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Thomas Voeckler (Team Europcar) shows he's a strong man in Nice, Tony Martin (HTC-Highroad) wins Paris-Nice 2011

Added: sunday 13 March 2011 at 16:22:00
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    Thomas Voeckler (Team Europcar) shows he's a strong man in Nice, Tony Martin (HTC-Highroad) wins Paris-Nice 2011After a long breakaway, Thomas Voeckler (Team Europcar) won the last stage of Paris-Nice 2011 while the final victory was for Tony Martin (HTC-Highroad).

    The summary of the last stage of Paris-Nice 2011

    This moring, the Race to the sun decided not to respect the surname of Paris-Nice since the start took place under a fine rain, despite the riders hoping for better weather.

    One of the first riders to come to the signature podium was Amaël Moinard (BMC Racing Team). He didn't however come to sign in but to announce the FFC commissaire that he wouldn't start today. Juan Manuel Garate (Rabobank), Jurgen van den Broeck (Omega Pharma-Lotto), Robert Kiserlovski (Astana) who fell badly yesterday and Grega Bole (Lampre-ISD) didn't start either.

    In the rain, Andriy Grivko (Astana) was the first rider to leave the peloton, but after having had company from 9 other riders who started the pursuit, Thomas Voecklerthis first leading group was taken back by the peloton just before the French Champion, Thomas Voeckler (Europcar Team), attacked. The French rider got company from 10 other riders and today's major breakaway was thus formed around 11 riders: next to Voeckler there were Linus Gerdemann (Team Leopard-Trek), David Lopez Garcia (Movistar Team), Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana), Matthew Busche (Team Radioshack), Rémi Pauriol (FDJ), Matteo Carrara (VAC), Laurent Didier (Saxo Bank-Sungard), Julien El Farès (Cofidis), Gorka Izagirre Insausti (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Diego Ulissi (Lampre-ISD).

    In this group, which dominated today's stage, Matteo Carrara was the best placed rider in the general classification, at the 13th place at 2'50" behind Tony Martin (HTC-Highroad). Due to a flat tyre, Linus Gerdemann lost contact with this leading group and in the climb of the Col de Calaïson, Alexandre Vinokourov could no longer take up with the speed of the leading group and got dropped.

    While the peloton quickly drops back to only 22 riders, the leading group also loses 3 more riders: Laurent Didier, Rémi Pauriol and Matthew Busche get dropped.

    Samuel SanchezThe leading group slowly gets smaller and smaller and when Voeckler and Ulissi finally also drop Izagirre and El Farès, we knew that the victory would be for one of these two leading riders. Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) tried to start the pursuit but didn't really succeed.

    Thomas Voeckler was thus in a situation which was similar to the last stage of Paris-Nice 2010 and the French rider thus probably tried to do everything for a better result than last year. He managed to do so because he dropped his co-leader in the last descent and finally took a solo ride on the Promenade des Anglais, finishing 23 seconds ahead of Diego Ulissi and 1'06" ahead of Julien El Fares.

    The yellow jersey doesn't change and Tony Martin (HTC-Highroad) thus won this 69th edition of Paris-Nice thanks to his good result in the time trial close to Aix-en-Provence. Not a real surprise because the German rider was the biggest favourite, especially because of this time trial close to the end of the race.

    Tony Martin's comments as the winner of Paris-Nice 2011

    Tony MartinAfter the finish Tony Martin described his stage today:

    Nice in the rain is always dangerous, the conditions really weren't good because it was cold and raining but we got some help from riders of the Radioshack team for example and I thus continued to believe I could win it.

    I didn't expect any attacks from Wiggins or Klöden, I think they were happy with their places and they knew I was strong and would be able to follow them. I thus didn't really expect an attack from these two riders but more from riders further in the classification and that's what happened today.

    I don't think the weather was in my advantage because when you're in yellow the risk to fall is even more important. Honestly I prefer better weather conditions.


