Tom Boonen (Quick Step) has won his third stage of the 2006 Paris-Nice.
Tom Boonen (Quick Step) has won his third stage of the 2006 Paris-Nice. The world champion bested Allan Davis (Liberty Seguros) and Stephan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner) to take the rolling, 193-km run from <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" /?> Saint-Etienne to Rasteig in 4:40:29. Floyd Landis (Phonak) remains the overall leader.
Stage 4 began with an ascent of the Category 1 Col de la Republique. At one point, sports students who were demonstrating against job cuts blocked the road and demanded that the riders sign a petition supporting the students? protest. The students got no satisfaction, although the protest put paid to a break by Eric Leblacher (Francaise des Jeux), Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas), Joost Posthuma (Rabobank), and Christophe Laurent (Agritubel).
On the descent, Jose Luis Arrieta (Ag2r) attacked and took Mathew Hayman (Rabobank), Francisco Failli (Liquigas), Stephane Auge (Cofidis), and Thomas Voeckler (Bouygues Telecom) with him. The peloton kept the quintet on a short leash and reeled it in at 38 km .
At 69 km , in Tournon-sur-Rhone, the student demonstrators had another go. At the time, Renaud Dion (Ag2r) led by 1:10, but the race organizers gave him that much of a head start when the riding resumed. Dion?s head start did him no good because the peloton rode him down.
At 82 km , Leblacher escaped again and took Bas Gilling (T-Mobile) with him. The two led by 5:25 at 113 km , but Phonak and Lampre began chasing to protect Landis and Patxi Vila, respectively. Later, Quick Step joined the pursuit, and the break was doomed. With 10 km remaining, the bunch caught the break.
Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis), Voeckler, and Nibali counterattacked. Lampre and Quick Step led the pursuit, which reeled in the break with two km left. Schumacher and Davis started the sprint early, but Boonen passed them despite a chain malfunction.
In the overall, Landis leads Vila by 0:09 and Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel) as 1:13. Stage 5 will be challenging. The 201.5-km ride from Avignon to Digne-les-Bains will feature two Category 1 climbs, the second of which, the Col du Corobin, will be 16 km from the finish. A small group will go over the summit in the lead and fight out the finish. Who will be in it? Check in at http://www.roadcycling.com/ and find out!