Andreas Klöden (RadioShack) doesn't remember the last time he won a sprint but described as "a nice feeling" the stage win he got in Vernoux-en-Vivarais today at the end of stage 5 in Paris-Nice, a race he won overall in 2000.
"I was 24 when I won this race, now I'm 35," Klöden said. "It's always a big thing to win at Paris-Nice, so I'm very happy today.
"It's a surprise for me to beat Samuel Sanchez but I must give a big thank you to Jani Brajkovic," Klöden said. "He told me 'get on my wheel, I lead you out'."
Klöden, who hails from the former East German town Chemnitz, narrowly outsprinted Sanchez, the 2008 Olympic road race champion, to collect the 21st victory of his professional career.
"I'm a skinny rider, so I don't like Paris-Nice when it rains but the sun favours me this year," Klöden said. "The first four days of racing have been hard, though. It was a very nervous peloton." In fact, Klöden had words at the end of stage 4 in Belleville with FDJ's Yoann Offredo.
With the time bonus the RadioShack rider leads Sanchez by four seconds and Carrara by six seconds on general classification. Klöden, however, is most concerned about compatriot Tony Martin (HTC-Highroad), who lies fourth overall at 10 seconds, entering tomorrow's 27km individual time trial.
"I'll try to defend the yellow jersey but I can only do my best," Klöden said. "Tony is a specialist for time trials. It'll be hard to beat him tomorrow."
Despite Klöden tipping Martin for victory, RadioShack directeur sportif Alain Gallopin noted that the Klöden, as well as his teammates Janez Brajkovic and Levi Leipheimer, all have a shot at winning the time trial.
"Andreas has proven in the past that he is a very good time triallist," Gallopin said. "Brajkovic did a super time trial at the Dauphiné last year. Maybe he's able to do the same again tomorrow, but Martin has won all the time trials he took part in since the beginning of the season."
Martin won the time trial and general classification at this season's Volta al Algarve in February.
Gallopin described Klöden as a "faithful domestique". "Alberto Contador owes him his win at the 2008 Giro d'Italia," Gallopin said. "Andreas is a great professional. He loves his job and deserves to wear this yellow jersey."
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