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
The Italian Fassa Bortolo team took over Paris-Nice today during the Col d'Eze time trial, with Dario Frigo winning the stage in decisive style to take the lead from Peter Van Petegem of Belgium, with his teammate Raimondas Rumsas moving into second overall.
Frigo, who finished second in last year's Tour of Switzerland, and finished ninth in Paris-Nice behind Andreas Kloden, led throughout the 10km uphill test, posting a time 14 seconds faster than Rumsas at the 6km checkpoint, where it was clear that Van Petegem, who was 23 seconds slower, would relinquish the white jersey.
The heavy back roads of the Var left no impression on the overall classification of Paris-Nice on Friday, which means that no less than 15 riders were poised within one minute of the race leader Peter Van Petegem (Mercury-Viatel) going into Saturday's vital time trial to the Col d'Eze.
The stage into Saint Raphael did however provide a welcome respite for the new Belgian team Domo, under pressure since they failed to show at Het Volk two weeks ago.
Their Pole Piotr Wadecki spent 115 of the 150 miles in front with Bonjour's Francois Simon and Matteo Tosatto of Fassa Bortolo, disposed of the
Alex Zulle scored his first sprint win since he was an amateur to give new Division I squad Team Coast its first win of the season, a first step toward building its case for a place in the Tour de France.
Zulle outsprinted ONCE's Portuguese neo-pro Jose Azevedo with the main bunch close on their heels in Sisteron, after the pair broke away on the final descent with 10km to go.
"It's a great win for us, which boosts morale, proves we are serious, and gives us more confidence about the Tour," said Zulle. Close behind in the peloton was race leader Peter Van Petegem, who held onto the leader's
Jans Koerts strengthened Mercury-Viatel’s case for a start in the Tour de France this year by giving the U.S. team its second consecutive stage win Wednesday in the high-speed run down the Rhone Valley to Villeneuve les Avignon. His teammate Peter Van Petegem conserved the leader's white jersey.
Koerts received a fine leadout from his teammate Fabrizio Guidi to finish more than a length ahead of Jean-Patrick Nazon and Germany's Danilo Hondo, at the end of a stage run at close to a 30mph average thanks to a strong tailwind.
This is Koerts' third win of the season after winning two stages of
Tuesday’s hilly windy stage to Saint Etienne turned the Paris-Nice classification upside down, with Peter Van Petegem outsprinting the gutsy but luckless Alexandre Vinokourov (Telekom) to give Mercury-Viatel its first taste of the leader's jersey in a major European stage race.
Vinokourov was on the attack for the entire stage, early on in a 19-strong group which included Floyd Landis (Mercury-Viatel) and Jonathan Vaughters (Credit Agricole). He split the break together with Laurent Dufaux (Saeco) and escaped on the final climb to hold on until the final meter, when Van Petegem came flying
Crashes took their toll on a rainy Paris-Nice today, with Axel Merckx the principal victim of a 25-rider pile-up two-and-a-half kilometers from the line. Merckx finished the stage, but was taken to the hospital after the race.
Earlier, Joseba Beloki, third finisher in the Tour last year, was put out by a broken rib after he collided with another rider while taking nature's call on the move.
A reduced lead group fought out the stage finish in Clermont Ferrand, where Stuart O'Grady led out from 250 meters, but was overhauled just before the line by the Belgian Fabian De Waele. He took the