By William Fotheringham and VeloNews Wire Services
Dario Frigo became the first Italian for 55 years to win Paris-Nice on Sunday while countryman Fabrizio Guidi won the seventh and final stage. Guidi gave Mercury the perfect end to a near-perfect week with a clinical finish for their third stage win out of eight in front of the sun worshippers and rollerbladers on Nice’s promenade des Anglais.
After late attacks from Big Mat’s Loic Lamueller and the prologue winner Nico Mattan had been swept up, the peloton swept down the windblown finish straight led by Peter Van Petegem. He repaid Guidi his sterling work through the week by leading him out to within 200 meters of the line, and leaving the German Danilo Hondo no chance of getting on terms.
“I’ve spent the whole week leading Jans Koerts out, but he missed the cut yesterday so it was my turn,” said the 27-year-old Guidi, without a win last year at La Francaise des Jeux. “Peter is just going so well that I couldn’t miss out.”
The 27-year-old Frigo, whose compatriot Francesco Camellini won the ‘Race to the Sun’ in 1946, finished 26 seconds ahead of his Lithuanian Fassa Bortolo teammate Raimondas Rumsas in the overall standings.
Van Petegem came in third overall some 52 seconds adrift after blowing his chances during Saturday’s time trial where he came in ninth after leading the race on Friday.
Frigo, who finished fourth in last year’s race, took the leader’s white jersey after winning Saturday’s 10.2 km time trial but admitted that despite this prestigious win he would not be moving up to team leader.
“My victory was very important and it pleased me enormously, but I don’t think it’ll change my position in the team,” said Frigo after his win.
“I’m due to race in the Giro this summer but I’m not sure I’ll be able to race in the Tour de France as well as I don’t stand up to heat very well,” he admitted.
Frigo, a former teammate of 1998 Tour de France winner Marco Pantani, is currently ranked 24th in the world after a successful season last year, winning the Tour of Campania, finishing runner-up in the Tour of Switzerland and sixth in the world championship time-trial.
AFP contributed to this report
1. Fabrizio Guidi (I), Mercury-Viatel, 3:38:41 (average 43.103kph)
2. Danilo Hondo (G), Telekom
3. Stuart O’Grady (Aus), Credit Agricole
4. Andrei Tchmil (B), Lotto
5. Saulius Ruskys (Lit), Gerolsteiner
6. Lauri Aus (Est), Ag2R
7. Jo Planckaert (B), Cofidis
8. Fabian De Waele (B), Lotto
9. Thor Hushovd (N), Credit Agricole
10. Arvis Piziks (Lat), CSC-World Online
50. Bobby Julich (USA), Credit Agricole
126. Floyd Landis (USA, Mercury-Viatel, all st
1.Dario Frigo (I), Fassa Bortolo, 30:32:29
2. Raimondas Rumsas (Lit), Fassa Bortolo at 0:26
3. Peter Van Petegem (B), Mercury-Viatel, at 0:52
4. David Moncoutie (F), Cofidis, at 0:55
5. Jose Azevedo (Por), ONCE, at 1:01
6. Mario Aerts (B), Lotto, at 1″01
7. Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz), Telekom, at 1:10
8. Jorg Jaksche (G), ONCE, at 1:22
9. Tobias Steinhauser (G), Gerolsteiner, at 1:36
10. Michele Bartoli (I), Mapei-Quick Step, at 1:42
19. Bobby Julich (USA), Credit Agricole, at 2:45
51. Floyd Landis (USA), Mercury-Viatel, at 9:33