Paris-Nice Stage 6: the moment the race was won

Friday, 9 March 2012

Luis Leon Sanchez and Jens Voigt throw their bikes at the finish line but Sanchez was the faster finisher whilst Voigt faded in the last 20 metres.

Early in the stage a large group of 28 riders went away as crosswinds whipped the peloton, yellow jersey Bradley Wiggins was in this group but Alejandro Valverde was not and the Spaniard put his team to work on the chase meaning a frantic first hour. The move contained, another escape went and this included Voigt, Sanchez and Frederik Veuchelen (Vacansoleil), Simon Geschke (Project 1T4i), Mickael Cherel (AG2R), Anthony Geslin (FDJ) and Daniel Navarro (Saxo Bank). Veuchelen did well to take more mountain points after his breakaway yesterday.

This move never got a big lead, a sign of a tiring day for all. It looked like a sprint finish was coming up but with 15km to go Sanchez and Voigt took off. Visibly giving it everything, the pair were fortunate that the bunch chase was only being led by Omega Pharma – Quickstep, other teams didn’t join in and the lead stayed at just over a minute. The lead two collaborated perfectly until the final kilometre where they started trying to manoeuvre each other, each wanting the other to lead. In the end Voigt launched a powerful sprint but Sanchez countered with a very determined last 100 metres and just took the win, pipping the 40 year old German in Sisteron, on the edge of the Alps.

All teams are delighted with wins but Rabobank will want this win even more. Michael Matthews took a win in Spain but the Dutch squad has found sections of the domestic media asking questions about their lack of wins so far this year. Luis Leon Sanchez certainly had answer. The winner of Paris-Nice in 2009 as well as several stages Sanchez has a nose for the right breakaway, he masters what the French call science de la course, the science of racing. Last year saw him move to Rabobank and he admitted problems settling in, a language barrier amongst other problems.

Rabo’s day wasn’t perfect, Bauke Mollema quit the race. Several others did the same, including Ivan Basso. Bradley Wiggins hopes of winning overall get more and more real but tomorrow’s stage has some climbing and tricky descending and the podium places are still up for grabs. This is a race that will be decided by seconds, not minutes.

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{ 13 comments }

Adam March 9, 2012 at 9:25 pm

I’d love to have seen Jens get the win as would most.
The sprint for 3rd was fascinating, from the aerial view Haussler was going at a different speed than all the others. With such good form, bunch win today and Het Volk – Peiper has said he’s now at 2009 levels – its curious that Garmin didn’t work to reel in the break.

Pave March 9, 2012 at 10:19 pm

Man, LL Sanchez only has one weapon in his arsenal, but it seems to work for him. He pulls the same stunt every year a few times: get in a break, skip a lot of pulls, pretend he’s tired, then sprint for the win.

Leroy March 9, 2012 at 10:33 pm

^Agreed^

Ablindeye March 9, 2012 at 11:08 pm

Entertaining end to the stage with the, perhaps unfairly, branded peoples hero versus the anti hero. No matter what people think of them one thing is sure, they both showed immense strength in the finale to keep the field at bay. For my part commiserations to Jens who is an inspiration to all of us who are the wrong side of 30 or even 40 for that matter.

TotheBillyoh March 10, 2012 at 12:44 am

I echo the comments that say that you have hit upon a winning way of giving us the heart of the stage with your “The Moment the Race Was Won” reportage. Many thanks.

ave March 10, 2012 at 1:16 am

>pretend he’s tired
He was tired, rest assured. He can sprint when he is tired. Everybody can. But he can win too.

roomservicetaco March 10, 2012 at 4:54 am

Pave,

When did Sanchez skip turns? I saw only the last 10k and looked like Jens did most of the work from 10k to 7k, but only because he was attacking or not asking for help. From 7k until the cat-and-mouse stuff just after the 1k to go banner, looked like each was taking ~30 second pulls. Hard to know if Jens was going hard and Sanchez less, but looked like they were working equally. Did I miss something or did Sanchez play games before that?

