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Tour of Picardie – Stage-1 (UCI 2.1)

May 14, 2005 – Cycling enthusiasts will recognize the rolling windy country roads to the north of Paris, as they have played a significant role in many a Tour de France, and classic one day events such as Paris-Bruxelles. These roads also set the stage for the French mini tour, le Tour de Picardie, which is enjoying its 59th year this weekend. The three-day, four-stage, event is not as well known as some of its cousin events, but it is a first quality production, and boasts an historical palmares that reads like a ‘who’s who’ in cycling. The event is promoted by the Amaury Sports Organization, the company responsible for delivering the Tour de France, Paris Roubaix, Paris-Nice, and Liege Bastogne Liege.

The first stage began with unseasonably cool temperatures, and a steady rain that would eventually give way to mostly cloudy skies. The pace was fast from the start as the riders were eager to get the blood flowing in an effort to stay warm. FDJ seemed intent on creating an early break, and when Ludovic Auger’s solo effort was brought back, his teammate Jeremy Roy broke clear at 12km. Roy was soon joined by AG2R’s Christophe Riblon, and Agritubel’s Stephane Berges. The field had settled into a comfortable pace, and the three leaders worked smoothly to build a comfortable margin. The gap increased to 11’30” with 75 km covered, and the peloton was forced to act. The strong sprinting teams of Cofidis and Mr. Bookmaker started the pursuit and slowly worked into the break’s advantage. The gap was coming down slowly, but steadily and as the leaders approached the last of the day’s notable climbs, their advantage was under five minutes. Roy attacked the climb and busted clear.

Content to go it alone, he dropped the hammer, and his former companions, and began to gain time on the chasers. Cofidis had been largely replaced by LPR at the front, but more horsepower was needed. Navigators Insurance kicked in with 35 km remaining, and AG2R jumped in as well, since they no longer had a man with the leader. The momentum turned now, and the gap began to shrink. Three minutes, with 15km to go, Roy was still riding strong, but the peloton was absolutely flying. The rolling finishing circuit would have been a tough obstacle for a man with fresh legs, but Roy had been clear for over 150 km, and he was finally absorbed with 5km to go.

The tough run into the finish took its toll as well. Many of the chasing riders were the first to be dropped, but the field split several times as a group of 37 made it to the line for the final kick. Lotto’s big man, Gert Steegman’s busted across the tape ahead of FDJ’s Bernard Eisel, and LPR’s Mikaylo Khalilov. On this Friday the 13th, the national lottery teams of Belgium and France seemed to be having a good luck day.

Stage 1:

2. EISEL @:04
3. KHALILOV @:06

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