Contador wins Paris-Nice opener

Alberto Contador likes to say he doesn’t feel obliged to win, so perhaps it's just that he can’t help himself. The 25-year-old Spaniard is turning into a modern-day cannibal, seemingly winning at will as he continues his superb start of the 2009 season. 2009 Paris-Nice

By Andrew Hood

Paris-Nice 2009: Contador gets off to a good start.

Paris-Nice 2009: Contador gets off to a good start.

Photo: Graham Watson

Alberto Contador likes to say he doesn’t feel obliged to win, so perhaps it’s just that he can’t help himself.

The 25-year-old Spaniard is turning into a modern-day cannibal, seemingly winning at will as he continues his superb start of the 2009 season.

2009 Paris-Nice
Stage 1, Amily time trial 9.3 km (5.78 miles)

Winner: Alberto Contador (Astana) in 11:05
Leader: Contador
Winner’s average speed: 50.35 kph (31.28 mph)
Best Young Rider: Tony Martin (Columbia-Highroad), fourth overall at 11 seconds.
Best Team: Astana
Points Leader: Contador
Peloton: 159 riders started and completed the stage
Up next: Stage 2 is 195.5 km (121.5 miles) from Saint-Brisson-sur-Loire to La Chapelle-Saint-Ursin. The route includes two category 3 climbs and finishes with a 39.5 km circuit.

Just two weeks after winning a time trial and the overall at his season debut at the Volta ao Algarve in Portugal, Contador was back in the winner’s circle Sunday after taking a surprise victory in a rainy 9.3km course to open the 68th Paris-Nice.

“It’s a surprise for me to win, above all against the specialists on such a flat course,” Contador said after his third win of 2009. “I haven’t changed my position on the bike, but I’ve been training a lot of hours on the bike to be able to maintain the time trial position. The explanation today is that I just had good sensations.”

Paris-Nice 2009: Contador starts out in yellow.

Paris-Nice 2009: Contador starts out in yellow.

Photo: Graham Watson

It was all rain in the so-called “Race to the Sun,” the first major stage race of the 2009 season. Showers fell throughout the afternoon as 159 riders lined up in Amilly.

Despite wet and slippery conditions, Contador knocked back Olympic individual pursuit champion Bradley Wiggins (Garmin-Slipstream) by seven seconds to claim the race leader’s yellow jersey.

Stopping the clock at nine seconds slower to finish third was Luís León Sánchez (Caisse d’Epargne), winner of the Tour Mediterranéen last month.

“El pistolero del Pinto” covered the 9.3km course in 11 minutes, 6 seconds with an average speed of 50.3kph, relegating several “chrono” specialists to leftovers on the short by intense course.

“I didn’t think I won when I crossed the line. I thought Wiggins beat me by a few seconds,” Contador said. “I felt very good, even though the first reference wasn’t very good. Nevertheless, in the final, where it appeared some people were getting stuck a little, I went very well, even though I didn’t expect to win.”

Tony Martin, the rising German start at Columbia-Highroad, was fourth at 11 seconds slower to take the best young rider’s jersey while David Millar was 13 seconds off the pace with fifth to give Garmin-Slipstream two in the top 5.

Antonio Colom (Katusha), another candidate for overall victory, rode well to finish eighth at 19 seconds back while Rèmi Pauriol (Cofidis) continued his fine early season performances with 10th at 22 seconds slower.

Wiggins second, VdV crashes

Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis) set an early fast time among the favorites in 11 minutes, 24 seconds. The Frenchman, who won a stage last year in Cannes, is hoping for a strong Paris-Nice ahead of the spring classics.

Paris-Nice 2009: Wiggins takes second at seven seconds.

Paris-Nice 2009: Wiggins takes second at seven seconds.

Photo: Graham Watson

The rainy conditions seemed to hamper some riders. Olympic time trial silver medalist Gustav Larsson (Saxo Bank) crashed on a curve after posting the second fastest split and finished out of the top 10.

It was still raining when Wiggins hit the course. He posted the fastest split at 5.3km, knocking 12 seconds of Chavanel’s fastest time and set the time to beat.

Caisse d’Epargne’s Sánchez posted a strong time, but couldn’t knock down Wiggins’ mark and settled for third on the stage.

“I have to be satisfied with my performance, because against a super Contador, there was nothing else to do,” Sánchez said. “Despite the rain, which I never like anyway but it was (raining) for all the riders today, I did a strong ride, with excellent sensations. I came to this Paris-Nice to try to win it or at least be among the first in GC. My sensations today augment my motivation.”

