Richie Porte: Aussie Rules at Paris-Nice

Richie Porte wins Paris-NiceRichie Porte of Team Sky has become the first Australian to win Paris-Nice following a stunning climb of the Col d’Eze at the end of the final stage, 9.6km Individual Time Trial. The 28-year-old Tasmanian rider went into today’s stage in yellow as a firm favourite, not least because as a resident of nearby Monaco he knows the terrain intimately and had even told reporters earlier that he tackles the intimidatingly steep Col d’Eze, ‘…every other day.’ Regardless of any ‘home turf’ advantage, Porte’s performance over the last week of riding at the Paris-Nice has been exceptional (and exceptionally well supported by the wider team); as a domestique who served as one of Wiggin’s most reliable lieutenants through 2012 he never waivered and now, seemingly unshackled, looks certainly to be one to follow.


Today’s ITT stage time for Porte was set at 19minutes 1second, just four seconds slower than the fastest time ever up the climb, which was set by Wiggins in 2012. Garmin Sharp’s Andrew Talansky landed 23seconds adrift for second place on the ITT Stage – and second overall to boot (+55seconds), whilst Movistar’s Nairo Quintana took third on the stage and Jean-Christophe Peraud (AG2R) was third overall. Speaking afterwards, Porte said, ‘I can’t believe it. The first Aussie to win such a big race and it’s just an honour to have my name up there with Bradley Wiggins, Tony Martin and all the big champions.’



Damien Gaudin Wins Paris-Nice Prologue

Damien Gaudin Wins Paris-Nice PrologueEuropcar’s Damien Gaudin has become the first Frenchman to win the Paris-Nice Prologue since Laurent Brochard 13 years ago; the three-time French Pursuit Champion completed the technical and winding 2.9km course through the streets of Houilles in 3minutes, 37seconds, to take an early lead in the eight day event which will conclude with the Time Trial climb of the Col d’Éze on Sunday, March 10. Gaudin beat Omega Pharma-Quick Step’s Sylvain Chavanel (the French National TT Champion) and third placed Lieuwe Westra (Vacansoleil-DCM, the Dutch TT Champion) by just one second.


Despite his numerous track successes, today marked the first road tour podium finish for Gaudin, which saw him comment post-event, ‘It’s just mad… I’ve been waiting for this for six years. Every year at the end of the season, I was telling myself, “It went well, only a win is missing… “ I’m a several times French Pursuit Champion and I know how to prepare for this type of efforts. I took many risks because I knew there was something to do today since Fabian Cancellara or Lars Boom were not here. Now I count on my mates to help me keep this jersey for a while. I can tell you one thing. I won’t have it in Nice, but I’ll hold it tomorrow at the start, and hopefully at the finish.’


Paris-Nice continues tomorrow with the 195km Saint-Germain-en-Laye to Nemours stage.



Paris-Nice Win for Wiggins

Yesterday (March 10) saw a decisive overall win for Team Sky’s Bradley Wiggins at Paris-Nice. Wiggins went into the eighth and final stage – Nice to Col d’Eze (individual time trial) – with a 6 second lead which he spectacularly managed to stretch to 8 seconds across the 9.6km route to be crowned king of the ‘Race to the Sun’, arguably the biggest win of his career to date. Vacansoleil-DCM’s Lieuwe Westra finished two seconds down on the ITT to take second on the stage and overall with Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) taking the third overall spot.


The 31-year-old becomes only the second Briton to win what is one of the biggest races on the cycling calendar outside of the three Grand Tours, emulating Tom Simpson who triumphed at Paris-Nice in way back in 1967. Team Sky’s Sports Director Sean Yates summed things up saying, ‘Everything’s gone our way except the rain on the prologue day. But Brad’s capped it off with a perfect scenario winning the stage and the GC and it’s quite a big day for the team.’


Wiggins himself commented, ‘I always said it was about me doing my ride, emptying it to the top which was always going to be horrible. It was a 19-minute effort and pacing wise we got it absolutely perfect. Then it just depended on what everyone else did and there was one guy in Westra who got very close but it’s job done.’ Adding in typically gracious style, ‘I’m pleased more for everyone else rather than myself after all the hard work the boys have put in this week. Ultimately it fell on my shoulders to finish the job off and I’m just made up that I was able to do that.’



Sick Schleck

The RadioShack-Nissan squad has today (Tuesday, February 6) announced that Andy Schleck has been forced to withdraw from Paris-Nice due to the development of gastroenteritis. Already reportedly unwell during yesterday’s Stage 2 – the 185.5 km, Mantes-la-Jolie to Orléans route – Schleck’s condition deteriorated with Team Director Alain Gallopin explaining, ‘He was able to finish the stage but that costed (sic) a lot of energy. This morning Andy felt better, but in the bus he got stomach problems and high temperature again. That’s why we decided not to let him take the start, while not being healthy.’


In a statement the Luxembourg star said, ‘I really wanted to try, 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.’ Could that be the Tour de France he’s talking about?



Paris-Nice Opener

With more than a dash of national-characteristic cliché it’s probably fair to say that it takes a Brit to defy the weather like that seen at the start of yesterday’s Paris-Nice and still post a blistering time. But so it was for Team Sky’s Bradley Wiggins who made his start on the opening Time Trial (9.4km, Dampierre-en-Yvelines to Saint-Remy-les-Chevreuse) third from last with heavy rain blighting conditions and the seemingly impossible task of catching up on a time of 11’19” set by Sweden’s Gustav Larsson of Vacansoleil-DCM. Finishing just a second behind the Swede, Wiggins took overall second to set himself up nicely for the coming stages.


