Events

Hushovd takes Paris-Nice opener

If it’s short, fast and flat, chances are good that Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole) will be among the favorites in any opening prologue. The 30-year-old Norwegian sprinter confirmed he’s one of the peloton’s best “short course” time trial specialists Sunday with a solid four-second victory in the wet and windy 4.6km opener at the 66th Paris-Nice.

Hushovd powered in to win the prologue at Paris-Nice

Hushovd powered in to win the prologue at Paris-Nice

Photo: Agence France Presse

If it’s short, fast and flat, chances are good that Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole) will be among the favorites in any opening prologue.

The 30-year-old Norwegian sprinter confirmed he’s one of the peloton’s best “short course” time trial specialists Sunday with a solid four-second victory in the wet and windy 4.6km opener at the 66th Paris-Nice.

“I don’t know if I am a specialists in prologues. More than anything, I was thinking about the sprints in the first two stages and Milan-San Remo, which is my first big goal of the season,” said Hushovd, who stopped the clock in 5 minutes, 28 seconds (50.487kph). “But I also knew I was going good. I won a stage in the Tour Med and was third at Het Volk. It’s payback for the hard work this winter.”

After a tumultuous week that saw the growing row between the UCI and ASO threaten to derail the so-called “Race to the Sun,” some 160 riders from 20 teams were relieved to get down to business of racing their bikes. The threat of bans and fines be damned.

Hushovd had to dig deep against strong headwinds in the final kilometer to better a surprisingly early fast time set by Markel Irizar (Euskaltel-Euskadi), who almost got the best of Paris-Nice’s all-star cast.

Paris-Nice08Prologue - Irizar spent two hours in the hot seat.

Paris-Nice08Prologue – Irizar spent two hours in the hot seat.

Photo: Graham Watson

“I really had to give it the maximum,” said Hushovd, whose biggest prologue win came in the 2006 Tour de France. “The last two kilometers was really hard. I had the references from my teammate (William) Bonnet (5th at 0:06) and I went as hard as I could to the line. I used a lot of force.”

Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner) and Brad McGee (CSC) gave Hushovd late-race challenges, but the pair tied for third at five seconds off the pace.

If Hushovd was one of the favorites, almost no one had ever heard of Irizar.

The unheralded Basque rider, who’s never won a race since turning pro in 2004, was 13th out of the gate and stopped the clock in 5:34.

Irizar’s time withstood challenges from several big-name riders, including last year’s prologue winner David Millar (Slipstream-Chipotle), 12th at 11 seconds slower.

“It was still wet and you still had to be cautious in the corners,” Millar told VeloNews. “I didn’t take any risks, there was no point in taking any risks. It was a nice course, but there’s not much to say, really.”

Paris-Nice08Prologue - Pate put in a solid effort

Paris-Nice08Prologue – Pate put in a solid effort

Photo: Graham Watson

Danny Pate (Slipstream-Chipotle), starting second on an already damp course, posted a great time that eventually held for a rock-solid sixth at six seconds back.

Less lucky was teammate Tyler Farrar, who finished last after crashing on a wet corner in a blistering ride that looked to be on par with the best when he hit the deck.

“I’m banged up, but I’ll live to fight another day,” Farrar told VeloNews. “I was on a good ride and the splits were looking good to be in there for the win. I don’t know what happened. I came in a little hot into a corner. One second I was fine, then I was on the ground.”

Farrar was able to finish the ride, but crossed the line with a time that proved to be more than 3:00 off of Hushovd’s pace.

Paris-Nice08Prologue - Farrar ran into trouble.

Paris-Nice08Prologue – Farrar ran into trouble.

Photo: Graham Watson

Light rain fell during the middle part of the race, but lightened for the final 25 or so riders. A steady breeze quickly dried the course but the entire Slipstream-Chipotle team opted to switch out its discs for spoked wheels under the strong winds.

“I had some success in California, so I was trying to give it a shove. I didn’t even come close, it was really hard out there with the wind and wet roads,” Christian Vande Velde (Slipstream-Chipotle) told VeloNews. “It was so slippery. Tyler came in all bloody and after that, you mind slips into survival mode.”

Some of the pre-race favorites, however, forfeited some important time gaps relative to each other.

Luís León Sánchez (Caisse d’Epargne) lost 13 seconds to Hushovd, but actually gained time on Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto – 36th at 17sec), Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner – 77th at 27sec), Damiano Cunego (Lampre – 111th at 33sec) and Frank Schleck (CSC – 116th at 34sec).

