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Paris - Nice 2012

Date range:
March 4-11, 2012

March 6, Stage 3: Vierzon - Lac de Vassivière 194km

Complete live report

Live commentary by:
Susan Westemeyer

Paris-Nice:  The race to the sun!  The third stage features a finish atop a Category Three climb.

  1. 14:19:33 CET

    Hello and welcome back to the Race to the Sun!  Doesn't look like they have quite yet found the sun, though.....
     

  2. 92km remaining from 194km

    14:24:31 CET

    With 92 km to go, we have a break.  Michael Morkov (Saxo Bank), Jimmy Engoulvent (Saur-Sojasun) and Roy Curvers (Project 1t4i) took off at the get-go. They now have a lead of 4:30, which has held pretty steady.
     

  3. 14:29:59 CET

    Things got started in the rain today at 11:38, but with two riders missing. Andy Schleck of RadioShack-Nissan, who had been peforming subpar, called it quits with a stomach infection. After throwing up in the bus this morning, his teammates were probably just as happy to see him go somewhere else to get well.

    Aldis Kroupis of GreenEdge also did not take to the start today.

  4. 14:35:16 CET

    After the neutralized section, the race got off officially at 11:58. Only to be promptly stopped at a railroad crossing!

  5. 14:39:46 CET

    There is one intermediate sprint today, at km 186 in Payrat-le-Chateau. There are two ranked climbs, both category three: Cote de Bourganeuf (km 167) and the closing Lac de Vassivière.

  6. 14:44:13 CET

    We have a grand total of 27 nations represented in this race!  The largest group is, of course, from France. with 40. At the other end  of things, we have Brazil, Colombia, Croatia, Estonia, Ireland, Japan, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Sweden and Uzbekistan with one each.  All according to letour.fr.

  7. 80km remaining from 194km

    14:51:00 CET

    In case you are wondering what is happening in the race, it is more of the same. 80 km to go and still a gap of 4:30.

  8. 14:52:56 CET

    It is an interesting course today. The first third or so is flat. Then comes some gradual climbing, culminating in two cat. 3 climbs.

  9. 14:56:56 CET

    Let's take a peek at the various rankings. After yesterday's “Gone With the Wind” stage, we have Sky's Bradley Wiggins atop the GC, followed by Levi Leipheimer at six seconds and Tom Boonen at seven seconds, both of Omega Pharma-Quick Step.

    In fact, the top 21 riders are within 1:10 of the leader. From there the gap jumps to two and a half minutes.

    At the other end of the rankings, “bringing up the cow's tail”, as our Mom used to say, is Christophe Le Mevel of Garmin-Barracuda, who is at 18: 27.
     

  10. 15:00:05 CET

    The points ranking, with green jersey, is currently in the hands (or on the shoulders) of Tom Boonen. Wiggins is tied with him on points in second place, with BMC's Tejay Van Garderen in third.

    Speaking of Van Garderen, he is sporting the white jersey for best young rider. Taylor Phinney (also of BMC) and John Degenkolb (Project 1t4i).
     

  11. 15:02:25 CET

    Only four riders have points in the spotty competition, er, King of the mountains, so let's leist them all.  Thomas De Gendt (Vacansoleil) leads things with 6 points, while Olivier Kaisen of Lotto-Belisol has 4 points.  Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) and Bart de Clerq (Lotto-Belisol) have two points each. 

    Perhaps we will see a change here today?

  12. 15:06:51 CET

    And the last category: best team. Omega Pharma-Quick Step is in front here, with a 2:42 lead over Sky, with BMC third at 2:43.

  13. 15:09:03 CET

    How is the weather today?  "meh" seems to be a pretty good description.  Long sleeves, some leggings, and a very gray sky. But dry at the moment, at least.

  14. 15:09:36 CET

    Yellow jersey Wiggins is being brought back up to the peloton.  We don't know why he had dropped back.

  15. 15:12:21 CET

    Sky is back at the head of the field, and the gap has dropped ever so slightly, to 3:55.

  16. 15:15:17 CET

    Brad Wiggins is on his way to (he hopes) win the Tour de France, and he is already showing that he can be successful in France in 2012. He put on a strong performance yesterday on his way to taking the race leader's yellow jersey. What did he have to say about it? Check it out here.
     

  17. 15:22:43 CET

    Tom Boonen knows how to win. And win. And win. Yesterdays victory was not only his fifth of the season, but also his 100th career win. Or possibly more than that, even he is not sure. But he and team are very sure that this is and will be a very good year for  Omega Pharma-Quick Step.
     

  18. 49km remaining from 194km

    15:24:29 CET

    49km to go and the gap is at 3:45.

