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04.03.2013 @ 10:20 Posted by Jesper Johannesen


After a winless six years as a professional on Team Europcar and its predecessor Bouygues Telecom, the pieces finally fell into place for 26-year old Frenchman Damien Gaudin. He surprised the cycling world with a victory in the Paris-Nice prologue in front of established stars Sylvain Chavanel (OmegaPharma-QuickStep) and Lieuwe Westra (Vacansoleil-DCM).


Few expected Damien Gaudin to step onto the top step of the podium at the conclusion of the 2,9 km Paris-Nice prologue in Houielles yesterday afternoon. The surprise was even greater for the young Frenchman himself who for six years had become used to being close without getting that eluding first professional victory.


"This is crazy," the Europcar rider told just before stepping onto the podium. "I have been waiting for my first victory for six years. Every year at the end of the season, I have told myself that it has been good, but that the victory has been missing."


Gaudin was spurred on by the fact that a number of the world's strongest time trial riders have chosen to prepare their tilt on the cobbled classics in Tirreno-Adriatico. With their absence, he saw his chance and was prepared to do what was necessary on the extremely technical course.


"I took a lot of risks, but without Cancellara or Lars Boom, I knew there was a chance," he stated after the race."


The team put him under pressure

Gaudin has always been known as a strong time triallist, and he has produced a number of solid performances against the clock. With an eye also on the cobbled classics, his start to the season has been promising. His team sensed the possibility of a surprise prologue result, and in a Europcar team with strong competition for the 8 slots in the big home race, his selection was down to his possibilities on the opening day.


"The team has been amazing at the beginning of this season, and so the sport directors found it difficult to select the team for Paris-Nice. They put me under some pressure by telling me to arrive with the prologue on my mind. Since my second place in the prologue of the Tour of Luxembourg two years ago, I have worked to be strong in the discipline."


 Europcar secretly hoped for top 5

The team was not let down, and sport director Ismael Mottier was encouraged by the strong performance of his young protege. He praised his diligence and thorough preparation of races against the clock.


"Damien is very careful, very diligent," Mottier said. "He loves time trials and always tries to enter them in good condition."


With Gaudin's background on the track, the team knew that the short, technical course suited him, and his strong condition gave the team reason for optimism before the race.


"Secretly we hoped for a top 5. Of course we could not expect a victory because it is too uncertain, but we knew he had the capability."


Won't be the final overall winner

Gaudin will defend his jersey on today's first stage, a 195 km completely flat run from Saint-Germain-en-Laye and Nemours. Gaudin hopes to keep it on his shoulders for a couple of days, but he is aware of his own limitations.


"I won't have the jersey in Nice. I have it tomorrow at the beginning of the stage and hopefully also at the finish, but I won't be the final winner of the race."


With a number of strong sprinters close to the jersey, bonus seconds on the finish line may make the defence difficult. The team will look to use their own sprinter Sebastien Turgot to collect some of the bonuses in order to keep the jersey in its ranks.



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