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The cycling season has started - Paris-Nice

Added: sunday 11 March 2007 at 19:52:00
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    The cycling season has started - Paris-NiceUntil a few days before the start it was pretty unsure whether it would take place, but this afternoon the prologue in Issy-les-Moulineaux announced the start of Paris-Nice, the race to the sun (La course au soleil). Since it takes place in March, Paris-Nice is seen as the start of the cycling season on the road.

    UCI Pro Tour versus ASO
    Since December 2006 ASO (Amaury Sport Organisation), which among other events organises Paris-Nice and the Tour de France, and the organisors of the Giro d'Italia (RCS Sport) and the Vuelta (Unipublic SAU) discussed with the UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale) about the UCI Pro Tour in order to come to a more open model instead of the model which these organisers see as a too closed model which only has economic goals.
    The model these organisers would like to use is based on a number of criteria which would allow choosing the best teams to participate. As such, 18 teams would be chosen and up to 2 extra teams could be invited with a wildcard. They would like to use this model from 2008 and for the transition year 2007, 18 teams have been chosen and up to 4 wildcards can be used. The 18 teams which have been chosen are AG2R Prévoyance, Bouygues Telecom, Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears, Cofidis, Crédit Agricole, Discovery Channel, Euskaltel-Euskadi, Française des Jeux, Gerolsteiner, Lampre-Fondital, Liquigas, Predictor-Lotto, Quickstep-Innergetic, Rabobank, Saunier Duval-Prodir, T Mobile Team, Team CSC and Team Milram.
    According to UCI's model all UCI Pro Tour teams must participate in Pro Tour races (including the 3 big tours) and the big problem is that in this list of 18 teams two of the UCI Pro Tour teams are missing: Unibet.com and Astana. As a reaction, the UCI said doing this in the interest of cyclism and said it's strange that ASO - a commercial organisation - says this model is too closed.

    In short, the organisors of 11 races (Paris-Nice, Tirreno-Adriatico, Milano-San Remo, Paris-Roubaix, la Flèche Wallonne, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Giro d'Italia, Tour de France, Vuelta a España, Paris-Tours and Giro di Lombardia) would like to decide themselves which teams participate in their races, while the UCI rules indicate that the UCI decides which teams participate in the UCI Pro Tour and that these teams have to participate in all UCI Pro Tour races.

    Since the discussions didn't really move forward, ASO had already found a temporary solution by organising Paris-Nice complete outside the UCI organisation in collaboration with the Fédération Française de Cyclisme (FFC). However, as an answer to this decision UCI had forbidden all UCI Pro Tour teams to participate in Paris-Nice ... a big threat to Paris-Nice!!

    A sunny start of the prologue of Paris-NiceOnly last Monday a temporary solution was found by not obliging the aforementioned races to have all UCI Pro Tour teams participating in 2007. Furthermore, the goal is now to find a final solution before September 21st, 2007 by having regular discussions ...

    Finally, the following teams participate in Paris-Nice this year: AG2R Prévoyance, Agritubel, Astana, Bouygues Telecom, Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears, Cofidis, Crédit Agricole, Discovery Channel, Euskaltel-Euskadi, Française des Jeux, Gerolsteiner, Lampre-Fondital, Liquigas, Predictor-Lotto, Quickstep-Innergetic, Rabobank, Saunier Duval-Prodir, T Mobile Team, Team CSC and Team Milram

    The prologue
    David Millar - winner of the prologue of Paris-NiceParis-Nice's prologue was an individual time trial over a distance of 4,7 kilometer in Issy-les-Moulineaux and has been won by the Scot David Millar (Saunier Duval-Prodir) in only 6m01s26 followed by:
    2 - Roman Kreuzinger (Liquigas, CZE) at 1s
    3 - Sébastien Joly (FRA, Française des Jeux) at 2s
    4 - Luis Leon Sanchez Gil (Spain, Caisse d'Épargne) at 3s
    5 - Alberto Contador Velasco (Spain, Euskaltel Euskadi) at 3s
    6 - Levi Leipheimer (USA, Discovery Channel) at 3s
    7 - Francisco Jose Ventoso Alberdi (Spain, Saunier Duval-Prodir) at 4s
    8 - Remmert Wielinga (NED, Saunier Duval-Prodir) at 4s
    9 - Thomas Lövkvist (SWE, Française des Jeux) at 5s
    10 - Joost Posthuma (NED, Rabobank) at 5s

    The other stages
    After this prologue Paris-Nice will continue to Nice in 7 stages:
    - Monday 12 March: Cloyes-sur-le-Loir > Buzançais - 186 km
    - Tuesday 13 March: Vatan > Limoges - 177 km
    - Wednesday 14 March: Limoges > Maurs la Jolie - 215.5 km
    - Thursday 15 March: Maurs la Jolie > Mende - 169.5 km
    - Friday 16 March: Sorgues > Manosque - 178 km
    - Saturday 17 March: Brignoles > Cannes - 200 km
    - Sunday 18 March: Nice > Nice - 129.5 km

    The results of these stages can be followed live on the Paris-Nice website.

    All photos I took during the prologue of Paris-Nice can be found here (38 photos!).

    by Thomas Vergouwen
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