GUESDON PULLS OFF SURPRISE VICTORY IN PARIS-TOURS
1997 Paris-Roubaix winner Frederic Guesdon (Francaise des Jeux) rolled back the years when he outsprinted Norway’s Kurt-Asle Arvesen (CSC) to take a fast and furious Paris - Tours 2006.
Guesdon had initiated a well-timed joint attack with Arvesen kilometres from the finish of France’s last big race of the season, and then comfortably outpaced the Norwegian at the finish on the long Avenue de Grammont in central Tours. Third just eight seconds behind was Arvesen’s team-mate Stuart O’Grady.
The two had formed part of a 28 man move that formed early on in strong crosswinds and which put paid to German Erik Zabel’s chances of a record-breaking fourth Paris - Tours win. Zabel (Milram) abandoned, as did the other big name to miss the move, Belgian star Tom Boonen (Quick Step) together with more than half the peloton after they had all missed out on a 40 strong counter-attack behind the 28.
Arvesen and Guesdon took off from the lead group of 28 with four other riders 58 kilometres from the line. As the two chasing groups fused behind the six-man breakaway, Guesdon then used the small climbs just before Tours to take off with Arvesen and finally secure the win.
A local victory in Paris - Tours, the 30th for France in the race, could not have come at a more appropriate moment - this year the “Sprinters Classic” celebrates its 100th anniversary.
For Guesdon, Sunday’s win was his most important triumph since he took Paris-Roubaix as a second year pro back in 1997 and the sixth of his career. His victory will have little effect on the ProTour’s individual rankings, which has already been settled in favour of Alejandro Valverde of Spain, although Arvesen and O’Grady’s podium places will make CSC finally taking the teams classification a near-certainty. The 2006 ProTour ends next Saturday with the Tour of Lombardy in Italy.