Less fortunate was Team Saxo Bank, who not only saw Juan Jose Haedo replaced due to illness by Anders Lund at the last minute, but then witnessed their Belgian star Nick Nuyens crash out brutally on a descent and slam hip-first into a traffic island. After a check-up in hospital a bruised Nuyens reported: “Luckily, there are no broken bones. But naturally, I’m sore and especially my hip took a hard beating in the crash. My preparations for the Ronde van Vlaandern are only in danger if I’m unable to complete Paris-Nice so I’m really hoping that I’ll be back in the saddle tomorrow…”


Paris-Nice continues today with a flat, and hopefully dry, 185.5km run from Mantes-la-Jolie to Orléans.



Paris-Nice: Preview.

Running from Sunday March 4 to 11 the 2012 Paris-Nice is almost upon us. This, the 70th edition of the classic, will cover a total distance of 1,155.5 km across 8 stages with director Christian Prudhomme describing it thus:  ’As the season’s first major stage race in Europe, it provides an opportunity to test out the winter training regime but remains a major event in its own right – and a key ingredient of the complete rider’s CV. This major anniversary year will be no pushover, especially if the weather – as is so often the case in March – decides to blow hot and cold.’


As with many of the most iconic races on the season’s calendar the history of the Paris-Nice has its roots in newspaper publishing. First held in 1933 (and won by Belgium’s Alfons Schepers) it was the brainchild of Albert Lejune who owned two newspapers – Le Petit Journal in Paris, and, lacking some titular imagination, Le Petit Niçois in Nice. Wanting to strengthen the association between the two publications, and of course drive up circulation in the process, Lejune followed the lead of the Tour de France (already well established with a 30 year lead) and the only-slightly-younger Giro d’Italia (1909) and established what was initially called, in rough translation, ‘Six Days of the Route.’


Ownership of the race has changed hands several times over the decades, but is now under the control of Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), the organisers of the Tour de France, Paris–Roubaix and other iconic French sporting events, and has been part of the UCI World Calendar since 2009.


In time-honoured fashion Cyclo brings you a few nuggets of cycle trivia for the exclusive use of winning pub arguments:


Sean Kelly (Ireland) won in 1988 for the seventh time in seven years – a record that still stands.


For two years (2000 – 2002) the race was under the control of double Tour de France winner Laurent Fignon before ownership passed to ASO.


Despite the name the race invariably starts south of Paris – the 2012 edition begins in    Dampierre-en-Yvelines.


For fairly obvious reasons the race has acquired the moniker ‘The Race to the Sun’


Jacques Anquetil has bagged 5 wins on the race (1957, 1961, 1963, 1965 & 1966),  Eddy Merckx, Joop Zoetemelk and Laurent Jalabert each have three victories to their names.


France has the most wins with 21, followed by Belgium (14), Ireland (8) and the Netherlands and Spain equal on 5.


The tragic death of Kazakhstan’s Andrei Kivilev at the 2003 edition was instrumental in the UCI making the wearing of helmets mandatory.


The 2012 Paris-Nice Stages:


Stage 1 Dampierre-en-Yvelines – Saint-Rémy-lès-Chevreuse 9.4 km (ITT)

Stage 2 Mantes-la-Jolie – Orléans 185.5 km

Stage 3 Vierzon – Le Lac de Vassivière 194 km

Stage 4 Brive-la-Gaillarde – Rodez 178 km

Stage 5 Onet-le-Château – Mende 178.5 km

Stage 6 Suze-la-Rousse – Sisteron 178.5 km

Stage 7 Sisteron – Nice 219.5 km

Stage 8 Nice – Col d’Èze 9.6 km (ITT)



Nice Won

After 8 electrifying days of competition and 1,307km of gruelling peddling the opening leg of the  European UCI World Tour has drawn to a close with the 69th edition of Paris-Nice now over. And what an event of (quite literal) ups and downs it has been: Day Two saw New Zealander Greg Henderson (Team Sky) sprint to victory across the 199km stage from Montfort l’Amaury to Amilly whilst Tony Martin of HTC-Highroad smashed through day 6’s 27km time-trial to lead with two stages remaining.


But the most dramatic racing was saved for today where the race really failed to live up to its more common name, “Race to the Sun”, as riders battled horrendous weather on the final 124km loop out and back from Nice which had riders testing themselves to the limits on climbs up the Côte de Duranus, the Col du Chateauneuf and Col de Calaïson, before the long final rain-soaked straight. French champion Thomas Voeckler of Europcar was first man home on the day (3h15’58”) but there was no denting Martin’s overall lead as he became only the third German ever to win Paris-Nice with a time of 34h03’37”. Radioshack’s Andreas Kloden took second (+00’36”) with a third place for Britain’s Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky, +00’41”).



Race to the Sun

For the first time in 15 years there was no prologue to this years Paris-Nice (more often referred to as “Race to the Sun” now in its 69th edition) which begins today, instead it kicks off with a straight stage that will give the sprinters a fighting chance at the leader’s Jersey, taking in looping laps from and to Houdan over a distance of 154.5 km.


Over the next 7days the tour takes rides from the flatlands of central France to the challenging mountain terrain that rings its south-eastern coastline, with individual time-trials on day/stage 6 (March 11) over 27km on the Rognes to Aix-en-Provence section. This will be the first time since 1968 that the Paris-Nice has featured individual time-trials of such length.


22 teams are fielding competitors, including Team Radioshack, Leopard-Trek, Saxo Bank Sunguard and Britain’s Sky Pro Cycling with Australian Michael Rogers spearheading the attack. Rogers, who joined Team Sky following five seasons with HTC-Columbia, had a pretty miserable time of it in the Algarve following a sinus infection, but now reports that he is eager to test himself on across this tough 1,307km opening leg of the  European UCI World Tour.


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