Canny Dekker wins Paris-Tours

After Oscar Freire's world championship win last weekend, Erik Dekker continues Rabobank's run of la

After Oscar Freire's world championship win last weekend, Erik Dekker continues Rabobank's run of la
PICTURE BY TIM DE WAELE Erik Dekker won this afternoon's ninth leg of the World Cup when he just hung on to beat the sprinters at Paris-Tours. The Dutchman's was a remarkable ride as he spent most of the day away in a break that was hauled in by attackers from the bunch close to the finish in Tours, but tactical brilliance on the run-in still allowed Dekker one last chance - and he took it. Rabobank's Dekker was one of a quartet of riders who went clear from a bigger break after 25 kilometres. With him were Quick Step's Bram Tankink, CSC's Vladimir Goussev and Lampre's Manuel Quinziato. The quartet were joined by RAGT's Eric Berthou later on, but the Frenchman had dropped away before the key action began. It started with Dekker driving up a long drag with about 30 kilometres remaining, and taking Goussev with him. The breakaway group had never reached a double-digit lead, but by this point their advantage was little more than a minute. Not enough, surely, for Dekker and Goussev to hold on. With Dekker doing most of the pace-making, somehow the pair did stay clear into the last 10k, where the Dutchman finally saw off Goussev on another climb. Dekker was not long on his own, though, as Igor Astarloa got across to him, followed by Juan Antonio Flecha, Allan Davis and Matthias Kessler. Crucially, a crash briefly slowed the chase in the bunch behind. After attempts to get clear by Flecha and Kessler, the incredible Dekker went again, with Kessler the only one to respond. The pair worked together into the last kilometre, where Kessler led out the sprint as the bunch bore down on them. Dekker picked his moment for his final attack and took a thoroughly deserved and brilliantly taken victory. Danilo Hondo was the closest to denying him, with Dekker's Rabobank team-mate and new world champion Oscar Freire in third place. Sixth place for Paolo Bettini was enough to move him to the top of the World Cup standings, ahead of Argentina's Davide Rebellin, who was 13th. The World Cup title will be decided between the pair next weekend at the Tour of Lombardy. Afterwards Dekker said his victory was the reward for two years spent battling a series of injuries since his World Cup success in 2001. "The team had Oscar Freire for the sprint, so we had to be represented in the breaks. But as I felt that I was having a great day I almost regretted not staying hidden for a while longer," said the Dutchman. "When I was caught by Astarloa and the others I just wanted to stay in that group. My plan was to attack again in the last kilometre. I remembered that was what Richard Virenque did in 2001. This is the proof that nothing is impossible." 1 Erik Dekker (Hol) Rabobank 252.5km in 5.33.03 (45.49kph) 2 Danilo Hondo (Ger) Gerolsteiner 3 Oscar Freire (Spa) Rabobank 4 Allan Davis (Aus) Liberty Seguros 5 Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Cofidis 6 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quick Step 7 Matthias Kessler (Ger) T-Mobile 8 Uros Murn (Slo) Phonak 9 Jaan Kirsipuu (Est) Ag2r 10 Eddy Mazzoleni (Ita) Saeco World Cup standings 1 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quick Step-Davitamon 340 2 Davide Rebellin (Ita) Gerolsteiner 327 3 Oscar Freire (Spa) Rabobank 252 4 Erik Dekker (Hol) Rabobank 237 5 Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Cofidis 186 6 Juan Antonio Flecha (Spa) Fassa Bortolo 140
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