Stage 5: Annonay - Vallon-Pont-d'Arc
Jérémy Roy of Française Des Jeux des Jeux took his first professional win a day after finishing last, attacking out of an escape group with 6.7km to go to take the fifth stage of Paris-Nice. He took advantage of the bluffing of his two companions, Tony Martin of Columbia-Highroad and Thomas Voeckler of Bbox Bouygues Telecom, who were more concerned with each other than with the Frenchman. Voeckler came back to finish in the same time as the winner, with Martin trailing three seconds down.
There was no change in the overall ranking, as Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step) defended his leader's jersey. The peloton came in 2:33 later.
The overjoyed winner could hardly believe his luck. "My god, when I compare this to last year..." the 25-year-old Frenchman said. Even the comparison to the previous stage is worth making: he finished absolutely last in the fourth stage, over 11 minutes down. "I decided to save strength for today's stage," Roy wrote on his website, which proved to be the right decision.
"I was last yesterday but I hung on," Roy told the Reuters agency. "Today, on the first climb, I was almost dropped. Then, towards the end, I benefited from the mind games between them [Voeckler and Martin]. It's a dream."
Breaking out to the win
The day was dominated by a three-man escape group which got away early. Martin (Columbia-Highroad) apparently didn't have enough after his break yesterday, so he took off at km 13, followed by Roy and Voeckler.
Martin climbed into the King of the Mountains jersey by taking maximum points at each of the seven ranked climbs on the day. Although better known as a time trialist, he has good credentials as a climber. "He's not Richard Virenque but he can climb pretty well," said Columbia Directeur Sportif Brian Holm "He won a couple of mountain jerseys in the amateur ranks."
The trio built up lead of over six minutes, and the peloton left it too late to catch them on the rolling second half of the stage. Even when it was clear that there was no chance of setting up a mass sprint, the peloton didn't relax, but kept on going to cut the lead to just over two and a half minutes at the end.
The stage ended with a 25 km circuit, and the three leaders stayed together for most of it. Voeckler and Martin tried various times to attack, but were never able to get away. The two were obviously so focused on each other that they downplayed the chances of the third man in the group, Roy.
Roy attacked with 7km to go, and his two breakaway companions let him go, preferring to eyeball each other and wait for someone else to take off first in pursuit. By the time they realized their bluffing wasn't working it was too late. Roy raised in arms in ecstasy as he crossed the finish line. Voeckler came across close behind him, while Martin relaxed in the final meters to finish third.
The peloton came in 2:33 later, with Cervélo TestTeam's Heinrich Haussler leading the pack over the finish line.
A number of riders put an end to their Paris-Nice today, with Enrico Franzoi (Liquigas) and Inigo Cuesta (Cervélo TestTeam) not starting. During the stage, Steven Cozza of Garmin-Slipstream became the third of his team to drop out, and he was joined by Brian Vandborg of Liquigas and Philippe Gilbert of Silence-Lotto.
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