Astana targeting Paris-Nice prologue with Grivko, GC with Fuglsang
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Friday, March 1, 2013

Astana targeting Paris-Nice prologue with Grivko, GC with Fuglsang

by Kyle Moore at 9:22 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Paris-Nice
Lotto-Belisol hoping De Clercq takes the next step

Andriy GrivkoThe sun starts getting closer when Paris-Nice gets underway on Sunday, with a short 2.9km prologue set to lead things off. The field in contention for the time trial dash could be rather large, with both TT specialists and sprinters alike in with a chance.

With primary GC man Vincenzo Nibali defending his title in Tirreno-Adriatico, Team Astana is sending a wide-ranging team with multiple targets to Paris-Nice, with Jakob Fuglsang as their main general classification threat, and Andriy Grivko as their hope for the prologue and the first leader’s jersey.

Grivko put the Ukraine into 11th place in the time trial world championships last year. Before that, he finished third in a similar prologue time trial of 5.7km in the Critérium du Dauphiné, two seconds behind winner Luke Durbridge and a second off of eventual champion Bradley Wiggins. This year, Grivko has shown positive signs, with top 20 finishes overall in the Tours of Qatar and Oman.

New Astana director Dmitriy Fofonov knows that he might have the right horse in his stable to grab the first leader’s jersey in the first big stage race of the year. “Grivko is a very strong time trialist and comes from a track background,” Fofonov stated. “We think on Sunday he has a very good chance of a good result, and if we have a chance to start Paris-Nice with the yellow jersey, that's a strong incentive to race well.”

For the GC, Astana will go with Fuglsang, who said he has felt relaxed and stress-free in his first year with the team, although Paris-Nice will be a major goal for the Dane.

“I'm confident that I can do my best and get a good result, and the first goal is to get into the top ten and see who is there, and if I can go higher,” Fuglsang explained. “But that said, it's a really, really difficult race. It's like a mini Tour de France. The weather never makes it easier, and it's really stressful and nervous because there are so many teams and riders there for whom Paris-Nice is a major season goal. There are fewer time trial kilometres this year, which could work as a disadvantage for me if you add it up. But it's the same for everybody in that regard. In any case, Paris-Nice is still a very competitive race.”

“Paris-Nice is the first serious test of the World Tour, and it is a race where the strongest and best riders line up,” the experienced Fofonov added. “It is always harder in real life than on paper. The race can throw up surprises along the way - there can be wind, there can be snow, the mountains can be very hard. It is a real test of teams and leaders.

“Fuglsang has shown in the past on other teams and at other races that he deserves the role of leader, and we will support him fully.”

Lotto-Belisol gives De Clercq a big chance at team leadership:

In almost 15 racing days already this season, Lotto-Belisol’s Bart De Clercq has been there or thereabouts, taking 9th overall in the Tour de San Luis, 7th in the Trofeo Serra de Tramuntana, and 5th in the Vuelta a Andalucia-Ruta del Sol. The former Giro d’Italia stage winner now gets a chance to lead Lotto-Belisol at Paris-Nice, with Jelle Vanendert at Tirreno-Adriatico and Jurgen Van den Broeck not racing.

André Greipel and the vaunted Lotto-Belisol sprint train will also be in Italy, so De Clercq will have most of his squad at his disposal in France. Francis De Greef should be his best lieutenant in the mountains, and the Belgian team can also count on veteran Frederik Willems for guidance.

“Our main objective is a top ten place with our climber Bart De Clercq, and possibly even a little higher than top ten,” said team director Mario Aerts. “He will receive the help of some of the riders on the team. Lars Bak comes back to competition [after being out with an injury], so we will wait to see what his condition is like. Besides De Clercq, we start with a team of attackers and we hope for strong individual performances.

“Our young Belgian Gaëtan Bille is good in the prologue, and Francis De Greef may possibly look for a long breakaway. There will also be the sprints, and we are giving the chance to Jens Debusschere and Dennis Vanendert to prove themselves.”

Astana for Paris-Nice:
Jakob Fuglsang, Borut Bozic, Andrey Zeits, Enrico Gasparotto, Maxim Iglinskiy, Kevin Seeldraeyers, Egor Silin, Andriy Grivko

Lotto-Belisol for Paris-Nice:
Lars Bak, Gaëtan Bille, Bart De Clercq, Francis De Greef, Jens Debusschere, Dirk Bellemakers, Dennis Vanendert, Frederik Willems


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