France's Anthony Charteau is out to repeat his Le Tour de Langkawi success on home soil in the Paris-Nice. Charteau is convinced that he has better form than ever before and while he may not be the favourite, could stand a chance on general classification in the stage race if it plays out right.
"I feel really good," the Crédit Agricole rider said. "I spent one week to recover [after Langkawi] when I returned home. Then I felt very strong at the Tour du Haut-Var, unfortunately I broke two wheels towards the finish of the race. I was also ok in Lugano."
But Charteau is by no means a shoe in for the Paris-Nice victory, with Levi Leipheimer out to emulate Floyd Landis' double victory in the Tour of California and Paris-Nice. In addition to the strong Discovery Channel rider, Belgians Wilfried Cretskens (Quick Step) and Nick Nuyens (Cofidis) have performed well at the Tour of Qatar and the Etoile de Bessèges respectively.
Charteau knows there's a big challenge ahead and says he expects an extremely open Paris-Nice and expects a break, similar to that which claimed him the Tour de Langkawi victory, will decide the event's winner.
"Le Tour de Langkawi has had a huge impact in the media here in France as well," commented Charteau, who enjoys being a dark horse in the field. "My director sportif Roger Legeay told me the sponsor was very happy with the coverage. Maybe some people think it's just an exotic event, they don't realise the level of the race."
"Winning it has given me another status in the bunch and in my team as well. But I'll keep working for my leaders, for the sprinters or the climbers but Thor Hushovd isn't here, he'll ride Tirreno-Adriatico, and Pietro Caucchioli, [the team] hasn't set Paris-Nice as a goal, so I'm free to repeat what I did in Malaysia." JFQ