While Wiggins and Millar finished in the top 5, American Christian Vande Velde hit the deck on a wet corner during his European debut for 2009, AFP reported.

Fifth in last year’s Tour de France, Vande Velde suffered various contusions in his fall in the opening stage that cost him a strong finish. Vande Velde finished 142nd at 1:15 off the pace.

Revenge tour?

The mostly flat out-and-back course in Amilly didn’t favor Contador, but the Astana rider perhaps wanted to make a point.

Last year, Contador couldn’t defend his titles at either Paris-Nice or the Tour de France after his Astana team was excluded from both races by event organizers.

Contador handled the rain with few problems.

Contador handled the rain with few problems.

Photo: Agence France Presse

This year, Contador is already off to a good start at Paris-Nice before looking ahead toward his main goal of returning to the Tour in July in position to reclaim his title.

“Paris-Nice is a race that motivates me and I want to win it. But it will be hard to go for the overall because we have lots of hard stages ahead of us,” he said. “To have won this stage and taken the yellow jersey is already a great satisfaction.”

Contador’s victory already gives him a cushion against some of his would-be rivals.

Last year’s runner-up, Rinaldo Nocentini (Ag2r-La Mondiale), forfeited 34 seconds, just as Czech climber Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas).

Frank Schleck, the dangerous climber at Saxo Bank, rode well in the discipline that doesn’t favor him to stop the clock at 36 seconds off the pace to slot into 32nd overall.

Paris-Nice 2009: Evans finished more than half-a-minute back.

Paris-Nice 2009: Evans finished more than half-a-minute back.

Photo: Graham Watson

Russian Vladimir Efimkin (Ag2r) lost 1 minute while Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) didn’t want to take any risks to finish 19th at 31 seconds back.

With sprint stages on deck for Monday and Tuesday, Astana will look for some help from the sprinter teams to control the pack and perhaps even give away the jersey.

After all, if Contador wants to win, Nice is still a week away.

“I am not the favorite, because the race has just started and you have to remain calm,” Contador said. “We may have to give up the jersey, because this race cannot be controlled by one team. For me, it’s as if Paris-Nice begins tomorrow.”