Paris-Nice-08-Prologue - Schumacher comes in for third

Paris-Nice-08-Prologue – Schumacher comes in for third

Photo: Graham Watson

Hushovd isn’t expecting to hold the leader’s jersey for very long.

With this year’s Paris-Nice featuring an extremely challenging course, capped by the return of Mont Ventoux in Thursday’s stage following a 20-year absence, many are expecting the likes of Evans, Cunego and Schleck to fight for the spoils.

“This year’s Paris-Nice is very different. Ventoux changes everything,” said Team CSC sport director Kim Andersen. “It’s a hard climb, with nearly 20km of climbing. The specialists will win this race. Whoever is good on Ventoux has a good chance of winning. Our man is Schleck.”

Hushovd is hoping to defend the jersey in Monday’s rolling 184.5km stage from Amilly to Nevers tackles the Cat. 3 Côte de Venoize at 106km before storming into a punchy rising finish. The course takes a hard right-hander just under 1km to go before hitting the final 800 meters at 7.1 percent.

“The final is a climb, but I hope to challenge for the stage victory. I expect Philippe Gilbert to attack in the final 200 to 300 meters,” Hushovd concluded. “There aren’t a lot of chances for the sprinters in this Paris-Nice, so I knew today might have been my only chance. I have good form coming into the spring and I really wanted to win today.”

With the win in his pocket, Hushovd can turn his focus toward Milan-San Remo. The rest of the peloton might not have it that easy.

Paris-Nice-08-Prologue - Hushovd in yellow

Paris-Nice-08-Prologue – Hushovd in yellow

Photo: Graham Watson

Results – Prologue

1. Thor Hushovd (N), Credit Agricole, 4.4km in 5:28 (50.487kph)
2. Markel Irizar (Sp), Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 0:04
3 .Stefan Schumacher (G), Gerolsteiner, at 0:05
4. Bradley McGee (Aus), CSC, at 0:05
5. William Bonnet (F), Credit Agricole, at 0:06
6. Danny Pate (USA), Slipstream-Chipotle, at 0:06
7. Leonardo Bertagnolli (I), Liquigas, at 0:07
8. Andriy Grivko (Ukr), Milram, at 0:08
9. Karsten Kroon (Nl), CSC, at 0:08
10. Trent Lowe (Aus), Slipstream-Chipotle, at 0:09

Check back soon for more photos, complete results and a race report from VeloNews’s Andrew Hood

