Chavanel, Westra encouraged by top Paris-Nice prologue finishes
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Sunday, March 03, 2013

Chavanel, Westra encouraged by top Paris-Nice prologue finishes

by Kyle Moore at 3:07 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Paris-Nice
 
Past podium placers in a good spot for top result

Sylvain ChavanelNeither Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) nor Lieuwe Westra (Vacansoleil-DCM) could top Paris-Nice prologue winner Damien Gaudin (Europcar) in the 2.9km opener to the Race to the Sun, but both are favourites for the overall victory in a week’s time, positioned well after less than three full kilometres of racing.

Time gaps built in a 2.9km race against the clock will obviously be of minimal importance in the grand scheme of the race, but the statements made by Chavanel and Westra carry much more importance. Their ability to mix it up with sprinters and track specialists in the short burst, along with the fact that they left the rest of the overall contenders behind, is the best indicator of their ambitions for the week.

Chavanel and Westra get a small advantage on other contenders such as Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing), who is 11 seconds back, Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp), at 12 seconds, and Rein Taaramae (Cofidis), at 13 seconds.

Chavanel had the unenviable position of starting directly ahead of Gaudin, and after Chavanel stole the best time from Wilco Kelderman (Blanco), Gaudin had it in his possession for good just moments later. Westra was the penultimate man to leave the start house and put up the biggest challenge of the final round of riders, coming within a second of Gaudin and Chavanel.

After losing by just a few tenths of a second, Chavanel was still sporting in his concession speech, knowing that his goal of the final yellow jersey in Nice still lays ahead of him.

“I'm satisfied with my race. After the finish line, you know, you start thinking about the small things that can change the result,” Chavanel conceded. “But I think Gaudin deserved this victory. He was really strong. He is a specialist of this kind of race and he is also a good track rider. I tried to go for the victory but I'm happy about my performance and the feeling I had out of the course.

“Of course it would have been better to start tomorrow with the yellow jersey, but the road to Nice is still long. Paris-Nice is the first real objective of the season for me. I would like to do well and try to win a stage. I think it's the best approach for me prior to the classics.”

Chavanel will be looking to top his best overall Paris-Nice performance, which came in 2009, when he won stage three to Vichy in front of Juan Antonio Flecha. He went on to win the points classification and finish third overall, behind Luis Leon Sanchez and Frank Schleck.

Westra is coming off of his breakout season of a year ago, which he started with a bang in Paris-Nice, pushing a brilliant Bradley Wiggins to the limit before taking second place, eight seconds behind the British rider.

The time trial champion of the Netherlands got his Paris-Nice off to a strong start, blasting to a third place finish.

“Since the prologue was short and technical I wanted to reduce the damage,” Westra stated somewhat modestly. “I took every risk and went full gas where possible. The result is superb. It proves that I am more than okay. I felt power. It seems that I’m in shape at a good moment.”

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