Third victory for Zabel
Erik Zabel (T-Mobile) scored his third Paris-Tours victory today in the Avenue de Grammont, and his last one for the German-based ProTour team which he joined 13 years ago. A breakaway of two, Philippe Gilbert (Francaise des Jeux) and Stijn Devolder (Discovery Channel) was caught by the flying bunch with 200 metres to go, and Zabel came off Daniele Bennati's wheel just in time to win by half a wheel. The Italian Lampre-Caffita rider took second, and Australian Allan Davis (Liberty Seguros) third.
"Magnifique!," Zabel told reporters in the finish. "It's a very good day for me and my team manager Walter Godefroot, as well as for Frans Van Looy. It's last race this season for them, and also for Aldag and myself, so to finish it with a victory here on Paris-Tours is wonderful! Of course, after 13 years of a lot of victories and emotions with Telekom and later T-Mobile, this is a very precious moment."
"The finish here in Tours is very long, possibly the longest in the world. I was behind Daniele Bennati and Allan Davis. Bennati was very strong this year, maybe the strongest sprinter this season behind Petacchi. It was a good sprint, but this one in Tours is very difficult, very special. It's a great moment for me as I was the fastest today," he added.
Second placed Daniele Bennati (Lampre-Caffita) commented, "I took risks starting the sprint from far behind in order not to be closed in. But only a great Zabel passed me in the last 20 metres. I'm a bit disappointed, I would have liked to finish the season with a prestigious win. But it is also a good result thinking about the 'flu I had in the last week: even this morning I was still coughing a lot. Fortunately the good weather helped me today and I felt good in the finale. It is the best result I have ever achieved in a one-day ProTour race, also thanks to my team mates Ballan and Commesso who always stayed with me during the race. I hope this result is a good sign for the future!"
The main breakaway of the 252.5 km-long day saw Joost Posthuma (Rabobank), José Ivan Gutierrez (Illes Balears), Stéphane Berges (Agritubel) get a maximum lead of almost nine minutes at km 110, before gradually being reeled in again by a peloton controlled by Crédit Agricole and Davitamon-Lotto. With a little more than 40 kilometres to go, their move was over, and made way for another.
Philippe Gilbert (Francaise des Jeux) and Stijn Devolder (Discovery Channel) attacked with 27 kilometres to the line, and nearly made victory happen between them, but Devolder - under instructions from Team DS Dirk Demol - played poker in the final kilometre and a half and sat on Gilbert's wheel, with the result that they both lost.