Tue, Mar 09, 2010 - Page 20 News List

Lars Boom wins in Paris, Steegmans hit by a whirlwind

BLOWN AWAY Gert Steegmans broke his left collarbone when a whirlwind lifted his cycle off the ground while he was traveling at 75kph

AP AND REUTERS , MONTFORT L’AMAURY, FRANCE

Rabobank’s Lars Boom of the Netherlands cycles through Montfort-l’Amaury in western Paris during the 8km time-trial prologue of the 68th edition of the Paris-Nice race.

PHOTO: AFP

Lars Boom of the Netherlands won the Paris-Nice prologue on Sunday ahead of German rider Jens Voigt and Levi Leipheimer of the US.

Two-time Tour de France winner Alberto Contador finished fourth in the 8km time-trial featuring a third-category climb.

The 24-year-old Boom, a former cyclo-cross world champion, mastered freezing temperatures to surprise all the favorites and win in 10 minutes, 56 seconds. Voigt was three seconds off the pace, while Leipheimer and Contador, winner of the prologue last year, conceded 6 seconds to Boom.

“It was a really good circuit for me. It was 8km at full speed and at a high heart rate,” Boom said. “I felt very, very good, but I didn’t expect to win because there are some big names here.”

Defending champion Luis Leon Sanchez lost 12 seconds, while fellow Spaniard Alejandro Valverde finished 29 seconds behind Boom.

FABULOUS

“To beat riders like Contador, Sanchez and the rest is just fabulous,” said Boom, who won a stage at the Vuelta last year.

“Now I’m hoping to retain the yellow jersey in the next couple of days knowing that with the first climbs, it’ll be hard to stay with the best,” he said.

The eight-stage race covers a total of 1,288km and ends on Sunday in Nice.

Yesterday’s first stage was scheduled to take the riders from Saint-Arnoult-en-Yvelines to Contres on a 201.5km mainly flat course.

Contador, who won the race in 2007, faltered in the penultimate stage last year to finish fourth overall. The Spaniard is off to a good start this season after winning the Tour of Algarve last month.

“I couldn’t win today, but it doesn’t matter and for the team it’s even better because we have less responsibility now. I felt comfortable,” Contador said.

WHIRLWIND

During the race, team RadioShack rider Gert Steegmans broke his left collarbone when a whirlwind caused him to crash.

The wind lifted the Belgian’s bike off the ground while he was traveling at 75kph on a downhill section of the course, the team said on their Web site.

“I saw the wind coming,” team director Dirk Demol said.

“Leaves and tree branches flew in the air and a second later Gert was lifted in the air too. He was blown away from the road and tumbled over and over many times. It was a terrible crash,” Demol said.

“I’ve never seen such a thing in my life. It took 12 minutes for the ambulance to arrive, while we waited and could do nothing,” he said.

Steegmans, a teammate of seven-times Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong, also had a contusion of the shoulder muscle and road rashes all over his body.

He was to have an operation on his shoulder yesterday and was expected to be out of action for at least three weeks.

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