March 14, 2011 Leave a comment
The ‘Race to the Sun’ ended in extremely wet conditions in Nice, but French national champion Thomas Voeckler brought a little sunshine to the afternoon as he soloed to victory in the closing kilometres of the final stage of Paris-Nice, recording his second win of the week. Yellow jersey Tony Martin finished safely in a bunch containing most of the major contenders 1:22 behind, confirming the biggest win of the 25-year old German’s career to date. It was a day when most of the big names opted to ride safely rather than take unnecessary risks, with more than 50 riders choosing to abandon.
On another day, Martin might have found his overall lead coming under serious attack, but after Saturday’s incident-filled stage discretion proved to be the better part of valour for the major players, who all have bigger fish to fry later in the season. Instead a breakaway of 11 was allowed to form, including Europcar‘s Voeckler, Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana), Julien El Fares (Cofidis) and Diego Ulissi (Lampre).
The escape group was never allowed an advantage of more than 3:10 and was gradually whittled down over the day’s five climbs and descents. By the closing ascent of the Col d’Èze, only Voeckler and Ulissi remained at the front. The Frenchman attacked on the wet and treacherous descent into Nice with his customary aggression, dropping Ulissi and building enough of an advantage down the final straight to soft-pedal down the finish on a rain-soaked Promenade des Anglais with his arms upraised in celebration.
Ulissi finished on his own, 23 seconds behind, with Euskaltel-Euskadi‘s Samuel Sánchez, the only top rider to have attacked, finishing with El Fares and López 1:06 down. It was enough to allow Sánchez to leapfrog AG2R‘s Jean-Christophe Péraud into fifth overall.
2000 winner Andréas Kloden (RadioShack) and Bradley Wiggins (Sky) finished alongside Martin to maintain second and third places respectively. (Wiggins’s high finish and second place in the time trial also earned Britain important world and Olympic qualification points.)
Cofidis‘s Rein Taaramae was fourth and also won the best young rider classification. Heinrich Haussler (Garmin-Cervélo) took the points competition, while Rémi Pauriol successfully defended his lead in the mountains classification. In total only 89 riders finished the race, out of 176 starters.
Stage winner Voeckler admitted he had taken a lot of risks, but that it was worth it to have won his second stage:
It’s a great overall result. I really took a lot of risks in the descents. I thought I was too old for such risks but I’ve still got it. Of course I thought about last year when I lost on the line and that’s why it was better to finish on my own. Two stage victories is super.
I was not very lucky on Paris-Nice in recent years but this time I had good legs and it helps. I prefer to win two stages than finishing 10th or 11th. That’s the swashbuckling cycling I love, it’s fun.
Overall winner Martin was delighted by a win which, added to his triumph in the Tour of Algarve three weeks ago, sets him up well for the Tour de France:
It’s so great. It’s the biggest success ever in my career. I’m so happy but I need some time to think about it and I’m just thrilled to win now.
Yesterday, it was super cold, really dangerous in the descents and I’m very happy that I didn’t crash. I was not sure about my win today because there were strong riders in the front but everything ended fine.
It’s a fantastic start of the season, which gives me so much confidence for the next races. I’ll be ready for the season. For sure it’s my biggest goal to have a good Tour de France. I hope I can do it. I think I’m ready for it.
Stage 8 result:
1. Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) 3:15:58
2. Diego Ulissi (Lampre-ISD) +0:23
3. Julien El Fares (Cofidis) +1:06
4. Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) +1:06
5. David López Garcia (Movistar) +1:06
1. Tony Martin (HTC-Highroad) 34:03:37
2. Andréas Klöden (RadioShack) +0:36
3. Bradley Wiggins (Sky) +0:41
4. Rein Taaramae (Cofidis) +1:10
5. Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) +1:13