10/7/2012 12:00:00 AM - TEAM NEWS!
Marcato wins Paris-Tours
Late breakaway holds off the sprinters
Marco Marcato won his first classic at Paris-Tours but didn't dethrone Andreï Tchmil from the record books as the fastest winner ever. Back in 1997, the Moldavian turned Belgian set a record of 48.830km/h but the Italian from Vacansoleil-DCM came close with a score of 48.629. He resisted to a solo counter-attack by race favourite John Degenkolb and outsprinted Topsport Vlaanderen's Laurens de Vreese who accused him of misbehavior. Dutch champion Niki Terpstra of Omega Pharma-Quick Step was the third man of the winning breakaway.
The race started on a high speed with Sylvain Chavanel showing an aggressive spirit. One of the riders who accompanied him was young Australian talent Michael Hepburn from Orica-GreenEdge. "Before the race, our goal was to have someone in the breakaway," the world champion for individual pursuit told Cyclingnews. "It was a pretty big group. Being active and positive was a good way to conduct my last race as I didn't really get going on the road after the Olympics, but I'll come back stronger next year."
Karsten Kroon and Michael Morkov (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank), Jérôme Pineau (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), Gatis Smukulis (Katusha), Laszlo Bodrogi (TT1), Arnaud Gérard (FDJ-BigMat), Koen De Kort (Argos-Shimano) and Yannick Talabardon (Saur-Sojasun) were the other members of the breakaway. Their gap over the pack grow rapidly. They could enjoy a 4:50 advantage after a very fast first hour of racing (50.6 kilometres covered). Behind, the chase was being organised by teams AG2R-La Mondiale, Vacansoleil-DCM and Garmin-Sharp, failing to have riders in the breakaway and the gap started dropping. "We wouldn't let them have more than four minutes lead," said eventual winner Marcato who co-captained the Vacansoleil-DCM team.
The strongest rider of the breakaway was obviously Michael Mørkøv. He decided to take off on his own with under 40 kilometres to go while all his former breakaway companions were caught up by the chasing pack at km 201. "I tried a way to escape from the bunch as I've done all year," the Dane told Cyclingnews. "It was a good group but some guys were too afraid to pull. They were saving energy. As I felt being the strongest of the group, I went away but I knew it was impossible to make it by myself with 35 kilometres more to race."
A group of seven counter-attackers took over from Mørkøv: Marcato, Terpstra, Roy Curvers (Argos-Shimano), Julien Bérard (AG2R-La Mondiale), De Vreese, Sébastien Turgot (Europcar) and Laurent Pichon (Bretagne-Schuller) managed to pull away in the last hills of the course and caught up with the leader. A second decisive move occurred in the final 10kms when Marcato pulled away, taking with him De Vreese and Terpstra.
While a group of favourites including defending champion Greg Van Avermaet (BMC), John Degenkolb (Argos-Shimano), Bjorn Leukemans (Vacansoleil-DCM) and Jakob Fuglsang (RadioShack-Nissan) managed to take off from the pack in the last hill (Cote de l'Epan, km 7), it was looking good for the front three, enjoying a fifteen seconds advantage with five kilometres to go. "Unfortunately, in the absence of radios, I didn't much of information," Marcato explained. "But I saw on the blackboard that there was a group at fifteen seconds and the peloton at 35 seconds. Obviously, had guys like Degenkolb, [Nacer] Bouhanni and [Adam] Blythe come across, it would have meant the end of my hopes."
Degenkolb was close to closing the gap by himself. "I understood this group was going for the victory but there were still three guys at the front," the German told Cyclingnews. "I was following Van Avermaet but since I was the strongest in the group, I tried because I only had one team-mate left with me. But probably I wasn't strong enough. You always have to try. I'm not devastated. It's still a fourth place in a big classic. After the fourth place at the world championship, it's not a bad way to conclude my season."
De Vreese wasn't that happy with the outcome. He and his directeur sportif Hans De Clercq complained to the judges about Marcato's move in the sprint but they got no luck. "Hadn't Marcato done that, I would have won," the Belgian noted. "I was going to pass him and he forced me to stop pedaling. It was my first time in such a situation while he had the experience of having sprinted here one year ago." After losing to Van Avermaet, Marcato had learnt the lesson. "I haven't seen what De Vreese is talking about," Marcato said. "I was only looking at the finishing line. But the street was wide. There was space for everyone. From last year, I mostly learnt how to ride in the kilometers preceding the sprint. One year ago, I had in mind that it was still good to be second. This time around, it was all or nothing. With 3km to go, I became confident that I would win."
The 28 year old Italian from Padova will put an end to his 2012 season at the Tour de Vendée next week, a race he won last year.
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Marco Marcato (Vacansoleil) winner of the 2012 Paris-Tours
Photo: © Isabelle Duchesne