Dekker pulls off Paris-Tours stunner; Bettini takes World Cup lead

Flying Dutchman Erik Dekker measured his efforts just right to pull off a stunning victory in Sunday’s Paris-Tours. The 34-year-old Rabobank veteran was off the front all day as part of a five-man breakaway across the Loire Valley in France. When his fellow escapees dissolved under pressure from the fast-charging peloton, Dekker hitched a ride with a counter-attack late in the 252.5km race. Dekker sprinted hard with 500 yards to go to hold off the peloton and notch his first major victory since his injury-plagued 2002 season. “In the end, everybody was chasing me thinking I was tired,

By Andrew Hood

Dekker holds them off

Dekker holds them off

Photo: Graham Watson

Flying Dutchman Erik Dekker measured his efforts just right to pull off a stunning victory in Sunday’s Paris-Tours.

The 34-year-old Rabobank veteran was off the front all day as part of a five-man breakaway across the Loire Valley in France. When his fellow escapees dissolved under pressure from the fast-charging peloton, Dekker hitched a ride with a counter-attack late in the 252.5km race.

Dekker sprinted hard with 500 yards to go to hold off the peloton and notch his first major victory since his injury-plagued 2002 season.

“In the end, everybody was chasing me thinking I was tired, including my teammates who were working for Oscar (Freire),” Dekker said. “But I was stronger. It was hard all day because there were only five of us in the break.”

There was a lot at stake more than just the day’s honors. Paris-Tours was the ninth of 10 events in this season’s World Cup, which enters the history books at the end of the season ahead of the Pro Tour in 2005.

Paolo Bettini (Quick Step) started the day in second place behind World Cup series leader Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner), but bounced into the lead going into Saturday’s World Cup finale at the Giro di Lombardia. Bettini took over the lead with 340 points, while Rebellin slipped to second at 327.

Photo: Graham Watson

Penultimate World Cup battle
The 98th Paris-Tours is one of the oldest races in cycling and marked the return of World Cup racing following a break for the Vuelta a España and the road world championships. It was a cool autumn morning in Saint Arnoult en Yvelines (note quite in Paris, but close enough for the poster-makers) with many riders donning arm and leg warmers for the 252.5km journey south across the heartland of France toward Tours.

Oscar Freire (Rabobank) seemed to enjoy the day, taking the opportunity to debut his rainbow jersey he earned last weekend in Verona.

“I had a lot of motivation to debut my rainbow jersey at this year. I felt good but the final was very hard,” Freire said. “The best thing is that a teammate won the race and to have options to be on the final podium at the World Cup.”

Also making a debut of sorts was Chris Horner, racing with a European team for the first time since 1999. Horner made his first appearance sporting his new Saunier Duval colors and will race next weekend in Italy. The American finished 50th with the same time as winner.

Photo: Graham Watson

Despite a huge storm brewing off the Atlantic Coast, riders enjoyed fairly good riding weather and even enjoyed a mostly tailwind through much of the course. It didn’t take long for the action to kick start. Early in the race, a group of nearly 20 riders extracted themselves from the main bunch. It would turn out to be the decisive move as eventually four riders – Dekker, Vladimir Gusev (CSC), Bram Tankink (Quick Step) and Manuel Quinziato (Lampre) — pulled away from the leaders. Another rider, Eric Berthou (RAGT), bridged out at about 70km to make it a fivesome.

While Paris-Tours is often trumpeted as a the “sprinters” World Cup, the race has rarely finished in a mass gallop the past several years. Richard Virenque made an epic solo victory in 2001 and Jakob Piil (CSC) won in 2002 in a two-man break that featured none other than suicide-break specialist Jacky Durand.

Last year, Paris-Tours lived up to its billing, with Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo) dying at the line, allowing Erik Zabel (T-Mobile) to sneak past to grab the victory. With both of those riders missing — Petacchi was sidelined with a cold and Zabel with an injured heel after he fell off a ladder — there wouldn’t be the big sprinter teams to control the race. Cofidis and Quick Step collaborated and it seemed the Dekker move was going to see an early end when the lead was trimmed to less than three minutes with 50km to go. Dekker had something else in mind. The rolling course is tougher than it looks on paper, especially after a long season and nearly 250km of racing. The experienced Dutchman took matters into his own hands, shooting away from the break with about 25km to go. Only the stubborn Gusev was able to stay on his wheel. The gap was under one minute with about 10km to go, usually a sign to throw in the towel, but Dekker kept driving. The young Russian was doing what he could to hang on, but eventually dropped back with the main bunch in sight. Just as it appeared as Dekker’s adventure was over, he hitched a ride on a counter-attack out of the main bunch, following the wheel Juan Antonio Flecha (Fassa Bortolo), Matthias Kessler (T-Mobile) and a few others with just over 5km to go.

