempts on a day featuring seven categorised climbs, Vacansoleil‘s Lieuwe Westra eventually escaped off the front of the peloton. He was soon joined by Arnold Jeannesson (FDJ), David López-Garcia (Movistar), Hubert Dupont (AG2R), Christophe Le Mevel (Garmin-Cervélo) and Romain Hardy (Bretagne-Schuller). The six extended their advantage over the peloton to over four minutes before the pack started to bring the gap back down again.
On the fourth climb of the day, the second-category Col de Montreynaud, Dupont, Westra and López dropped the other three. By the summit of the penultimate Col de Comberon 41km from the finish Westra was left on his own and was soon caught on the fast, technical descent by an FDJ-led peloton of around 60 riders. A seven-man break including four FDJ riders and yesterday’s winner Thomas Voeckler then flew off the front, only to be reeled back in at the foot of the Col de la Mûre, a tough first-category climb , 7.6km in length at an average of 8.3%.
Astana‘s Alexandre Vinokourov drove the pace aggressively on the steep lower slopes, setting up attacks by teammates Rémy di Gregorio and Roman Kreuziger. That was too much for most of the peloton, with yellow jersey Thomas de Gendt soon dropping out of the back, to be joined by sprinters Heinrich Haussler and Matt Goss, and overnight mountains classification leader Rémi Pauriol. The attacks continued up the climb as more riders fell away from the front. Eventually Matteo Carrara instigated the decisive move, dragging first Robert Kiserlovski with him and then Tony Martin, Sánchez, Xavier Tondó, Rein Taaramae and the RadioShack pair of Klöden and Janez Brajkovič. Other GC contenders such as 2009 winner Luis León Sánchez, Richie Porte, Bradley Wiggins and Jurgen Van Den Broeck were all dropped.
This group of eight crossed the summit, 9km from the finish, and safely negotiated a fast downhill section before a gradual rise to the finish in Vernoux-en-Vivarais. Martin led the way to the line, followed by Sánchez and then Carrara, but in the final 350 metres Brajkovič charged forward to lead out Klöden, and he was able to hold off the finish of Sánchez by half a wheel. Carrara was third, Martin fourth.
Winning the stage means that the 2000 overall winner rather than the Spanish Olympic champion has the honour of wearing the yellow jersey tomorrow:
I was 24 when I won this race, now I’m 35. It’s always a big thing to win at Paris-Nice, so I’m very happy today. It’s a surprise for me to beat Samuel Sánchez but I must give a big thank you to Jani Brajkovič. He told me “Get on my wheel, I’ll lead you out.”
Stage six tomorrow sees a 27km individual time trial which may well prove decisive in terms of determining the final general classification. The course starts downhill before rising up the Côte de la Cride, and ends with a long downhill finish in Aix-en-Provence. Klöden, no mean time-trialist himself, identified HTC-Highroad‘s Tony Martin, who currently lies fourth, ten seconds behind, as the most likely threat over the long, undulating course. Aside from Fabian Cancellara (who is racing at Tirreno-Adriatico), Martin can lay claim to be the best time trial specialist currently in the sport. Klöden admitted:
I’ll try to defend the yellow jersey but I can only do my best. Tony is a specialist for time trials. It’ll be hard to beat him tomorrow.
Stage 5 result:
1. Andréas Klöden (RadioShack) 4:59:00
2. Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) same time
3. Matteo Carrara (Vacansoleil-DCM) s/t
4. Tony Martin (HTC-Highroad) s/t
5. Rein Taaramae (Cofidis) s/t
1. Andréas Klöden (RadioShack) 24:26:13
2. Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) +0:04
3. Matteo Carrara (Vacansoleil-DCM) +0:06
4. Tony Martin (HTC-Highroad) +0:10
5. Robert Kiserlovski (Astana) +0:10
Daily live coverage and highlights of Paris-Nice are being broadcast by British Eurosport.
- RadioShack’s Andreas Kloden wins Paris-Nice stage and takes the lead (velonews.competitor.com)