Top five placings in the 194-kms third stage of Paris-Nice between Vierzon and Lac de Vassiviere:
1. Alejandro Valverde (MOV)
2. Simon Gerrans (GEC)
3. Gianni Meersman (LTB)
4. Luis-Leon Sanchez (RAB)
5. Xavier Florencio (KAT) all same time.
Simon Gerrans (GEC) is second behind the Spaniard while Gianni Meersman (LTB) is third.
Alejandro Valverde (MOV) wins the third stage of Paris-Nice.
Lieuwe Westra (VCD) attacks as soon as Lagutyn has been caught.
Estonia’s Rein Taaramae (COF), fourth last year, has also been dropped by the peloton.
Carlos Barredo (RAB) is chasing alone behind Lagutin.
Geraint Thomas (SKY) and Ivan Basso (LIQ) have been dropped.
Lagutin leads the bunch by 12 seconds.
Uzbek Sergey Lagutin (VCD) attacks with three kilometres to go.
Tom Boonen (OPQ) has now ben dropped.
Movistar riders are still up front, obviously working for Valverde.
and the peloton are tackling the last climb towards Lac de Vassiviere.
Several riders have been dropped by the peloton, including Norway’s Thor Hushovd (BMC).
Km 187 - Engoulvent has been caught.
1. Jimmy Engoulvent (SAU) Three points, three seconds.
2. Geraint Thomas (SKY) 2 pts, 2 secs
3. Jose Ivan Guttierez (MOV) 1pt, 1 sec.
Km 186 - Engoulvent leads the chasing bunch by 12 seconds.
Green jersey holder Tom Boonen (OPQ) leads the peloton, perhaps working for Sylvain Chavanel.
Ten kilometres to go and Curvers and Morkov have been caught.
Caught in the crash at the back, Isaichev (KAT) has given up.
Engoulvent just surged to part company with his two breakaway companions.
Three riders crashed at the back of the bunch. The most seriously hurt was Vladimir Isaichev (KAT).
and the gap is now down to 40 seconds.
Km 176 - Omega Pharma Quick Step and Europcar join the chase and the gap goes down to 45 seconds.
and the gap is now down to 1:10.
Jerome Coppel (SAU) just punctured at the back of the bunch.
and Morkov, Curvers and Engouvlent still lead the bunch by 2:10.
The tempo increased in the peloton after Movistar took the reins. Wiggins just got rid of his thick yellow jumper as if getting ready for the big fight in the finale.
A Movistar rider now takes over from Sky at the front of the bunch. A sign of Valverde’s ambitions?
1. Curvers 4 pts
2. Engoulvent 2
3. Morkov 1
The peloton just rode through Masbaraud-Merignat, the birhtplace of Raymond Poulidor.
and the lead is now down to 2:50.
33 kms to go and three minutes left for the leading three.
The three escapees are nearing the first climb of the day, Cote de Bourganeuf (km 167.5, 3rd cat)/
and the gap now down to 3:15 between the three escapees and the peloton.
Last hour of the stage and Valverde punctures. His Movistar team-mates wait for him.
Km 141 - The gap between Morkov, Curvers, Engoulvent and the peloton is going down: 3:40.
Among the riders in the crash was Frenchman David Moncoutie (COF).
Several riders are held by a crash at the back of the peloton.
Km 135 - Seven riders from Team Sky lead the peloton at a leisurely pace. The temperature is still cold at around 4 degrees C. The gap is unchanged at 4:30.
France’s Jimmy Engoulvent (SAU), 32, has been a pro since 2001. A good time trial specialist, he won several prologues in his career, the latest last year in the Tour of Andalucia.
Dutchman Roy Curvers (PRO), 32, has been a pro since 2003. He won the Belgian semi-classic Halle-Ingooigem last year.
Denmark’s Michael Morkov (SAX), 26, is a brilliant track specialist, winner of the world Madison title in 2009. On the road, he won the Challenge Sprint Pro held as a curtain raiser of the Quebec Grand Prix in September.
Saur-Sojasun team director Lylian Lebreton said it was in their plan to have a man in the day’s break : "Since the GC is now out of touch, we had decided to have someone in the breaks and Jimmy was the man we had picked for the early stages of the race. It will be hard with only three of them but we can try something with another rider in the finale. We let the top 5 slip away yesterday but we now hope for Jerome Coppel to be able to take one of the other top ten placings from here to Nice. Of course, Jerome looks forward to the last day’s TT but Wiggins looks in the form of his life and he will be hard to beat."
The average speed in the second hour of the stage was 39.2 kph. The overall average speed was 41 kph.
Km 98.5 - The break is now in Aigurande, start of two Tour de France stages ending in Super-Besse in 2008 and 2011.
RadioShack-Nissan team director Alain Gallopin told www.letour.fr about the team strategy after Andy Schleck’s departure: "As far as Andy is concerned, he will go home and rest. If everything goes well he will join us in the South of France later this week and go on the Tour of Catalunya. For the rest, I said since the start that Maxime Monfort was our best man at the moment. And we can see that he was in the right break. Let’s not believe that it’s over. Three years ago, when Contador won the prologue, he collapsed during the weekend and I told him he had worked too hard in the first couple of days."