Dekker was in the early break, too

Dekker was in the early break, too

Photo: Graham Watson

It was a race against time with the peloton bearing down. Kessler drove hard and Dekker struggled to stay on his wheel. In an unlikely finish, Kessler started the sprint but Dekker came around to snatch the victory just as the peloton came pouring across the line.

A late spill seemed to help Dekker hold off the main bunch, which momentarily lost its focus on the final charge down the Avenue Grammont in Tours.

“Only five of us broke way and I wanted to make sure I stayed out in front,” Dekker said. “I only believed in my chances 500 meters from the line.”

Coming through second was Danilo Hondo (Gerolsteiner) with Freire taking third behind his teammate. Allan Davis (Liberty Seguros) and Stuart O’Grady (Cofidis) finished fourth and fifth, respectively, just like they did last weekend in Verona. Kessler hung on to finish seventh.

Cofidis in pursuit

Cofidis in pursuit

Photo: Graham Watson

It marked an important milestone for Dekker’s who’s struggled with injury since crashing out of the 2002 Milan-San Remo. Dekker had won the 2001 World Cup and won four stages in the 2000 and 2001 Tours de France, but has struggled since.

Dekker’s victory evoked Virenque’s solo win in 2001, when the scandalized French rider came back from a doping sanction to win in an epic solo break.

Dekker’s comeback was under different circumstances, but the Dutchman was thankful nonetheless.

“Now I have a better appreciation of what Virenque did three years ago,” Dekker said. “I was injured for the better part of two years and my dream was to win a World Cup classic or a stage in the Tour de France to erase the bad memories. For me, today was very special.”

Behind the winner, there was still a frantic charge for World Cup points. Bettini said he had hoped to do better, but was nonetheless satisfied with the outcome.

“I finished sixth, which was good, but I was boxed in when I tried to grab Freire’s wheel in the sprint. I wasn’t able to contest the sprint to my maximum,” said Bettini, winner of the past two World Cups. “At day’s end I took back the jersey of World Cup leader. The overall crown will be decided at Lombardia. It’s close on points, but Rebellin is going to have to attack me if he wants a shot at winning.”

