Di Gregorio takes biggest win
Sat, 12 Mar 18:30:00 2011
Frenchman Remy Di Gregorio grabbed the biggest victory of his career when he won a rain-soaked seventh stage of the Paris-Nice on Saturday.
"I waited so long to win a beautiful stage like this," he said. "It's great. It took a lot of work and a lot of questioning."
Di Gregorio, who hails from the same region as six-times Tour de France "king of the mountains" Richard Virenque, almost found himself without a team at the end of last season when Francaise des Jeux did not renew his contract.
However, he showed Virenque-type qualities on Saturday, attacking with 13 kms to go and holding off the the main pack until the finish line.
Race leader Tony Martin of Germany, winner of the previous day's time trial, finished fifth on the heels of Andreas Kloeden, and retains a 36-second advantage over his compatriot with Sunday's final stage to come.
Briton Bradley Wiggins also escaped trouble on the slippery roads of the Riviera's back country to retain third place, 41 seconds adrift.
Paris -Nice Stage 7
There were several crashes as the drizzle and strong headwinds took a toll on some of the pre-race favourites with Slovakia's Peter Sagan and Luxembourg's Frank Schleck both forced to quit.
Dutchman Martijn Maaskant broke seven ribs in a fall and ended up in hospital in Grasse with Croatia's Robert Kiserlovski who also suffered a nasty crash, ending up underneath a parked lorry and requiring stitches to his face.
Di Gregorio narrowly avoided coming off minutes before the finish but managed to keep his balance.
"It was close, but to win like this you must take measured risks. With 100 metres to go, it was a real relief," he said.
Known for his carefree approach in the past, Di Gregorio says he is learning from working alongside experienced riders like Vinokourov.
"I'm only 26 but I'm already in my seventh pro year and I'm learning a lot by seeing how he rides," he said.
Sunday's short final stage over 124 kms to Nice could be even more gruelling as more rain is scheduled on the five climbs of the day.Reuters