A last-minute attack by Italian Franco Pellizotti on stage two of Paris-Nice from Vatan to Limoges has knocked Briton David Millar out of the overall lead. Millar now trails the Liquigas pro by six seconds on the general classification.
Together with Saunier Duval-Prodir team-mate Alberto Fernandez, the Briton had personally closed the gap when the bunch split on the uphill finish with a kilometre to go.
But neither Saunier nor any of the sprinters teams were able to prevent Pellizotti making an impressive move in the last 500 metres which gave the 29 year-old Italian his first win of the season. Second leading in a bunch which split again in the frantic finale was Italian sprinter Daniele Bennati (Lampre). Third was Pellizotti?s team-mate Danilo Di Luca.
?I came here for a stage win, but now I?ve taken the lead I?ll defend it as best I can,? Pellizotti told reporters afterwards. ?We?ve been having a great season at Liquigas, I think this is our fourth victory of the year already, with [Filippo] Pozzato taking a good win in Het Volk and Danilo [Di Luca] winning Milan-Turin.?
The winner of stage 10 in the Giro last year, and eighth overall, Pelizzotti is a skilled climber and will be a real danger to Millar?s chances overall. The Italian admitted that he did not know Paris-Nice 2007?s key climb, the summit finish at Mende on stage four. ?I?ll have to take it on the day by day, but I will do my utmost to defend this yellow jersey.?
Moving through much hillier terrain than on stage one, four riders managed to break away by kilometre 50 – Brazilian sprinter Murilo Fischer (Liquigas), former Het Volk winner Phillipe Gilbert (Francaise des Jeux), 2004 Tour de France leader Thomas Voeckler (Bouygues Telecom) and Stephane Auge (Cofidis).
The four collaborated well, and Voeckler stayed away the longest, battling bravely to try and take France?s second stage win of this year?s race until he was reeled in within the last kilometre – and Pellizotti blasted off.
?It was a complicated day for us. David is in good shape and came through well, even if he lost the overall lead.? Saunier Duval manager Joxean Fernandez Matxin told Cycling Weekly.
?He and Alberto pulled back one split, but this was a very complicated finale, with lots of twists and turns and a really high speed finish because Voeckler was reeled in so late.?
Wednesday?s 215 kilometre stage of Paris-Nice – the longest of the race – heads into the Massif Central. The most important classified climb, the second cat. Cote, is nearly 60 kilometres from the finish in Maurs. The last part of the stage goes through some heavy terrain, with a descent just before the finish.