  19. 15:25:55 CET

    Morkov is actually the virtual yellow jersey, by the way.  He was only 3:06 down on Wiggins.

  20. 15:31:34 CET

    The bad news is that Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Cannondale) lost nearly 11 minutes yesterday, but the good news is that he was not seriously injured in the crash which cost the time loss. He came away with the usual assortment of scrapes and bruises, as did teammate Paolo Longo Borghini.
     

  21. 15:34:49 CET

    Valverde is the next one who needs to be brought back up to the field.  He is being shepherded up by teammates.

  22. 15:37:05 CET

    The gap continues to fall, down to 3:25.  Valverde and his little group are still working their way up through the cars.

  23. 15:38:26 CET

    Jose Joaquin Rojas of Movistar is very happy with his second place in yesterday's stage.  Especially since just a week ago he had to abandon Almeria due to illness, and didn't even start training again until last Thursday.  He talks about it here.

  24. 15:40:50 CET

    38km and 3:15 left.  The peloton is playing this nicely.

  25. 15:48:21 CET

    The gap is down to 3:00, so Morkov has lost the yellow jersey he never actually had.

  26. 15:49:37 CET

    32km and three minutes.  The field should snap up the escapees right on schedule.

  27. 15:50:04 CET

    AGR's Peraud flatted and it took him a while to get back up to the group, but he is there now.

  28. 15:51:19 CET

    The other teams are leaving the chase work to Sky.  Now we are beginning to wonder if the trio might stay away?

    So of course the gap is now at 2:50.

  29. 15:53:32 CET

    The Rabobank riders were not a happy group last night. Only Dennis van Winden made it into the first group, and he fairly promptly crashed out of it. That means that the team can forget about the GC and will have to look for stage wins. “It's certainly within the possibilities of the team, as we definitely don't have bad riders at the start here,” said team director Nico Verhoeven, putting up a brave front. 

  30. 15:54:09 CET

    Some chitchatting going on between the three leaders.  "Are we going to pull this off?  And how?"

  31. 15:56:04 CET

    We're doing a tiny bit of climbing now, it looks like.

  32. 15:57:45 CET

    And indeed, we are approaching the first ranked climb of the day.

    Back in the pack, Movistar starts moving up towards the front.

  33. 25km remaining from 194km

    15:58:31 CET

    25 km and 2:55 -- yes or no?

  34. 15:59:18 CET

    The field snakes its way through a town.  Movistar has taken over the lead work and has picked up the speed.

  35. 15:59:57 CET

    Gutierrez is driving the peloton.  Is Movistar hoping to get Valverde as first across the finish line?

  36. 16:01:46 CET


    The team with the oddest name in the peloton, Project 1t4i, had one of those “good news, bad news” sort of days on Tuesday. The “good” was that John Degenkolb galloped to second place on the stage. The “bad” was that Marcel Kittel missed the cut and probably lost his only chance at a mass sprint in the race. 
     

  37. 22km remaining from 194km

    16:02:25 CET

    22km and 2:10......

  38. 16:03:16 CET

    A deer bounces across a field and disappears into the forest.  Better than jumping on to the road!

  39. 16:04:36 CET

    Now down to two minutes at 21.4km.  We think the break will be caught.  But it will be a close one.

  40. 16:05:14 CET

    Flat tyre for Jerome Koppel of Saur.  Not good timing!

  41. 16:07:10 CET

    The leading trio is still working well together, although, oops, we now see the gap is only 1:20.

  42. 16:07:19 CET

    And dropping....

  43. 16:08:39 CET

    Looks like Movistar's move has worked and they will catch and pass the three leaders.

  44. 16:09:28 CET

    Coppel (sorry, we spelled it wrong earlier) and several teammates are weaving their way through the autos in their effort to get back up to the group.

  45. 17.5km remaining from 194km

    16:10:23 CET

    The gap is hovering at the one minute mark now.

  46. 16:11:39 CET

    The gap is dropping like a stone, now at 0:45.  Movistar is still moving things along, with a bit of help now from Omega Pharma-Quick Step.

  47. 16:13:13 CET



    Is Mario Cipollini bored in retirement or what? He wants to come back to racing and even start in the Giro d'Italia. At least he doesn't plan to sprint himself, but he seems to think he can help Farnese Vini-Sella Italia top sprinter Andrea Guardini beat Mark Cavendish.

    Since we are not the youngest ourselves, we don't want to say that 45 is too old, but.......

  48. 16:14:18 CET

    Crash.  And one rider is not jumping back up.  Looks like four riders were involved.  Let's see if we can't get a name for you.  He is from Katusha.