    Tony MartinConcerning his final victory and the status this might give him, the German rider added:

    I don't like to be compared to Jan Ulrich. However, I hope this will allow Germany to find back the love for cycling.

    I don't have more rights to be a leader on any race than before. In our team we have some very good riders like Peter Velits who showed what he's capable of last year in the Vuelta, or Tejay Van Garderen who will probably do the same in the Tour of California. This was my race, especially with the long time trial the race was made for me. For every race we decide who's the leader and this gets decided really depending on the race.

    People put some pression on me, this was my big goal. Now I won this race, I have some good vibrations and I'm happy I was able to resist to the pression and to have shown I'm capable to be the leader of the team. The Tour de France will be my next goal, I will be one of the leaders there. Last year I made some errors there but I learned from them
    .

    Thomas Voeckler's comments as the winner of the stage

    The French Champion descibed his victory in this final stage. After a very good Paris-Nice and especially his victory in the 4th stage, he declared: Thomas VoecklerI didn't really feel any pression; I felt I was in a good shape and that allowed me to initiate the right breakaway. I took some risks because the weather wasn't really good, but it turned out to be even better than I thought.

    Diego Ulissi didn't really show any signs of tiredness so I was a bit afraid and since I don't know him, I didn't know how he would be in a sprint. When I saw that we dropped Carrara who's a good sprinter, I thought I had a good chance to win the stage. Therefore I decided to start the descent in first position and that allowed me to win the stage.

    I didn't really think of a revenge for last year. However, in the last straight line I only thought of not starting the sprint too early. It wasn't a real revenge for me because I forgot my regrets for last year.

    When I saw riders like Maaskant on the ground yesterday, not moving anymore, I decided not to take too much risks because I didn't want to put my career at risk. I thus only took risks at the end of today's stage and I was happily surprised when I saw that I managed to drop the other riders one by one.


    The rider of the Europcar Team also answered the ever coming back question of the place French riders have in cycling worldwide and his role in keeping the team from Vendé (formerly Bouygues Telecom, now Team Europcar) alive:

    Concerning French cycling, I understand people would like to see more good results, but we shouldn't forget there's been a period where we even had less results.

    People often say I saved the Europcar Team. When I waited until the very end, I was a bit surprised by the media attention about that because for me it was just natural to do that. I didn't put my career at risk. I thus understand people talk about that but it was not only me, I didn't do anything else than the other riders who kept faith in Jean-René Bernaudeau.

    The final classifications of Paris-Nice 2011

    The classification of the last stage

    The top 5 of the last stage is complated by Samuel Sanchez and David Lopez Garcia:

    1/ Thomas Voeckler (Team Europcar) - 3h15'58"
    2/ Diego Ulissi (Lampre-ISD) - +0'23"
    3/ Julien El Farès (Cofidis, le crédit en ligne) - +1'06"
    4/ Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi)
    5/ David Lopez Garcia (Movistar Team)

    The general classification of Paris-Nice 2011

    Tony MartinNo changes in the general classification today:

    1/ Tony Martin (HTC-Highroad) - 34h03'37"
    2/ Andreas Klöden (Team Radioshack) - +0'36"
    3/ Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) - +0'41"
    4/ Rein Taaramae (Cofidis, le crédit en ligne) - +1'10"
    5/ Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) - +1'13"

    The other classifications

    The best young rider classification was won by Rein Taaramae (Cofidis, le crédit en ligne), ahead of Bauke Mollema (Rabobank) who was 54 seconds behind.

    Rémi Pauriol remained the King of the Mountains with 56 points, staying way ahead of Thomas Voeckler who finished this classification second with 29 points.

    The green jersey remained on Heinrich Haussler (Team Garmin-Cervélo)'s shoulders and with 84 points he was 14 points ahead of Andreas Klöden and 17 on Samuel Sanchez.
    Rein Taaramae Rémi Pauriol Heinrich Haussler The Paris-Nice 2011 podium

    by Thomas Vergouwen
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