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Hello and welcome to the Cyclingnews live coverage of Paris-Tours.
Although the French race is longer part of the UCI World or Historic calendar, it is a true end of season classic and a huge goal for the classics riders and sprinters.
The hills in the final is blanced by the flat finish, making it a finely balanced race. Who win this time? A sprinter or a rider from a late breakaway?
Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) won last year and in 2008. He is also the big favourite this year and is looknig for revenge after just failing to win the world title last week in Australia.
As often is the case at Paris-Tours, the action began quickly and a strong tailwind has made for a fast race. The peloton covered 50km in the first hour and has been just as fast since then.
190 riders gathered in La Loupe, west of Chartres for the start, with the likes of Filippo Pozzato (Katusha), Daniele Bennati (Liquigas-Doimo), Romain Feillu (Vacansoleil) and of course Gilbert the favourites for victory.
The first break formed after 37km of fast racing. In the move are: Juan Antonio Flecha (Team Sky), Jonas Jorgensen (Saxo Bank), Travis Meyer (Garmin-Transitions), Yuriy Krivtsov (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Simon Geschke (Skil-Shimano), Nikolas Maes (QuickStep), Aleksejs Saramotins (HTC-Columbia) and Laurent Pichon (Bretagna-Schuller).
The initial move included four of them but the other four quickly joined them.
The opened a gap of 3:50 after 85km but the peloton is keeping them in check and the gap is down to just two minutes after 170km of the 233km race.
The race is still blasting across the French countryside, with the peloton lined out in the sunshine. The breakaway is underway before the thrilling finale on the short climnbs outside of Tours.
The breakaways are working hard but the wind is now blowing slightly from the side, making it dififcult for them to stay away.
RadioShack is now on the front. Johan Bruyneel's team will be riding for Gert Steegmans today.
Gilbert's Omega Pharma-Lotto teammates are now on the front, leading the chase of the break.
Thomas Voeckler (BBox Bouygues) is sat nicely in the peloton and could be a contender later. He must be happy that his team problems are behind after Europecar decided to take over sponsorship of the team.
Gilbert is the big favourite today but here at Cyclingnews, our money is on Romain Feillu (Vacansoleil). He finished second in Paris-Bourges on Thursday and despite returning from Australia, is hungry for success.
The gap is coming down rapidly as the short final climbs approach.
Simon Geschke (Skil-Shimano) is now having a go alone off the front of the break. He has little chance of staying clear but wants some final tv time.
After four hours of racing, the average speed is still over 48km/h! This year's race is set to be the second fastest ever in the long histroy of the race.
Simon Geschke (Skil-Shimano) has been joined by Nikolas Maes (QuickStep) but the peloton is bearing down on them fast.
This year's race route has an extra short climb in the final part of the race. The Côte de Beau-Soleil comes 11.5km from the finish and will be the perfect place to launch an attack.
The situation is fluid and ever changing now as the race enters a protected area in the trees. The gap to the leading two riders is just 25 seconds
Felcha and Aleksejs Saramotins (HTC-Columbia) have now joined the two up front. But the peloton can see them.
The remains of the break is still chasing the four but the bunch is close too.
Stephane Bonsergent (Bretagne - Schuller) has crashed on the approach to a roundabout. His race is over.
The roads are very narrow here and the peloton is all over the road. There is only one place to be: at the front.
The chasers have been caught by the peloton, leaving just the four out front.
Rabobank is now on the front of the bunch, working for Oscar Freire perhaps.
The peloton is one long line now. It is fast at the front and surely painful down the back.
The gap is down to just 20 seconds but the four refuse to give up.
The four are trying to stay away as the race switches through the country lanes.
Attack from RadioShack!
It seems Geoffroy Lequatre is trying to go off the front and has dragged three others with him.
This section is back into open countryside and so the riders are back in the wind.
The four chasers have joined the four attackers. But can they stay away on the climbs?
The Katusha team is now on the front, riding for Pozzato and McEwen.
The eight up front aren't working well together and so Flecha jumps after one of the attackers.
Now it is time for the new Côte de Beau-Soleil climb.
Upfront Lequatre has gone again. He's not waiting for the bunch and goes clear alone over the top of the first part of the climb.
The roads are switching left and right and so this helps Lequatre stay away.
Flecha has been caught by the bunch but Geoffroy Lequatre (RadioShack) is still giving it everything off the front.
This short climb is hurting Lequatre but he is dancing up it in a big gear.
Gilbert is up near the front of the peloton as Feillu hits the front in pursuit of Lequatre.
Geoffroy Lequatre (RadioShack) is totally committed now. He is on the Côte de l'Epan, but the bunch is chasing him.
Behind Sep Vanmarcke (Vlaanderen) is chasing but is just acting as a marker for the peloton.
Lequatre has just 15 seconds. His shoulders are rocking and rolling as he suffers.
Matteo Tosatto (Quick Step) tries to go across to Lequatre. He was strong in the world championships and could create a strong duo.
Lequatre is now on the final climb but the peloton is splitting behind him as more attacks come.
The peloton is chasing down Tosatto, while Lequatre is about to enter the long Avenue de Grammont to the finish line.
Lequatre has 18 seconds as he turns right on the long, long finishing straight. Can he do it?
Vacansoleil and Liquigas-Doimo are on the front on the bunch and leading the chase.
Lequatre is hanging on.
Lequatre refuses to give up but the peloton is bearing down on him. 10 seconds the gap.
Lequatre is on the left of the raod, struggling like crazy but he still has a gap.
Lequatre is caught just 300 metres from the line. Sprint!
Lampre lead out the sprint but Oscar Freire (Rabobank) came through late to win. Freire left it late but got it!
Freire was blocked but burst his way through to win. Angelo Furlan (Lampre-Farnese Vini) was second and Gert Steegmans (RadioShack) was third.
We'll have full results, a complete report and photographs from the race very soon here on Cyclingnews.
See you next Saturday for live coverage of the Tour of Lombardy.