The heroic solo effort, so often doomed to failure, provided the route to victory for Thomas De Gendt (Vacansoleil-DCM) on stage seven of the 2012 Paris-Nice.
The 25-year-old puncheur dropped fellow escapee, Rein Taaramae (Cofidis), with 55km to go after the pair had escaped after 48km of the grueling 220km stage.
De Gendt’s victory, his second in the ‘Race to the Sun’ after winning last year’s opening stage, continued a run of fine performances from the Dutch Vacansoleil-DCM squad.
Gustav Erik Larrson won the opening stage individual time trial from Dampierre-en-Yvelines to Saint-Rémy-lès-Chevreuse last Sunday (4), while Thursday (8) saw Lieuwe Westra take stage five with a bold attack on the climb into Mende.
Westra remains second overall, six seconds behind Britain’s Bradley Wiggins whose bid for overall victory was strengthened today by the misfortune of the American rider, Levi Leipheimer (Omega Pharma- Quickstep).
Leipheimer’s final collision involved teammates who had waited to pull him back to the peloton after his second crash.
Both Leipheimer and Dries Devenyns crashed heavily trying to avoid a stationery motorcycle parked on a turn of the descent of the Col de Vence.
Leipheimer’s directeur sportif, Brian Holm, was philosophical and called for a positive approach to what had been a challenging day for his team leader.
“The third crash downhill at 15km, that was not fun. Going into something standing still you can really hurt yourself. I saw them hurt themselves badly, but don’t think anybody broke anything. My first thought was ‘shoot, arms and legs were broken’. Levi, he is made of chocolate. You know, third time down, to get back on your bike, you have to be very strong. I am just glad no one broke their bones. Stuff happens,” said Holm.
Wiggins could become the first British rider to win Paris-Nice since Tom Simpson in 1967 if all goes to plan in tomorrow’s closing stage: a 9.6km individual time trial ascending the Col d’Eze from Nice
Team Sky’s directeur sportif, Sean Yates, said: “It’s now up to Brad to do the best he possibly can in the time trial on Sunday – may the best man win.”
Paris-Nice stage seven
1) Thomas De Gendt (BEL) – Vacansoleil-DCM 5:11.48 hours
2) Rein Taaramae (EST) – Cofidis Le Credit En Ligne + 6.18
3) John Degenkolb (GER) – Project 1T4i + 9.24
4) Greg Henderson (NZl) Lotto-Belisol Team
5) Thor Hushovd (NOR) – BMC Racing Team
6) Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (SPA) – Movistar Team
7) Romain Feillu (FRA) – Vacansoleil-DCM
8) Simon Clarke (AUS) – GreenEdge Cycling Team
9) Xavier Florencio Cabre (SPA) – Katusha Team
10) Grega Bole (SLO) – Lampre – ISD
1) Bradley Wiggins (GBR) – Sky Procycling 27:53.04 hours
2) Lieuwe Westra (NED) – Vacansoleil-DCM + 6”
3) Alejandro Valverde (SPA) – Movistar Team + 18”
4) Simon Spilak (SLO) – Katusha Team + 37”
5) Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team +39”
6) Maxime Monfort (BEL) – RadioShack-Nissan + 46”
7) Arnold Jeannesson (FRA) – FDJ-Bigmat + 1.06
8) Sylvain Chavanel (FRA) – Omega Pharma-Quick Step + 1.16
9) Robert Kiserlovski (CRO) – Astana Pro Team + 1.21
10) Angel Vicioso Arcos (SPA) – Katusha Team + 2.24