Photo Gallery


1. Erik Dekker (Nl), Rabobank, 252.5km in 5:33:03 – (45.489kph)

2. Danilo Hondo (G), Gerolsteiner, 00:00

3. Oscar Freire (Sp), Rabobank, 00:00

4. Allan Davis (Aus), LIB, 00:00

5. Stuart O’Grady (Aus), Cofidis, 00:00

6. Paolo Bettini (I), QuickStep, 00:00

7. Matthias Kessler (G), T-M, 00:00

8. Uros Murn (SLO), Phonak, 00:00

9. Jaan Kirsipuu (Est), AG2, 00:00

10. Eddy Mazzoleni (I), Saeco, 00:00

11. Stefan Van Dijk (Nl), Lotto-Domo, 00:00

12. Philippe Gilbert (B),, 00:00

13. Davide Rebellin (I), Gerolsteiner, 00:00

14. Alexandre Usov (Blr), Phonak, 00:00

15. Cristian Moreni (I), Alessio, 00:00

16. Peter Van Petegem (B), Lotto-Domo, 00:00

17. Eric Baumann (G), T-M, 00:00

18. Anthony Geslin (F), BRI, 00:00

19. Inaki Isasi (Sp), Euskaltel-Euskadi, 00:00

20. Pablo Lastras (Sp), ILL, 00:00

21. Mirko Celestino (I), Saeco, 00:00

22. Guido Trenti (USA), Fassa Bortolo, 00:00

23. Andrej Hauptman (SLO), Lampre, 00:00

24. Gert Steegmans (B), Lotto-Domo, 00:00

25. Karsten Kroon (Nl), Rabobank, 00:00

26. Andy De Smet (B), MRB, 00:00

27. Florent Brard (F), Chocolade Jacques, 00:00

28. Gerrit Glomser (A), Saeco, 00:00

29. Samuel Sanchez (Sp), Euskaltel-Euskadi, 00:00

30. Stijn Devolder (B), U.S. Postal , 00:00

31. Christophe Brandt (B), Lotto-Domo, 00:00

32. Paolo Bossoni (I), Lampre, 00:00

33. Gregory Rast (Swi), Phonak, 00:00

34. Zbigniew Piatek (Pol), Chocolade Jacques, 00:00

35. Ruslan Ivanov (MDA), Alessio, 00:00

36. Steven De Jongh (Nl), Rabobank, 00:00

37. Roberto Petito (I), Fassa Bortolo, 00:00

38. Juan Antonio Flecha (Sp), Fassa Bortolo, 00:00

39. Pineau Jérôme (F), BRI, 00:00

40. Mathew Hayman (Aus), Rabobank, 00:00

41. Gabriel Frédéric (F), MRB, 00:00

42. Rolf Aldag (G), T-M, 00:00

43. Benoit Joachim (Lux), U.S. Postal , 00:00

44. Franck Renier (F), BRI, 00:00

45. Marcus Zberg (Swi), Gerolsteiner, 00:00

46. Marc Wauters (B), Rabobank, 00:00

47. Guesdon Frédéric (F),, 00:00

48. Vasseur Cédric (F), Cofidis, 00:00

49. Andreas Klier (G), T-M, 00:00

50. Christopher Horner (USA), SAU, 00:00

51. Dmitriy Fofonov (Kaz), Cofidis, 00:00

52. Fabio Sacchi (I), Fassa Bortolo, 00:00

53. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (B), U.S. Postal , 00:00

54. Vila Errandonea Patxi Xabie (Sp), Lampre, 00:00

55. Daniele Nardello (I), T-M, 00:00

56. Giampaolo Caruso (I), LIB, 00:00

57. Marco Velo (I), Fassa Bortolo, 00:00

58. FÖrster Robert (G), Gerolsteiner, 00:11

59. Michael Albasini (Swi), Phonak, 00:20

60. Marco Serpellini (I), Gerolsteiner, 00:28

61. Andrea Tafi (I), Alessio, 00:30

62. Gianluca Bortolami (I), Lampre, 00:30

63. Wilfried Cretskens (B), QuickStep, 00:30

64. Lars Michaelsen (Dk), TEA, 00:30

65. Christophe Rinero (F), R.A, 00:30

66. Gorik Gardeyn (B), Lotto-Domo, 00:30

67. Renaud Dion (F), R.A, 00:30

68. Sergio Marinangeli (I), DOM, 00:30

69. Alberto Ongarato (I), Fassa Bortolo, 00:30

70. Francesco Chicchi (I), Fassa Bortolo, 00:30

71. Tristan Hoffman (Nl), TEA, 00:30

72. Igor Astarloa (Sp), Lampre, 00:30

73. Mc Carty Jonathan Patrick (USA), U.S. Postal , 00:30

74. Martin Elmiger (Swi), Phonak, 00:45

75. Angelo Furlan (I), Alessio, 01:42

76. Lopez José Antonio (Sp), ILL, 01:52

77. Cezary Zamana (Pol), Chocolade Jacques, 01:58

78. Kevin Hulsmans (B), QuickStep, 02:09

79. Vladimir Gusev (Rus), TEA, 02:09

80. Roy Sentjens (Nl), Rabobank, 02:27

81. Hinault Sébastien (F), CRE, 02:27

82. Joost Posthuma (Nl), Rabobank, 02:27

83. Nicolas Vogondy (F),, 02:27

84. Carlos Da Cruz (F),, 02:27

85. Fabian Cancellara (Swi), Fassa Bortolo, 02:53

86. Steffen Wesemann (G), T-M, 02:53

87. Dariusz Baranowski (Pol), LIB, 02:53

88. Arvesen Kurt-Asle (Nor), TEA, 02:53

89. Erwin Thijs (B), MRB, 02:53

