ario Cipollini said experience counts in the Tour’s sprints, and Jaan Kirsipuu underlines that idea
In 1999, Lance Armstrong won his first Tour de France and early in that year’s race, Estonian sprinter Jaan Kirsipuu, took his first ever Tour stage win. Today, with Armstrong coming home safe in the bunch as he bid for his record sixth win, Kirsipuu was at it again. In the intervening years, the 34 year old has been a reliable servant to Vincent Lavenu, long-term directeur of the Ag2r Prvoyance team. Further Tour stage wins came in 2001 and 2002, and he’s an evergreen performer in races like the Tour of the Med, Etoile de Bessges, and the Classic Haribo. In Charleroi, his team worked hard in the finale and Kirsipuu used his guile to subvert the best-laid plans of Fassa Bortolo and their sprint king, Alessandro Petacchi, sneaking home ahead of his rivals to take an unexpected victory. “I did some good sprints at the start of the season, and I don’t think I’ve lost too much speed,” said Kirsipuu after seeing off younger rivals Petacchi, Thor Hushovd, Baden Cooke and Robbie McEwen. “Of course I am really happy to have beaten Petacchi, McEwen, Tom Boonen and the rest of the guys,” said Kirsipuu, “but I think we’ll see more of Petacchi during this Tour de France. It just wasn’t his day.” One of the reasons the Italian might have lacked his final kick could have been because of Robbie McEwen’s diversion across his path in the final 250 metres, a move which appeared very much to take Petacchi’s wind out of his sails. McEwen, hot on the Ag2r rider’s wheel, threw his bike in an attempt to pip Kirsipuu, but to no avail. “At first, I wasn’t happy though,” admitted Kirsipuu, “because I thought that Robbie had won. I was frightened that I’d made a mistake, but he was too far behind. It was my lucky day. Now I feel much more confident for the stages still to come. “Our recognised sprinter is Jean-Patrick Nazon, so if there’s a sprint that suits him well, and I can help him to do something, then I will. But,” concluded Kirsipuu, “if it’s a finish with a false flat – like today – that’s better for me.” Thursday then, on stage five from Amiens to Chartres, looks like Kirsipuu’s next window of opportunity, as the stage has an uphill section just before the final kilometre. That’s assuming that Petacchi still isn’t firing on all cylinders by then. and can keep clear of McEwen.