Marco Marcato (Vacansoleil-DCM) won the French one-day classic, Paris-Tours today from late-race escape trio. The Italian sprinted ahead of Laurens De Vreese (Topsport Vlaanderen) after 235.5 kilometres.
Dutch champion Niki Terpstra (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), who started the sprint at 250 metres when he saw John Degenkolb (Argos-Shimano) bridging, placed third.
"I've won others [races]," Marcato said in a post-race interview, "but for sure this is the most important."
Marcato won stages in the Vendée, Ireland and Slovenia tours, but they fail to compare to the French "sprinters' classic" Paris-Tours. Last year, he was one step away from the top after losing the sprint to Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing).
Adam Blythe and his BMC Racing team-mates tried to help team-mate Van Avermaet win again. Marcato said, however, his team was committed as well.
"We committed ourselves and worked all day in the front, this is compensation for their work," he explained. "And to the support of my family and wife, we only just married one month ago."
Marcato married Elisa at the start of September. He spent his honeymoon in Valkenburg, The Netherlands with the Italian national team. He knew he was in form after helping the team at the World Championships, where he led Vincenzo Nibali to the foot of the final Cauberg climb.
"After the Worlds and this, I think I can say today that I've had a good season. I can no take a well earned vacation."
Terpstra attacked from a newly formed escape after the main bunch caught an early 11-man group. On the Côte de Beau Soleil, with just over 10km to race, he race clear with Marcato and Belgian De Vreese.
The trio's advantage stood around 30 seconds. Blythe briefly shot clear, but returned to the group as the Côte de l'Épan started. Going into the final five kilometres and the famous Avenue de Grammont finishing straight, the trio appeared ready to win. Degenkolb chased solo in a desperate attempt to close to the trio. Terpstra, who had been marking Marcato, sprung clear with 250 metres left. Marcato reacted and held off De Vreese.
Marcato explained that he new he could win if the trio stayed clear. "I knew Niki Terpstra was not so fast. The other guy, I didn't know about. He always said, 'I'm tired, I'm tired,' but you never know and I was scared."
Sky's Juan Antonio Flecha attacked from the group just prior to Terpstra.
"When I saw Niki Terpstra go, I saw a lot of riders in the bunch looking a little tired and I thought there might not be enough of riders to keep [the group] together," Marcato added. "I told the guys, 'Go! Go!' I knew I could make the difference on the small hills, we could get to the finish and I'd have my chance."
Degenkolb placed fourth at six seconds back. A small group with Van Avermaet crossed the line at 12 seconds, another small group at 19 seconds and the main group, led by Blythe, at 28 seconds.
Paris-Tours 2012, 235.5km
1. Marco Marcato (Ita) Vacansoleil-DCM in 4-50-34
2. Laurens De Vreese (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen
3. Niki Terpstra (Ned) Omega Pharma-QuickStep at same time
4. John Degenkolb (Ger) Argos-Shimano at 6 secs
5. Laurent Pichon (Fra) Bretagne-Schuller at 12 secs
6. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing
7. Bjorn Leukemans (Bel) Vacansoleil-DCM at same time
8. Jonathan Hivert (Fra) Saur-Sojasun at 19 secs
9. Jens Keukeleire (Bel) Orica-GreenEdge
10. Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Omega Pharma-QuickStep at same time
15. Adam Blythe (GBr) BMC Racing at 28 secs
Marcato wins as De Vreese looks less than happy with the outcome
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Gregor Brown is an experienced cycling journalist, based in Florence, Italy. He has covered races all over the world for over a decade - following the Giro, Tour de France, and every major race since 2006. His love of cycling began with freestyle and BMX, before the 1998 Tour de France led him to a deep appreciation of the road racing season.
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