Pave March 10, 2012 at 8:11 am

~9.4km to go Jens digs deep, Sanchez doesn’t speed up but looks over his shoulder for Cherel to come fill in the gap. Sanchez smoothly follows his wheel, but that effort kills Cherel and he’s off the back in the next moment. A little over 7km to Jens is pulling hard, Sanchez shakes his head like he’s hurting, then, boom, hits it hard after Jens just put in a monster effort and rides him off the wheel for a moment. After that, you’re right, they share pretty equally as the situation dictates it in order to stay away. The final 10km weren’t the place to see it as much. For truly classic Sanchezness go back and look at the TdF stages where he won or came in 2nd. When he’s in a bigger break, he’s a gamer. Hanging his head between his shoulders, shaking his head, waving people through, then POW, wins the stage.

And just to be clear, I wouldn’t dare imply he’s not tired or that he’s “bad” for his tactics. The tactics are brilliant for winning races and I’m absolutely sure he’s hurting out there. He just knows how to work the situations to save more in the tank than the next guy. We could all take lessons.

Larry T. March 10, 2012 at 9:27 am

Once it was just the two heading into the finish, nobody in his right mind would bet on Voigt (someone confirm – it’s pronounced something like VOAT rather than VOIT, correct?) against Sanchez, it was Luis’ race to lose. Jens has been around way too long to think he was going to tow Sanchez to the line then somehow beat him in the sprint. The better sprinter knows this too and simply sits back and waits for the other guy to try an attack to drop him well ahead of the finish line. Why should the superior sprinter do anything but sit there and wait for his opportunity? Overall I hoped for more action, the idea that the GC boyz will just ride along until the final chrono stage seems lame. Meanwhile (weather permitting) Tirreno-Adriatico should serve up some exciting action today. As always INRG, you’re the man, thanks for the great previews and reviews!

El Gato de La Cala (47) March 10, 2012 at 9:41 am

Suggestion: put in after your name the number of bike races you have won in a parenthesis whenever “the moment the race was won” is up for debate – and your answers and comments would be easier to understand. Bike racing is more than faking to win or winning public popularity by playing powerhouse for 20 yrs – lots of power no brains – it is as Inrng mention it: “science de la course”!

It is fare more complex than who did what in the final against whom, and if you haven’t had your fair deal of sleepless nights through your career as am or pro rider due to wrong decisions in the final, it is hard to understand why and how races are won. You not only need to learn to win you also have to dare play the game and most important of all need to learn when to put a 100% effort into a race to be in contention for a win.

I am not a huge fan of TT specialists, although I respect specialists in every sense, neither am I the biggest fan of sprinters, although I admire their technically skills and top speed – but, when it comes to finishing up classic one day races or stages of any kind in stage races: it is the real deal. This is why most of us started riding our bikes.

So based on this I say that Louis Leon Sanchez is one of the most talented bike riders in terms of getting in the position for winning, playing his cards to perfection and being able to go solo if this is the solution or sprint in smaller groups. Touché!

As to Jens Voigt, a likable character in most ways, you can’t help wondering what he was doing out there with Vino in L-B-L, knowing what we maybe know about Vino today. For sure he didn’t play his cards well, for sure he had a chance – but hey, all them kids needs nutrition and a big heated house and maybe in the end he actually was: “lots of power – and some brains”.

Rooto March 10, 2012 at 10:01 am

Larry
Inrng did a whole post on it, IIRC. It’s “FORKED”, apparently.

Rooto (0 – but still entitled to post)

Larry T. March 10, 2012 at 12:04 pm

Rooto, thanks, I’m sure there’s a teutonic growl needed to do it right but I wondered, since the French commentators were for sure saying “VOIT”. But TV’s Heckyl and Jeckyl don’t bother trying to pronounce the Italian riders name correctly either, so poor Jens will have to live with it. I still remember Clawdio CHEE-a-POOCHIE and Gee-annie BUG-NO from the old days! :-)

Darren March 11, 2012 at 9:59 pm

I hate those finishes were a few breakaway riders are constantly watching each other to see who will take on the ill-fated responsibility of leading-out the sprint! Reminds me of Langeveld and Flecha in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad last year, going no faster than 25km per hr in the last km, also this yrs version with Flecha (again), Boonen and Vanmarke, oogling each other to see who will bite! My own experience is to not wait but just grit teeth, jump, legs burning, and see how it plays out! Sometimes it works, sometimes not! However, if my favorite pro in the breakaway wins I dont give a shit how! Sometimes the end justifies the means…sometimes!

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