Team Sky sports director Nicolas Portal told www.letour.fr about his team’s strategy on the stage and further down the road:
"For us it’s an ideal scenario. Three men in the lead, reasonably mild weather, no rain. It allows us to control the race smoothly. When Brad says that Paris-Nice is not a priority, he doesn’t mean it’s not an objective, he means the Holy Grail is the Tour. For him, like for the rest of the team, this Paris-Nice is an excellent test. To defend a jersey is great apprenticeship. Then there is the stage to Mende, which does not suit Brad on paper. We’ll see how he manages. And of course, Brad is a man who knows and respect cycling history and the time trial on the Col d’Eze is a stage he dreams about. In any case, he will have to do well on the last day to win Paris-Nice."
The average speed in the first hour was 42.8 kph.
Km 70 - Morkov, Curvers and Engoulvent lead the peloton by 4:30.
Lac de Vassiviere always crowned big names in the peloton. Three individual time trials took place on the banks of the lake on the Tour de France. In 1985, the winner was Greg LeMond. Five years later, Erik Breukink won the stage and LeMond took a decisive lead over Claudio Chiappucci on the eve of the Tour finish in Paris. In 1995, Miguel Indurain won his last Tour stage victory in Vassiviere.
Km 63 - The lead is stable at 4:30.
With three men in the lead, the favourites can now relax a bit and wait for an exciting finale by the lake of Vassiviere. A first third category climb in Bourganeuf could launch the hostilities while the last five kilometers are uphill and could suit a rider like Alejandro Valverde, the most often cited name at the start.
Km 43 - Morkov, Engoulvent and Curvers lead the peloton by 4:35.
French cycling hero Raymond Poulidor won Paris-Nice 40 years ago and the stage today finishes near his birthplace, on a circuit bearing his name.
“1972 caused a real fuss. And then the year after I won Paris-Nice t again and it went nearly unnoticed. But there was so much fuss in 1972. I was a year older in 1973, at 37, but 1972 is the year people remember,” he told local daily Le Populaire du centre.
Km 28.5 - Issoudun was the finish of a Tour de France stage in 2009, won by Briton Mark Cavendish.
Km 25 - The gap is now 4:40.
Km 19 - Morkov, Engoulvent and Curvers now lead the bunch by four minutes. Team Sky riders are at the front of the peloton.
The three escapees now lead the bunch by 2:30.
The 173 riders still in the race belong to 27 nations. France is the stronger contingent (40), followed by Belgium and Spain (22).
Belgium: 22 (23 minus Nuyens in stage 1)
United States: 6
Belarus, Slovenia : 3
Britain, Kazakhstan, Norway, Poland, Switzerland: 2
Brazil, Colombia, Croatia, Estonia, Ireland, Japan, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Uzbekistan, Sweden: 1
Km 8 - The three lead the bunch by 45 seconds.
Michael Morkov (SAX), Jimmy Engoulvent (SAU) and Roy Curvers (PRO) attacked on the gun.
The real start was given at 11:57 to 173 riders. The peloton was briefly held by a railway crossing.
Briton Bradley Wiggins holds the yellow jersey after joining the wining echelon in yesterday’s stage. The Team Sky leader is trailed by American Levi Leipheimer, 6 seconds adrift, and by second stage winner Tom Boonen, who holds the green jersey.
Fourth overall, American Tejay Van Garderen retained his best young rider’s white jersey.
Belgium’s Thomas De Gendt also strengthened his polka-dot garment yesterday by finishing second on top of the only climb of the stage.
Omega Pharma Quick Step comfortably lead the team standings after their show of strength on the road to Orleans.
Local paper Le Populaire du Centre said Lac de Vassiviere, where Tour de France stages were held in the 1990s, was hoping to host another Tour finish in the near future: “It is a real test for the site,” the paper said.
Also in l’Equipe, Tom Boonen confessed he did not care too much about winning his 100th individual victory yesterday: “It’s not really something I think about, 90th or 100th, it doesn’t matter,” he said.
Actually, cycling statisticians differ. Some claim Boonen already reached the 100 mark in Qatar while Boonen himself told Belgian radio RTBF: “I actually think it’s my 117th…”
In L’Equipe, race leader Bradley Wiggins warned against over-optimism:
“I’m not in my best condition yet and to win Paris-Nice is perhaps not that important. The goal is July but it’s good for the team to have a yellow jersey to fight for.”
Km 167 – Cote de Bourganeuf (3rd cat)
Km 194 – Lac de Vassiviere (3rd cat)
Km 186 – Peyrat-le-Chateau
The start was given to 173 riders.
Lithuania’s Aidis Kruopis (GEC) did not start either.
Struggling since the start of this Paris-Nice, Andy Schleck is sick and decided to call it quits and not start the 3rd stage :
“He was sick yesterday and threw up in the bus this morning and it was not worth it. He will probably take part in the Tour of Catalunya now,” said RadioShack team director Alain Gallopin.
“I really wanted to try”, said Andy Schleck. “But against sickness you cannot do a lot. I need to let my body recover from this. This is bad news, I wanted to perform well in Paris-Nice, but I better not jeopardize the rest of the season. My goals are situated later in the season.”
Welcome on the 194-kms third stage of Paris-Nice between Vierzon and Lac de Vassiviere.