Photo Gallery


1. Alberto Contador (Spa), Astana, at 11:05 (50.4kph)
2. Bradley Wiggins (GB), Garmin-Slipstream, at 0:07
3. Luis-Leon Sanchez (Spa), Caisse d’Epargne, at 0:09
4. Tony Martin (Ger), Columbia-Highroad, at 0:11
5. David Millar (GB), Garmin-Slipstream, at 0:14
6. Joost Posthuma (Ned), Rabobank, at 0:18
7. Sylvain Chavanel (Fra), Quick Step, at 0:19
8. Antonio Colom (Spa), Katusha, at 0:19
9. Vladimir Karpets (Rus), Katusha, at 0:21
10. Rémi Pauriol (Fra), Cofidis, at 0:22
11. Kévin Van Impe (Bel), Quick Step, at 0:25
12. Cyril Lemoine (Fra), Skil-Shimano, at 0:25
13. Jens Voigt (Ger), Saxo Bank, at 0:27
14. Marco Pinotti (Ita), Columbia-Highroad, at 0:29
15. Niki Terpstra (Ned), Milram, at 0:30
16. Heinrich Haussler (Ger), Cervélo TestTeam, at 0:30
17. Sergio Paulinho (Por), Astana, at 0:31
18. Maciej Bodnar (Pol), Liquigas, at 0:31
19. Cadel Evans (Aus), Silence-Lotto, at 0:31
20. Jakob Fuglsang (Den), Saxo Bank, at 0:31
21. Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr), Astana, at 0:31
22. Maxime Monfort (Bel), Columbia-Highroad, at 0:32
23. Carlos Barredo (Spa), Quick Step, at 0:32
24. Christophe Riblon (Fra), Ag2r La Mondiale, at 0:33
25. Samuel Sanchez (Spa), Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 0:33
26. Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita), Ag2r La Mondiale, at 0:34
27. Roman Kreuziger (Cze), Liquigas, at 0:34
28. Piet Rooijakkers (Ned), Skil-Shimano, at 0:34
29. Martin Velits (Svk), Milram, at 0:34
30. Hayden Roulston (NZl), Cervélo TestTeam, at 0:35
31. Markel Irizar (Spa), Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 0:36
32. Frank Schleck (Lux), Saxo Bank, at 0:36
33. Christian Knees (Ger), Milram, at 0:37
34. Jussi Veikkanen (Fin), Française Des Jeux, at 0:37
35. Thomas Voeckler (Fra), BBox Bouygues Telecom, at 0:38
36. Damien Monier (Fra), Cofidis, at 0:38
37. Daniel Moreno (Spa), Caisse d’Epargne, at 0:39
38. Evgeni Petrov (Rus), Katusha, at 0:39
39. Haimar Zubeldia (Spa), Astana, at 0:39
40. Sébastien Turgot (Fra), BBox Bouygues Telecom, at 0:39
41. Daniel Navarro (Spa), Astana, at 0:40
42. Brian Vandborg (Den), Liquigas, at 0:40
43. Weert Kevin De (Bel), Quick Step, at 0:40
44. Sandy Casar (Fra), Française Des Jeux, at 0:41
45. Juan Manuel Garate (Spa), Rabobank, at 0:41
46. Mark Renshaw (Aus), Columbia-Highroad, at 0:41
47. Christophe Moreau (Fra), Agritubel, at 0:41
48. Rein Taaramae (Est), Cofidis, at 0:41
49. Simon Spilak (Slo), Lampre-NGC, at 0:42
50. Imanol Erviti (Spa), Caisse d’Epargne, at 0:42
51. Gorka Verdugo (Spa), Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 0:42
52. Andreï Amador (CRc), Caisse d’Epargne, at 0:42
53. Steven Cozza (USA), Garmin-Slipstream, at 0:42
54. Marcel Sieberg (Ger), Columbia-Highroad, at 0:42
55. Kevin Seeldrayers (Bel), Quick Step, at 0:44
56. Nicolas Vogondy (Fra), Agritubel, at 0:44
57. Albert Timmer (Ned), Skil-Shimano, at 0:44
58. Jérôme Pineau (Fra), Quick Step, at 0:45
59. Markus Fothen (Ger), Milram, at 0:45
60. Karsten Kroon (Ned), Saxo Bank, at 0:45
61. Aitor Hernandez (Spa), Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 0:46
62. Danny Pate (USA), Garmin-Slipstream, at 0:46
63. Michael Schär (Swi), Astana, at 0:46
64. Yann Huguet (Fra), Agritubel, at 0:46
65. Oscar Pereiro (Spa), Caisse d’Epargne, at 0:47
66. Martin Müller (Ger), Milram, at 0:47
67. Benjamin Noval (Spa), Astana, at 0:47
68. Jeremy Hunt (GB), Cervélo TestTeam, at 0:47
69. Juan Antonio Flecha (Spa), Rabobank, at 0:48
70. Jürgen Roelandts (Bel), Silence-Lotto, at 0:48
71. Juan José Oroz (Spa), Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 0:48
72. Daniel Martin (Irl), Garmin-Slipstream, at 0:49
73. Gustav Larsson (Swe), Saxo Bank, at 0:49
74. Nicolas Roche (Irl), Ag2r La Mondiale, at 0:49
75. Matthieu Ladagnous (Fra), Française Des Jeux, at 0:49
76. Kort Koen De (Ned), Skil-Shimano, at 0:49
77. Bram Tankink (Ned), Rabobank, at 0:50
78. Trent Lowe (Aus), Garmin-Slipstream, at 0:50
79. Aleksandr Kuschynski (Blr), Liquigas, at 0:50
80. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel), Silence-Lotto, at 0:50
