Julich starts defense with victory
The Paris-Nice title is not a top priority for Julich
PARIS, France -- American Bobby Julich made a great start to his defense of the Paris-Nice title when he won the opening prologue, a 4.8km time trial, in the French capital on Sunday.
Julich, of the CSC team, was the last man off the ramp and managed to pip the mark set by Kazakhstan's Andrey Kaschechkin, of Credit Agricole.
Kaschechkin had held the best time for much of the afternoon until Julich dug deep in the closing stages to come over the finish line in triumph, winning by just 01sec.
Australian Bradley McGee, one of the prologue favorites, along with Britain's Olympic pursuit champion Bradley Wiggins, came third for the Francaise de Jeux team at 02 behind the American.
Credit Agricole's Wiggins was a disappointing seventh, finishing behind the likes of Belgium's Tom Boonen, a sprinter, and Spanish talent Alberto Contador, who was sixth just behind Boonen.
The 34-year-old Julich hands his Danish team their first victory of the season.
However Julich admitted that defending the crown was not a top priority as he goes into the season looking at bigger objectives.
"I didn't make Paris-Nice one of my objectives this year but in the warm-up of the prologue I felt good and realized I had a chance of doing something," he said.
"At 34 you can't go chasing every race. This year I've agreed with team manager Bjarne Riis that my priorities will be the Giro d'Italia and supporting Ivan Basso at the Tour de France."
Basso, who came second in the Tour de France last year, is a major contender for the yellow jersey - along with former winner Jan Ullrich - now that seven-time winner Lance Armstrong has retired.
The first stage proper of the seven day race is a relatively flat 193km of racing from Villemandeur, east of Orleans, to Saint-Amand-Montrond, which could feature a bunch sprint at the finish.
In that event, Belgian ace Boonen, the reigning world champion who last year also won the Paris-Roubaix and Tour of Flanders one-day classics, will be the man to watch.
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