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Phonak takes stock after Paris-Nice

The Phonak Hearing Systems team finished Paris-Nice with Slovenian Tadej Valjavec the best placed on GC in 29th at 5'33 down. It was a less than inspirational result in itself, but team manager John Lelangue described himself as "satisfied" with the team's performance last week. "I knew that we didn't have any favourites for the overall win at this demanding test. That's why we had our sights on partial successes. In addition, we wanted to develop strategy and tactics and implement them well."

Lelangue blamed bad luck for the team's lack of results. "After a good ninth place finish for Oscar Pereiro in the prologue, luck wasn't very sweet to us in the various other situations." In the first stage, Pereiro lost time due to the big crash near the end of the stage, effectively ending his GC chances. Miguel Martin Perdiguero was also involved in the crash, and, "Due to severe abdominal pains as a result of the injuries caused by the fall, he wasn't able to take part in the sixth stage."

The loss of Robert Hunter was especially painful for Lelangue. "Of all the aces, the one that gave us our two previous victories had to have a wound on his right elbow sewn up as a result of a bad collision. The South African sprinter, who should have been the team leader, surely would have pulled the chestnuts out of the fire for us in the three sprint finishes."

On the up side, Lelangue praised Nicolas Jalabert for his fighting spirit. "The breakaway with Camano and Portal during the fourth stage at least brought him a decent result as the fifth-place finisher. With a little more racing luck he would've been up there on the podium. He demonstrated his positive attitude by trying his luck again on the very next day, and he had another great performance in the King's Stage."

Lelangue paid credit to Floyd Landis, Tadej Valjavec and Victor Hugo Peña. "If the attacks by Peña hadn't been countered, he also would have shown himself at his best. Landis was a co-initiator of the big breakaway during the third stage. Pereiro was impressive on the final day with the convincing way he kept up.

"Saturday we have another opportunity to show our strengths at Milan-San Remo. I could convince myself that the team has a great basis. Various aces have the say in that. They all know that they have to bear responsibility."

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