90. Guillaume Auger (F), R.A, 02:53

91. Mikel Pradera (Sp), ILL, 02:53

92. Martin Hvastija (SLO), Alessio, 02:53

93. Isidro Nozal (Sp), LIB, 02:53

94. Aitor Silloniz (Sp), Euskaltel-Euskadi, 02:53

95. Josu Silloniz (Sp), Euskaltel-Euskadi, 02:53

96. Massimiliano Mori (I), DOM, 02:53

97. Francesco Failli (I), DOM, 02:53

98. Thomas Ziegler (G), Gerolsteiner, 02:53

99. Denys Kostyuk (Ukr), Chocolade Jacques, 02:53

100. Jorg Jaksche (G), TEA, 02:53

101. Frank Hoj (Dk), TEA, 02:53

102. Geoffroy Lequatre (F), CRE, 02:53

103. Matthieu Sprick (F), BRI, 02:53

104. Cadel Evans (Aus), T-M, 02:53

105. Hunt Jérémy (GB), MRB, 02:53

106. Van Impe Kévin (B), Lotto-Domo, 02:53

107. Mikel Artetxe (Sp), Euskaltel-Euskadi, 02:53

108. Baden Cooke (Aus),, 03:20

109. Andrle René (Cz), LIB, 04:44

110. Sebastian Lang (G), Gerolsteiner, 04:44

111. Yuriy Krivtsov (Ukr), AG2, 04:44

112. Francisco Ventoso (Sp), SAU, 04:44

113. Markel Irizar (Sp), Euskaltel-Euskadi, 04:44

114. Marcus Fothen (G), Gerolsteiner, 04:44

115. Jan Hruska (Cz), LIB, 04:44

116. Herve Cédric (F), CRE, 04:44

117. Maryan Hary (F), BRI, 04:44

118. Rony Martias (F), BRI, 04:44

119. Alessandro Cortinovis (I), Lampre, 04:44

120. Alessandro Ballan (I), Lampre, 04:44

121. Christophe Oriol (F), AG2, 04:44

122. PÜtsep Erki (Est), AG2, 04:44

123. Cyril Dessel (F), Phonak, 04:44

124. Gutierrez José Ivan (Sp), ILL, 04:44

125. Geert Verheyen (B), Chocolade Jacques, 04:44

126. Peter Farazijn (B), Cofidis, 04:44

127. Jurgen Van De Walle (B), Chocolade Jacques, 04:44

128. Max Van Heeswijk (Nl), U.S. Postal , 04:44

129. Stephan Schreck (G), T-M, 04:44

130. Fabio Baldato (I), Alessio, 04:44

131. Vicente Garcia Acosta (Sp), ILL, 04:44

132. Aart Vierhouten (Nl), Lotto-Domo, 05:54

133. Leon Van Bon (Nl), Lotto-Domo, 05:54

134. Peter Wuyts (B), MRB, 05:54

135. Jens Renders (B), MRB, 05:54

136. Thomas Eriksen (Dk), TEA, 05:54

137. Michael Rogers (Aus), QuickStep, 05:54

138. Davide Bramati (I), QuickStep, 05:54

139. Nicolas Reynaud (F), R.A, 07:28

140. Mauricio Ardila (Col), Chocolade Jacques, 07:28

141. Manuel Quinziato (I), Lampre, 07:31

142. Bram Tankink (Nl), QuickStep, 07:31

143. Javier Ramirez (Sp), LIB, 07:31

144. Michael Creed (USA), U.S. Postal , 07:31

145. Brian Vandborg (Dk), TEA, 07:31

146. LÖwik Gerben (Nl), Chocolade Jacques, 07:31

147. Bonomi Giosuè (I), Saeco, 07:31

148. Nicolas Fritsch (F),, 07:31

149. Bessy Frédéric (F), Cofidis, 07:31

150. Jimmy Engoulvent (F), Cofidis, 08:49

151. Unai Osa (Sp), ILL, 10:19

152. Luca Paolini (I), QuickStep, 10:19

153. Matthew White (Aus), Cofidis, 12:11

154. Jimmy Casper (F), Cofidis, 12:11

155. Mikel Astarloza (Sp), AG2, 12:11

156. Nicola Gavazzi (I), Saeco, 12:11

DNF Nick Nuyens (B), QuickStep

DNF Guennadi Mikhailov (Rus), U.S. Postal

DNF Stefano Casagranda (I), Saeco

DNF Niki Aebersold (Swi), Phonak

DNF Koldo Fernandez (Sp), Euskaltel-Euskadi

DNF Aketza Pena (Sp), Euskaltel-Euskadi

DNF Ellis Rastelli (I), Alessio

DNF Walter Beneteau (F), BRI

DNF Christophe Kern (F), BRI

DNF Freddy Bichot (F),

DNF Joan Horrach (Sp), ILL

DNF Joly Sébastien (F), CRE

DNF Mads Kaggestad (Nor), CRE

DNF Eric Leblacher (F), CRE

DNF Damien Nazon (F), CRE

DNF Juan Jose Cobo (Sp), SAU

DNF Angel Gomez (Sp), SAU

DNF David Canada (Sp), SAU

DNF Manuele Mori (I), SAU

DNF Oliver Zaugg (Swi), SAU

DNF Nicolas Inaudi (F), AG2

DNF Nazon Jean-Patrick (F), AG2

DNF Nicolas Portal (F), AG2

DNF Ben Day (Aus), MRB

DNF Kristof Trouve (B), MRB

DNF Eddy Seigneur (F), R.A

DNF Eric Berthou (F), R.A

DNF Nicolas Dulac (F), R.A

DNF Finot Frédéric (F), R.A

DNF Michele Scarponi (I), DOM

DNF Alexandre Bazhenov (Rus), DOM

DNF Alexandr Kolobnev (Rus), DOM