Photo Gallery

Results

Results – Prologue

1. Thor Hushovd (N), Credit Agricole, 4.4km in 5:28 (50.487kph)
2. Markel Irizar (Sp), Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 0:04
3 .Stefan Schumacher (G), Gerolsteiner, at 0:05
4. Bradley McGee (Aus), CSC, at 0:05
5. William Bonnet (F), Credit Agricole, at 0:06
6. Danny Pate (USA), Slipstream-Chipotle, at 0:06
7. Leonardo Bertagnolli (I), Liquigas, at 0:07
8. Andriy Grivko (Ukr), Milram, at 0:08
9. Karsten Kroon (Nl), CSC, at 0:08
10. Trent Lowe (Aus), Slipstream-Chipotle, at 0:09
11. Jens Voigt (G), CSC, at 0:11
12. David Millar (GB), Slipstream-Chipotle, at 0:11
13. Matteo Tosatto (I), Quick Step, at 0:12
14. Alberto Losada (Sp), Caisse d’Epargne, at 0:12
15. Roman Kreuziger (Cz), Liquigas, at 0:12
16. Benoît Vaugrenard (F), Francaise des Jeux, at 0:13
17. Stef Clement (Nl), Bouygues Telecom, at 0:13
18. Sandy Casar (F), Francaise des Jeux, at 0:13
19. Luis León Sanchez (Sp), Caisse d’Epargne, at 0:13
20. Craig Lewis (USA), High Road, at 0:13
21. Jerôme Pineau (F), Bouygues Telecom, at 0:14
22. Markus Eichler (G), Milram, at 0:14
23. Nicolas Vogondy (F), Agritubel, at 0:14
24. Gert Steegmans (B), Quick Step, at 0:14
25. Xavier Florencio (Sp), Bouygues Telecom, at 0:15
26. Johan Van Summeren (B), Silence-Lotto, at 0:15
27. Christophe Edaleine (F), Ag2r, at 0:15
28. Michiel Elijzen (Nl), Rabobank, at 0:16
29. Jose Luis Arrieta (Sp), Ag2r, at 0:16
30. Bobby Julich (USA), CSC, at 0:16
31. Niki Terpstra (Nl), Milram, at 0:17
32. Simon Gerrans (Aus), Credit Agricole, at 0:17
33. Juan Antonio Flecha (Sp), Rabobank, at 0:17
34. Kjell Carlström (Fin), Liquigas, at 0:17
35. Sylvain Chavanel (F), Cofidis, at 0:17
36. Cadel Evans (Aus), Silence-Lotto, at 0:17
37. Gorka Verdugo (Sp), Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 0:18
38. Bingen Fernandez (Sp), Cofidis, at 0:18
39. Wilfried Cretskens (B), Quick Step, at 0:18
40. Simon Spilak (Slo), Lampre, at 0:18
41. Lilian Jegou (F), Francaise des Jeux, at 0:19
42. Rinaldo Nocentini (I), Ag2r, at 0:19
43. Juan Manuel Garate (Sp), Quick Step, at 0:19
44. Matthieu Sprick (F), Bouygues Telecom, at 0:19
45. Oscar Pereiro (Sp), Caisse d’Epargne, at 0:19
46. Carlos Barredo (Sp), Quick Step, at 0:20
47. Remi Pauriol (F), Credit Agricole, at 0:20
48. Enrico Franzoi (I), Liquigas, at 0:20
49. Sebastien Minard (F), Cofidis, at 0:20
50. Tom Stamsnijder (Nl), Gerolsteiner, at 0:20
51. Maxime Monfort (B), Cofidis, at 0:21
52. Philippe Gilbert (B), Francaise des Jeux, at 0:21
53. Aleksandr Kuschynski (Blr), Liquigas, at 0:21
54. Andre Greipel (G), High Road, at 0:22
55. Jurgen Van den Broeck (B), Silence-Lotto, at 0:22
56. Jason McCartney (USA), CSC, at 0:23
57. Floris Goesinnen (Nl), Skil-Shimano, at 0:23
58. Ivan Santaromita (Swi), Liquigas, at 0:23
59. Carlo Westphal (G), Gerolsteiner, at 0:23
60. Sergio Ghisalberti (I), Milram, at 0:23
61. Francesco Gavazzi (I), Lampre, at 0:23
62. Robert Wagner (G), Skil-Shimano, at 0:24
63. Kevin Hulsmans (B), Quick Step, at 0:24
64. Thierry Huppond (F), Skil-Shimano, at 0:24
65. Matthias Russ (G), Gerolsteiner, at 0:24
66. Bernhard Kohl (A), Gerolsteiner, at 0:24
67. Yann Huguet (F), Cofidis, at 0:25
68. David López García (Sp), Caisse d’Epargne, at 0:25
69. Michael Albasini (Swi), Liquigas, at 0:25
70. Bram Tankink (Nl), Rabobank, at 0:25
71. Christian Knees (G), Milram, at 0:25
72. Igor Antón (Sp), Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 0:25
73. Amaël Moinard (F), Cofidis, at 0:25
74. Christophe Laurent (F), Slipstream-Chipotle, at 0:26
75. Manuele Mori (I), Saunier Duval-Scott, at 0:26
76. Clement L’Hottelerie (F), Skil-Shimano, at 0:26
77. Servais Knaven (Nl), High Road, at 0:27
78. Vicente Reynes (Sp), High Road, at 0:27
79. Björn Schröder (G), Milram, at 0:27
80. Kevin Ista (B), Agritubel, at 0:27
81. Davide Rebellin (I), Gerolsteiner, at 0:27
82. Claudio Corioni (I), Liquigas, at 0:28
