Helped by three times winner Erik Zabel, Alessandro Petacchi outclassed the elite of world sprint to win his second big classic in Paris-Tours on Sunday. The 2005 Milan-San Remo winner was too strong for compatriot Francesco Chicchi and Spainâ€™s Oscar Freire, who joined him on the podium. It was Italyâ€™s first victory on the avenue de Grammont since Andrea Tafi in 2000 and Petacchi’s 130th career victory.
Ironically, Zabel had beaten Petacchi on the line to win his second Paris-Tours in 2003 before they joined forces in team Milram last season.
Paris â€“ Tours (101st edition) 256 kms
Real start given in St Arnoult en Yvelines at10:58 to 175 riders.
Magnus Backstedt (Liquigas) did not start.
Weather cool, misty at the start and sunny later on.
35 blood tests took place before the start and involved teams Lambouwkrediet, Chocolade Jacques, Agritubel, Skil Shimano and Wiesenhof.
The first move of the day took place after 2.5 kms and involved Joos Posthuma, Floris Goesinnen, Anthony Geslin and Tom Stamsnijder. The first three were joined by 19 other riders at kilometre 7.
The group of 22 comprised the following riders : Breschel (CSC), Engoulvent (CA), Rousseau (A2R), Fothen (GST), Longo (LAM), Hulsmans (QST), Vaitkus and Vandborg (DSC), PĂĽtsep and Geslin (BTL), Hayman and Posthuma (RAB), Duclos-Lassalle (COF), Tjallingii, Goesinnen and Rooijakers (SKS), Terpstra (MRM), Kuschynski (LIQ), Coenen (JAC), Sinner (AGR), Belohvosciks and Musiol (WIE).
The lead of the 22 quickly rose to settle at 35 seconds at kilometre 50. With a first hour average speed of 48.2 kph (and 51 kph in the second!), it was a very nervous start which saw the peloton split in several little bunches. Some favourites, like Belgium Philippe Gilbert or Franceâ€™s Carlos Da Cruz, taking part in his very last race, were trapped at the back. The biggest gap was 55 seconds at kilometre 65 in Bonneval.
The chase, led by teams Francaise des Jeux and Predictor-Lotto, gained momentum and the junction took place at kilometre 93.
And then there were three
At kilometre 106, the bunch split again and 35 riders emerged. They were
Gilbert (FDJ), Cancellara, Bak, Goss, Breschel and Kroon (CSC), Hinault, Hivert, Kern (CA), Dion, Krivtsov and Riblon (AG2R), Gatto, Krauss, Stamsnijder (Gerolsteiner), Napolitano and Bono (Lampre-Fondital), Van Avermaet (Predictor-Lotto), Rosseler, Vasseur (QSI), Voeckler (Bouygues Telecom), De Maar (Rabobank), Boucher (Landbouwkrediet), Duclos-Lassalle and Minard (Cofidis), Van Hummel and Vierhouten (Skil-Shimano), Fischer, Kuschynski, Quinziato (Liquigas), Lastras and Losada Alguacil (CE), Anton, Isasi (Euskaltel) Pauwels (Chocolade Jacques).
Their lead rose to the minute but quickly decreased and David Boucher, Manuel Quinziato and Serge Pauwels insisted while their 32 companions were reined in (km 135). The peloton relaxed a bit and let the three escapes build a strong lead, which reached 5:30 in the feeding zone (km 149) and topped at 7:55 at kilometre 172.
Riders from Credit Agricole and Quick Step-Innergetic, working for theiurleaders Thor Hushovd and Gert Steegmans, took the reins of the main pack and the lead gradually decreased to slump under four minutes at kilometre 200.
Petacchi, thanks to Zabel
With their break in jeopardy, the three ceased to cooperate: Quinziato dropped Pauwels, then Boucher, and went on his own. But with Bouygues Telecom taking over the chase, his lead regularly decreased (1:45 with 20kms to go, 22 seconds at the 10 kms mark). The Liquigas rider was caught with seven kilometres to go.
Philippe Gilbert joined forces with Quinziatoâ€™s team leader Filippo Pozzato and Ducthman Karsten Kroon in the finale, but the three, first chased by Fabian Cancellara,, Juan-Antonio Flecha and Jose Ivan Guttierez, were caught under the red flame.
The final sprint was perfectly launched by three times winner Erik Zabel, who led his Milram leader Alessandro Petacchi to win his second big classic and his 130th career win. Fellow Italian Francesco Chicchi (Liquigas) was second and Spainâ€™s Oscar Freirer (Arbobank) was third
Alessandro Petacchi paid tribute to Erik Zabel for sacrificing his chances and helping him win Paris-Tours for the first time.
Are you never blasĂ© of winning races?
"You never get weary of winning races. This is what Iâ€™m paid for and itâ€™s the teamâ€™s job to help me do it. I donâ€™t have enough and I still hope to win Milan-San Remo and Paris-Tours again because theyâ€™re the two races that suit me best. In Paris-Tours, I had only finished second in the past, in 2003. I want to thank Erik Zabel who sacrificed his chances for me. Itâ€™s always great to win a race when youâ€™re helped by a great champion.
Was it a revenge from your second place behind him in 2003?
It was not a revenge from 2003. In a way, Iâ€™m glad Erik won in 2003 and I did today. 2003 was a great lesson because I had attacked from too far. This time I shortened the sprint. We waited for the last 250 metres and went exactly at the right time.
How do you rate this victory?
For an Italian, Milan-San Remo is always the greatest race to win but itâ€™s always special to win a great classic like Paris-Tours. Of course, itâ€™s a great victory.