81. Nick Nuyens (Bel), Rabobank, at 0:50
82. Floris Goesinnen (Ned), Skil-Shimano, at 0:51
83. Jonathan Hivert (Fra), Skil-Shimano, at 0:51
84. David Moncoutie (Fra), Cofidis, at 0:51
85. Philippe Gilbert (Bel), Silence-Lotto, at 0:51
86. Xavier Florencio (Spa), Cervélo TestTeam, at 0:51
86. Maarten Tjallingii (Ned), Rabobank, at 0:51
88. Thomas Rohregger (Aut), Milram, at 0:51
89. Alan Perez (Spa), Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 0:52
90. Michael Barry (Can), Columbia-Highroad, at 0:52
91. Marcus Burghardt (Ger), Columbia-Highroad, at 0:52
92. Mirco Lorenzetto (Ita), Lampre-NGC, at 0:52
93. Thomas Fothen (Ger), Milram, at 0:52
94. Cyril Gautier (Fra), BBox Bouygues Telecom, at 0:53
95. Amaël Moinard (Fra), Cofidis, at 0:53
96. Gert Steegmans (Bel), Katusha, at 0:53
97. Alexandr Dyachenko (Kaz), Astana, at 0:53
98. Pierre Rolland (Fra), BBox Bouygues Telecom, at 0:54
99. Nikita Eskov (Rus), Katusha, at 0:54
100. Inaki Isasi (Spa), Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 0:54
101. Nicki Sørensen (Den), Saxo Bank, at 0:54
102. Iñigo Cuesta (Spa), Cervélo TestTeam, at 0:55
103. Chris Sørensen (Den), Saxo Bank, at 0:56
104. Mevel Christophe Le (Fra), Française Des Jeux, at 0:56
105. Frederik Willems (Bel), Liquigas, at 0:56
106. Francisco Reda (Ita), Quick Step, at 0:57
107. Jose Luis Arrieta (Spa), Ag2r La Mondiale, at 0:57
108. Maxime Bouet (Fra), Agritubel, at 0:57
109. Mickaël Buffaz (Fra), Cofidis, at 0:57
110. Yury Trofimov (Rus), BBox Bouygues Telecom, at 0:57
111. Alexandr Kolobnev (Rus), Saxo Bank, at 0:58
112. Sébastien Joly (Fra), Française Des Jeux, at 0:58
113. Matthias Russ (Ger), Milram, at 0:59
114. Jérémy Roy (Fra), Française Des Jeux, at 0:59
115. Thomas Peterson (USA), Garmin-Slipstream, at 1:00
116. Vladimir Efimkin (Rus), Ag2r La Mondiale, at 1:00
117. Joan Horrach (Spa), Katusha, at 1:00
118. Jose Angel Gomez Marchante (Spa), Cervélo TestTeam, at 1:02
119. Stijn Vandenbergh (Bel), Katusha, at 1:02
120. Tom Veelers (Ned), Skil-Shimano, at 1:02
121. Sébastien Chavanel (Fra), Française Des Jeux, at 1:02
122. Francesco Gavazzi (Ita), Lampre-NGC, at 1:02
123. Mickaël Delage (Fra), Silence-Lotto, at 1:03
124. David Lopez Garcia (Spa), Caisse d’Epargne, at 1:03
125. Geoffroy Lequatre (Fra), Agritubel, at 1:03
126. Stephane Goubert (Fra), Ag2r La Mondiale, at 1:04
127. Hubert Dupont (Fra), Ag2r La Mondiale, at 1:05
128. Enrico Franzoi (Ita), Liquigas, at 1:06
129. Walle Jurgen Van De (Bel), Quick Step, at 1:06
130. Yohann Gene (Fra), BBox Bouygues Telecom, at 1:06
131. Mathew Hayman (Aus), Rabobank, at 1:06
132. Jelle Vanendert (Bel), Silence-Lotto, at 1:07
133. Sylvain Calzati (Fra), Agritubel, at 1:07
134. Ivan Santaromita (Ita), Liquigas, at 1:08
135. Mathieu Perget (Fra), Caisse d’Epargne, at 1:09
136. Serge Pauwels (Bel), Cervélo TestTeam, at 1:09
137. Murilo Fischer (Bra), Liquigas, at 1:09
138. Sebastian Langeveld (Ned), Rabobank, at 1:10
139. Pietro Caucchioli (Ita), Lampre-NGC, at 1:12
140. Romain Feillu (Fra), Agritubel, at 1:14
141. Alexandre Botcharov (Rus), Katusha, at 1:14
142. Christian Vande Velde (USA), Garmin-Slipstream, at 1:15
143. Sébastien Hinault (Fra), Ag2r La Mondiale, at 1:15
144. Anthony Charteau (Fra), Caisse d’Epargne, at 1:15
145. Christophe Laurent (Fra), Agritubel, at 1:16
146. Samuel Dumoulin (Fra), Cofidis, at 1:16
147. David Loosli (Swi), Lampre-NGC, at 1:18
148. Alexandre Pichot (Fra), BBox Bouygues Telecom, at 1:18
149. Marco Bandiera (Ita), Lampre-NGC, at 1:18
150. Daniel Fleeman (GB), Cervélo TestTeam, at 1:18
151. Manuele Mori (Ita), Lampre-NGC, at 1:19
152. Wilfried Cretskens (Bel), Silence-Lotto, at 1:20
153. Javier Aramendia (Spa), Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 1:21
154. Stéphane Auge (Fra), Cofidis, at 1:21
155. Theo Eltink (Ned), Skil-Shimano, at 1:22
156. Olivier Bonnaire (Fra), BBox Bouygues Telecom, at 1:28
157. Matthew Lloyd (Aus), Silence-Lotto, at 1:39
158. Matteo Bono (Ita), Lampre-NGC, at 1:42
159. Mickael Cherel (Fra), Française Des Jeux, at 1:55