83. Laurens Ten Dam (Nl), Rabobank, at 0:28
84. Dmitriy Fofonov (Kz), Credit Agricole, at 0:28
85. Thomas Peterson (USA), Slipstream-Chipotle, at 0:28
86. Mathew Hayman (Aus), Rabobank, at 0:28
87. Alexandre Botcharov (Rus), Credit Agricole, at 0:28
88. Christophe Le Mevel (F), Credit Agricole, at 0:28
89. Mario Aerts (B), Silence-Lotto, at 0:29
90. Nicolas Portal (F), Caisse d’Epargne, at 0:29
91. Iouri Trofimov (Rus), Bouygues Telecom, at 0:29
92. Freddy Bichot (F), Agritubel, at 0:29
93. Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr), Silence-Lotto, at 0:29
94. Geoffroy Lequatre (F), Agritubel, at 0:29
94. Christophe Moreau (F), Agritubel, at 0:29
96. Johann Tschopp (Swi), Bouygues Telecom, at 0:30
97. Paolo Tiralongo (I), Lampre, at 0:30
98. Dario Cioni (I), Silence-Lotto, at 0:30
99. Christian Vande Velde (USA), Slipstream-Chipotle, at 0:30
100. Peter Velits (Svk), Milram, at 0:30
101. Pierre Rolland (F), Credit Agricole, at 0:30
102. Mirco Lorenzetto (I), Lampre, at 0:30
103. Paolo Bossoni (I), Lampre, at 0:31
104. Albert Timmer (Nl), Skil-Shimano, at 0:31
105. Tom Veelers (Nl), Skil-Shimano, at 0:31
106. Robert Gesink (Nl), Rabobank, at 0:31
107. Andreas Klier (G), High Road, at 0:32
108. Christophe Brandt (B), Silence-Lotto, at 0:32
109. Matteo Carrara (I), Quick Step, at 0:32
110. Aitor Hernandez (Sp), Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 0:33
111. Damiano Cunego (I), Lampre, at 0:33
112. Fumiyuki Beppu (Jpn), Skil-Shimano, at 0:33
113. Stephane Goubert (F), Ag2r, at 0:33
114. Haimar Zubeldia (Sp), Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 0:33
115. Alexandr Kolobnev (Rus), CSC, at 0:34
116. Fränk Schleck (Lux), CSC, at 0:34
117. Marcel Sieberg (G), High Road, at 0:34
118. Matteo Bono (I), Lampre, at 0:34
119. Philip Deignan (Irl), Ag2r, at 0:34
120. Yoann Le Boulanger (F), Francaise des Jeux, at 0:35
121. Juan Jose Cobo (Sp), Saunier Duval-Scott, at 0:35
122. Koos Moerenhout (Nl), Rabobank, at 0:35
123. Hubert Dupont (F), Ag2r, at 0:35
124. Alexander Efimkin (Rus), Quick Step, at 0:35
125. Nicolas Jalabert (F), Agritubel, at 0:36
126. Lucas Euser (USA), Slipstream-Chipotle, at 0:37
127. Jose Alberto Benítez (Sp), Saunier Duval-Scott, at 0:38
128. Samuel Dumoulin (F), Cofidis, at 0:39
129. Anthony Charteau (F), Caisse d’Epargne, at 0:39
130. Pierrick Fedrigo (F), Bouygues Telecom, at 0:39
131. Bernhard Eisel (A), High Road, at 0:39
132. Anthony Geslin (F), Bouygues Telecom, at 0:39
133. Roy Curvers (Nl), Skil-Shimano, at 0:40
134. Benat Intxausti (Sp), Saunier Duval-Scott, at 0:40
135. David Arroyo (Sp), Caisse d’Epargne, at 0:40
136. Cyril Dessel (F), Ag2r, at 0:41
137. Matthew Lloyd (Aus), Silence-Lotto, at 0:41
138. Sylvain Calzati (F), Ag2r, at 0:41
139. Eduardo Gonzalo (Sp), Agritubel, at 0:41
140. Jelle Vanendert (B), Francaise des Jeux, at 0:42
141. Lander Aperribai (Sp), Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 0:42
142. Dionisio Galparsoro (Sp), Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 0:42
143. Aurelien Passeron (F), Saunier Duval-Scott, at 0:42
144. Remy Di Gregorio (F), Francaise des Jeux, at 0:43
145. Jose Angel Gomez Marchante (Sp), Saunier Duval-Scott, at 0:43
146. Mathieu Perget (F), Caisse d’Epargne, at 0:44
147. Benat Albizuri (Sp), Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 0:47
148. Arkaitz Duran (Sp), Saunier Duval-Scott, at 0:48
149. Oliver Zaugg (Swi), Gerolsteiner, at 0:48
150. Ralf Grabsch (G), Milram, at 0:48
151. Marc De Maar (Nl), Rabobank, at 0:50
152. Mickaël Cherel (F), Francaise des Jeux, at 0:52
153. Christophe Rinero (F), Agritubel
154. Massimiliano Mori (I), Lampre, at 0:53
155. Morris Possoni (I), High Road, at 0:56
156. David Moncoutie (F), Cofidis, at 0:58
157. Josep Jufre (Sp), Saunier Duval-Scott, at 1:04
158. Chris Anker Sorensen (Dk), CSC, at 1:12
159. Andrea Moletta (I), Gerolsteiner, at 1:16
160. Tyler Farrar (USA), Slipstream-Chipotle, at 3:13