In Friday’s race of truth, the individual time trial at the 69th running of Paris-Nice, Tony Martin of HTC-Highroad, as expected by many, laid down a devastating effort over the 27 kilometer course, beating the next competitor by a full 20 seconds and scrambling the general classification from the previous day’s posting. However, Team RadioShack had a very good showing on this unusually long Paris-Nice ITT with Andreas Klöden, Levi Leipheimer, and Janez Brajkovic moving into the overall top ten.
Andreas Klöden didn’t relinquish the yellow jersey to Martin without a fight, putting in an all out effort that couldn’t quite match the 48.5 kmh performance of the much younger HTC rider. However, his gutsy solo performance keeps Andreas well in the hunt for the overall podium. It will now likely be a real challenge to wrest the lead from Martin who sits on a 36 second lead with only 2 more stages to go. Tony is riding strong and confident, but with 3 TRS riders in the top 7 and likely to be in the front of the pack, with their climbing skills, for the remaining mountain stages, anything can happen.
The pre-race wisdom deemed the TT course to be reasonably flat though a bit long for Paris-Nice. In fact it was the longest TT for several decades and promised to have, what some called, an undue influence on the overall race. Once word filtered back from several early attempts on the course, two things became clear. First, the slight incline at approximately the 20 km point was way more of pain than many had predicted. And second, the descents built a lot more speed than planned, requiring a bigger crank to keep power to the chain. Teams must have scrambled early on for set-up changes with riders reporting being completely maxed out on the pedals during the downhills.
It was apparent, by the time Levi, Janez, and finally Andreas took off that the team had gotten their set ups right as their form and cadence looked perfect. In fact on-air TV commentators were very surprised by Levi’s times being lulled into thinking he wasn’t trying that hard given his head-down workmanlike style. Then, when Andreas lit out, the TV camera panned to the speedometer of the chasing motorcycle during an early false flat on the course, Andreas didn’t look that fast, but he was digging at 70 kmh (over 43 miles an hour)!
The leader board looks like this going into Saturday’s (second-to-last) Stage 7:
- Tony Martin (Ger) HTC-Highroad 24:59:47
- Andreas Klöden (Ger) Team RadioShack 0:00:36
- Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky Procycling 0:00:39
- Rein Taaramae (Est) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne 0:01:10
- Jean-Christophe Peraud (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:01:14
- Levi Leipheimer (USA) Team RadioShack 0:01:29
- Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Team RadioShack 0:01:32
- Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 0:01:37
- Xavier Tondo Volpini (Spa) Movistar Team 0:01:51
- Bauke Mollema (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team 0:01:57
Unless there’s a mishap, not much should happen in Saturday’s stage. It’s classified as a mountain course, but the final kilometers are just bumps, so the peloton should bunch at the finish and the times will likely hold among the leaders. Lets watch for Sunday’s final stage to be the place for challengers to make their move.
By George Hurst, staff writer