Cancellara wins Paris-Nice stage, Armstrong withdraws

11th March 2005, Comments 0 comments

MONTELIMAR, France, March 10 (AFP) - Swiss time trial specialist Fabian Cancellara of the Fassa Bortolo team won the fourth stage of the Paris to Nice cycle race here on Thursday.

MONTELIMAR, France, March 10 (AFP) - Swiss time trial specialist Fabian Cancellara of the Fassa Bortolo team won the fourth stage of the Paris to Nice cycle race here on Thursday.

Cancellara, the winner of the Tour de France prologue last year, showed he has hidden sprinting powers too by holding off Estonian veteran Jaan Kirsipuu at the finish to take the victory and the race's overall lead.

Cancellara now leads his Spanish team mate Juan Antonio Flecha by 15secs, with American Bobby Julich, who rides for CSC, in third at 20 and former race leader Tom Boonen of Belgium in fourth at 31.

Kirsipuu, one of the wiliest sprinters in the business, was en route to embellishing his packed honours list however Flecha's presence in the finale did the Credit Agricole rider no favours at all.

Flecha took off from a leading group of nine riders with around two kilometres to go to the finish line, forcing Kirsipuu to follow him.

The Estonian took advantage of some favourable wind conditions and launched his sprint for the finish early. But he didn't count on the close presence of Cancellara, whose fresher legs in the finale allowed him to pip Kirsipuu at the finish.

For the 23-year-old from Berne, a former double world champion at junior level, the win gives his Fassa Bortolo team some breathing space.

"Since the start of Paris-Nice we've been looking to show what we can do, and ultimately win a stage," he said.

"The conditions were much better to that effect today, although we got a hand at the end when our team manager told us the wind conditions in the latter part of the stage had changed.

"That's why we all moved up to the front. At the finish I thought Flecha would contend the sprint, but he attacked too early. He slowed down, and since I managed to stay in touch with Kirsipuu, I managed to pull in front of him.

"The win gives me a bit more confidence, but I'm not sure I'll be able to defend the leader's jersey.

"Flecha and (Kim) Kirchen are better suited to the remaining stages in the race."

The fourth stage clicked into gear without American Lance Armstrong, the six-time Tour de France winner who is participating in the race for the first time since 1999.

His Discovery team manager Johan Bruyneel announced: "Lance woke up with a sore throat and with the cold weather he felt worse and worse during the day (Wednesday).

"By the time we got back to the hotel, he was running a fever and we thought it best that he should withdraw and go home," he added. Armstrong, who will aim for a seventh Tour de France yellow jersey in July, is next due to race in a ProTour event at the Tour of Flanders on April 3.

The general classification should change after Friday's stage, which begins in Rognes near the Rhone valley and heads towards the main climb of the day at Mont-Faron just above Toulon.

The final climb of 5.5 kilometres has an average gradient of 8.9 per cent, and will prove a tough test for even the best climbers in the peloton.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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