March 17, 2007
Disco revival: Popovych takes Paris-Nice Stage 5
Ukraine's Yaroslav Popovych took his first victory of 2007 with a signature attack out of a strong breakaway group to win Stage 5 at Paris-Nice.
Popovych got in a quality break, along with Dave Zabriskie, Predictor-Lotto's Johan Van Summeren, Rabobank's Koos Moerenhout, T-Mobile's Bert Grabsch, and 8 others, right after the start. The lead group, whittled down to 7, stretched its advantage to 4 minutes at the summit of the Côte des Agnels. Gerolsteiner set a furious pace to keep Popovych from threatening leader Davide Rebellin.
Indeed, Gerolsteiner set such a fast pace on the mountainous stage that they dropped their own Heinrich Haussler, who started the stage in the race's climber's jersey and had to solo in alone for 60 kilometers, finishing dead last on the day. Almost half the field finished more than 5 minutes back, with 60 riders more than 12 minutes back. Haussler somehow holds the polka-dot jersey for at least another day.
With about 20 miles to ride, Popovych decided to go it alone, and was the only member of the break who could outdistance the chase, finishing with 14 seconds in hand. Francisco Ventoso of Saunier Duval took the field sprint, ahead of AG2R's Samuel Dumoulin and Caisse d'Epargne's David Lopez.
It's been a very good year so far for the Discovery Channel team. Levi Leipheimer took the Tour of California, his first appearance for the team. Thursday, Alberto Contador, a late signing after being linked with Operación Puerto, took Stage 4 at Paris-Nice, and sits just 6 seconds back of Rebellin. Look for Discovery Channel and Gerolsteiner to slug it out Saturday and Sunday.
T-Mobile's Michael Barry didn't make the start, choosing to return to his European base, recover from a cold, and and return at the Vuelta al País Vasco in April.
There was one possible setback for Discovery Channel, as Ivan Basso took a fall with teammate Vladimir Gusev at Tirreno-Adriatico on Friday, and injured his wrist. X-rays were negative, but Basso may have to pull out of the race.