  49. 13km remaining from 194km

    16:15:18 CET

    OPQS now in charge at the front.   And way in the front, Engoulvent has taken off from the other two leaders, with only a 25 second gap over the field.

  50. 16:17:36 CET

    The field has caught the other two, while Engoulvant has 22 seconds now.

  51. 16:19:14 CET

    We think the Katusha rider is Isaichev, but we are not sure and have no further word on him.

  52. 10km remaining from 194km

    16:20:00 CET

    10 km and 20 seconds.  Right now Engoulvant is on a downhill section, but soon enough he must climb.

  53. 16:21:07 CET

    Engoulvant takes the day's only intermediate sprint.

  54. 16:22:05 CET

    A Sky rider and a Movistar jumped in for second and third on that sprint.

  55. 16:22:43 CET

    Oops, and the end is near for Engoulvant.  Five seconds or so?  The field has him in sight.

  56. 6km remaining from 194km

    16:23:31 CET

    That's it!  The escape is over.

  57. 16:24:03 CET

    Teh first riders are dropping off the back.  Taylor Phinney of BMC is one of the first to go, not looking real happy.

  58. 16:24:26 CET

    Geraint Thomas took second at the sprint, with Rodriguez of Movistar third.

  59. 16:25:10 CET

    Lots of riders are dropping off the back now.  The pace is very high, with 5km to go.

  60. 16:25:36 CET

    Basso is hanging on at the back of the field.  He is still recovering from a nasty crash yesterday.

  61. 16:26:20 CET

    Boonen did a lot of lead work and now has done his duty.  He can fall back and not worry about it.

  62. 16:27:38 CET

    Is OPQS riding for Leipheimer?  Tryng to get some time on Wiggins?

  63. 16:28:09 CET

    We have an attack from a Vacansoliel rider, Lagutin.  They are just starting up the climb.

  64. 16:29:18 CET

    He peeps back across his shoulder to see that he is building up a tidy little gap.

    Sky has moved back to the front to quash OPQS's plans to dump them.

  65. 2.6km remaining from 194km

    16:30:06 CET

    12 seconds for Lagutin.

  66. 16:30:42 CET

    Basso is out of the peloton now, making his solo way up the climb behind the others.

  67. 16:31:10 CET

    A Rabobank rider has jumped from the field.  They have something to prove after missing out on the fun yesterday.

  68. 16:31:49 CET

    Taaramae of Cofidis is the next to fade back.  Lagutin's lead is shrinking.

  69. 16:32:39 CET

    The Rabobank rider has been re-absorbed. The field is pretty close now.

  70. 16:33:10 CET

    So close in fact, that they have caught him.

     

    Last km!

  71. 16:33:30 CET

    And we have an uphill sprint!

    Westra is the first to go.

  72. 16:33:50 CET

    Cunego also near the front.

  73. 16:34:03 CET

    AG2R jumps at 500 metres.

  74. 16:34:50 CET

    Lulus Sanchez goe for it, as does Valverde, but it is Simon Gerrans who comes from nowhere to take the win!

  75. 16:36:05 CET

    Well, now, who did win?  This must be a photo finish!

  76. 16:36:40 CET

    It was quite an impressive sprint by Gerrans though, who really came out of nowhere to make it close.

  77. 16:37:22 CET

    And it is in fact Valverde who is finally pronounced the winner!

  78. 16:37:37 CET

    Second for Gerrans by half a wheel length or so.

  79. 16:38:50 CET

    And third place goes to Gianni Meersman of Lotto-Belisol.

  80. 16:39:34 CET

    Wiggins still has the yellow by six seconds over Leipheimer.  Van Garderen is third, at 11 seconds.

  81. 16:41:38 CET

    The closing sprint turned out to be a very exciting and close one. Let's hope the rest of the race continues the fun and dramatic action.

    Thanks for joining us today and catch us again tomorrow, as we tackle the 184 km from Brive-la-Gaillarde to Rodez.

  82. 16:42:33 CET

    Before we close out, here is the top five for the day:

    1 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team 4:36:19
    2 Simon Gerrans (Aus) GreenEdge Cycling Team
    3 Gianni Meersman (Bel) Lotto-Belisol Team
    4 Luis Leon Sanchez Gil (Spa) Rabobank Cycling Team
    5 Xavier Florencio Cabre (Spa) Katusha Team

  83. 16:43:10 CET

    And the top five of the GC:
     
    1 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky Procycling 9:09:51
    2 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Omega Pharma-Quick Step 0:00:06
    3 Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team 0:00:11
    4 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Omega Pharma-Quick Step 0:00:14
    5 Maxime Monfort (Bel) RadioShack-Nissan 0:00:18