A Frenchman hasn’t won a stage in Paris-Nice since Laurent Jalabert did it in 2002 (he was also the last to win the race outright, in 1997). Today, David Moncoutié (Team Cofidis) thought he had a chance to change that today – but Spain’s Joaquin Rodriguez (Team Caisse d’Épargne) managed to outsmart Moncoutié tactically to take the stage win. Rodriguez’ plan – letting Moncoutié do all the work only to break away in the end – is one that some riders complain about, but that’s usually because they’re not the one who’s won. Every rider in the professional peloton knows this strategy, so the fact that Moncoutié was upset about the outcome is (to me) due more to the fact that he didn’t do it himself.
Floyd Landis was left without teammates on the final category-one climb, which could have been a bit scary, but Landis kept his cool and has kept the leader’s jersey on his back. With two days remaining in the race, it’s unlikely he’ll be giving it up – Saturday’s stage is hilly, but there aren’t any high mountains. On Sunday, the final day, there are three category-one climbs, so anything is possible… But Landis just looks like he’s on fire so far this season.
In other cycling news… After two fabulous stage wins in Tirreno-Adriatico, Italian Paolo Bettini (Team Quick.Step) crashed out of the race today. Team doctors said it didn’t appear that he’d broken anything, but with “major abrasions and bruising to his left hand and left hip, as well as right knee and right side of his chest” it’s uncertain whether he’ll compete in the upcoming Milano-Sanremo.
Last year’s winner, Spain’s Oscar Freire (Team Rabobank) took the sprint victory today (on a very cold stage!), and with it the overall lead.