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A Crack in Astana's Armor at Paris-Nice? Sylvain Chavanel Wins Wet Third Stage and Takes GC Lead Over Alberto Contador

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I only saw a half hour or a bit more of the third stage of the eight-stage (seven plus short prologue), but it was some of the most fun I've had watching cycling this year. It was a bit mucky out and the roads were less than optimal, and the entourage was more like that of Tour de Georgia or Tour of California. Quaint, compared with Le Tour de France. That alone was fun.

I'm not against Contador (I don't think) or Astana (so far). While I don't trust Astana really regarding doping, if they don't get caught they are not officially cheating, and I obviously no nothing on the subject anyway. But I was a bit disappointed in the Tour of California being somewhat of a coronation rather than a contest, at least so it seemed a bit. (Did nobody have the stuff to take it from Astana? Perhaps nobody brought enough team. And I think Astana did a great job, with help on the penultimate stage.)

Anyway, the third stage of Paris-Nice was sparkly because the French rider, Sylivain Chavanel, not only went with a break that finished with Flecha, Langeveld, Augé, Seeldrayers, Garate and Roelents. From other accounts, the last 40K or so was how long the hard cycling lasted. It was clearly the most digging I've seen for the longest time from a group, and it was exciting to see it all on a wet day. It also seemed, as far as I could tell from French video not in sync with British audio all via the internet, that Contador was left to fend for himself with no compadres from Astana able to aid his chase. 

Check out some Belgian waffling here...from sporza.be...


More vid with funny getalking...


Contador came in 1:39 behind for the stage and is now 1:03 behind in the GC (overall). He's a climber, so he's still a favorite, but at least it was an interesting day. Of course, Chavanel won Stage 3 last year and held the jersey only briefly. 

These quotes from Contador are from a well-written wrap-up at


Once Rabobank hit the front Contador was in the fourth group on the road. He knew he had to do something. "I saw I had no teammates. The situation was very difficult, but I saw there was a short steep slope coming up and I accelerated." Contador looked good on the uphill, but closing the gap proved to be hard. He received some help from Christophe Moreau (Agritubel) to reach the group ahead. "This was the only possibility for me to save the race," Contador said.

Contador was not sure about the overall anymore. "To make up one minute on a rider like Chavanel, who also is on great form, is difficult. The same is true for Juan Manuel Garate (Rabobank), but there is still a lot of road left. Looking at the classification things could have been worse."

There's more info at the official Paris-Nice page...


The finishing bunch (breakaway) from 

1. Sylvain Chavanel (FRA/QST)  les 178,0 km en 4h33:12.
2. Juan Antonio Flecha (ESP/RAB) à  0:00.
3. Sébastian Langeveld (NED/RAB) 0:00.
4. Stéphane Augé (FRA/COF) 0:00.
5. Kevin Seeldrayers (BEL/QST) 0:00.
6. Juan Manuel Garate (ESP/RAB) 0:00.
7. Jürgen Roelandts (BEL/SIL) 0:00.

It was good fun.

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