The Paris-Nice revelation

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Paris Nice Podium

They call Paris-Nice “the race to the sun” because every March it leaves the Parisian capital and heads south for the Mediterranean and its pleasant climate. It is only a week long but this year’s race gave us plenty of clues for the whole year, from Matthew Goss to Denis Galimzyanov, and Tony Martin and Bradley Wiggins. Here’s a quick look back.

Stage 1
A fast stage saw a breakaway featuring FDJ’s Jérémy Roy, something we’d see again in the Tour de France. Fellow escapee Thomas de Gendt won the day, confirmation of his abilities after he joined Vacansoleil from development squad Topsport Vlaanderen.

Stage 2
The sprinters had their day with Greg Henderson of Sky winning. This wasn’t so much a clue of future performance as a copy of his win the year before. But second place went to Matt Goss and Denis Galimzyanov popped up for third place. The Russian had a breakthrough season and his regularity in Paris-Nice was a step up from the placings in the Tour of Oman.

Stage 3
Stage 3 Paris-Nice
A hilly day that ended in sprint and we saw Matt Goss get his win. A sprinter, Goss found a combination of hills and a late crash eliminated his rivals and he took the win. The ability to survive the climbs was invaluable for Milan-Sanremo a few days later and if some were surprised by his win, Paris-Nice provided the clues.

Stage 4
A hilly day across central France and Thomas Voeckler won. No this wasn’t the Tour de France. He told the media on the start line that day that French riders weren’t being bold enough. So off he went and he took his first Paris-Nice stage win.

Stage 5
A semi-mountain stage saw Klöden win a sprint, something he almost never does and a sign of his form. He had a great early season with several stage wins in races and the overall in the tough Tour of the Basque country; the rest of the season saw bad luck.

Stage 6
A hilly but rolling 27km saw Tony Martin win. He took the lead in the race too. Klöden was second with Bradley Wiggins third. Wiggins had bad luck in the Tour de France but like “Klödi” he didn’t place all his eggs into the basket labelled July.

Stage 7
Remi di Gregorio won, sneaking off on the hilly finishing circuit in a downpour. So much for The Race to The Sun, the conditions were hard. Di Gregorio took a good win but this result was maybe the odd one out in Paris-Nice. He never got in the top-10 again in the season.

Stage 8
Episode two of the Voeckler show saw the Frenchman win. This time he got the better of Lampre’s Diego Ulissi. Some had said the Europcar was diminished after losing several key riders at the end of 2010 when it struggled to find a sponsor. But Voeckler stepped up the leadership and the sponsor soon got their money’s worth. Ulissi is a name to watch and he had a decent season, he went on to win a stage of the Giro, outfoxing Italian champion Giovanni Visconti.

Overall
Tony Martin won, Klöden was second and Wiggins was third. Martin emerged this year as the world’s best time triallist, with Cancellara often losing out to the German. If he had a great early season, longer term Klöden didn’t fare so well. But Wiggins grew in confidence following his podium finish in Paris-Nice, setting himself up to win the Dauphiné and then to bounce back from a broken collarbone in the Tour de France to finish third in the Vuelta.

Summary
Applying some hindsight it can be easy to see the likes of Goss, Martin, Wiggins and Galimzyanov emerging. Dig deeper and you’ll find more stories, for example Heinrich Haussler was there but not winning or Pierre Rolland made the cut on Stage 5’s mountain finish. It was less evident at the time but this race provided plenty of clues for the rest of the season, perhaps more than other races.

Maybe it was a fluke, usually the winner of Milan-Sanremo comes from Tirreno-Adriatico and Cadel Evans was busy winning that Italian race. More of which another day.

Ankush November 3, 2011 at 10:45 am

I remember Remi di Gregario’s win, it was raining cats and dogs and riders were sliding all over the road. Can we please start the season already.

OJT November 3, 2011 at 10:46 am

Good summary, you’re right that there are plenty of stories in there – for instance Rein Taaramae, who was just off the podium and went on to have great rides in the Tour and Vuelta.

I hope this is part of a series of retrospectives. This is the time of year when seemingly everyone is summarising their highlights of the season but I’d be keen to read your take on how 2011 developed.

Alex November 3, 2011 at 11:06 am

….good article, but I’d like to read your insights regarding the current UCI team licensing statuses. That is plural for status, correct? It isn’t stati, like cactus/cacti. Anyway, yes there will be another announcement in a few weeks – but no commentary on the eight announced so far? What about the audit they must go through? Talk to us! Take is into the “inner ring” man!

Starr November 3, 2011 at 2:04 pm

Keep up the race recaps.
Last thing I want to see in my off-season cycling news is UCI drama.
I like bike racing for the racing part.

Any more scuttlebutt on the RVV route changes?

due momianesi November 3, 2011 at 2:06 pm

Apologies for straying to far off topic, but both status and statuses can be used as the plural. I prefer status, as it is the correct plural from the Latin derivative. Coincidentally like Alex, I was checking INNRG for the same reason – comments regarding the UCI 2012 teams. What happened to RS/Nissan/Trek?

The Inner Ring November 3, 2011 at 2:31 pm

I could cover the UCI procedure, I’ll see. In short the teams with existing licences in the top-15 get to continue if they submit the paperwork on time. But there’s an issue with Radioshack and Vacansoleil, but it could be a detail over the paper. As for Ag2r and Euskaltel, they were outside top-15 teams so they get a review to see if they have their place in the top level.

I don’t want to do that many race recaps but there were some moments in the year worth visiting, whether to review with hindsight or just because they were great moments.

Pete November 3, 2011 at 2:47 pm

Also an indicator of Wiggins’ season was his podium position without a stage win or any gutsy moves…

Patrick November 3, 2011 at 11:15 pm

Yes, if I recall correctly the Remy di Gregorio did the most amazing save on the slippery roads to remain upright?

Inner Ring, were there any races that might have given pointers to Cobo or Froome’s form for the Vuelta? I saw that Zaugg Lombardia win wasn’t really that much of a surprise with hindsight looking at his results in the build up to the race…

Darren November 3, 2011 at 11:30 pm

You have reminded me of an activity I normally enjoy this time of year, until things ‘heat’ again Down Under, and that is checking out videos on youtube of the races from the year, reliving the last 10-15 kms. I think I will watch the veni, vidi, vici moments of Gilbert during the Classics, especially the moment one day where two brothers tried some one-dimensional attempts to knock him off his perch!!! Just peachy!!!

The Inner Ring November 4, 2011 at 12:26 am

Patrick: Cobo was no surprise with his results in the Vuelta a Burgos, so long as you apply the hindsight glasses. He surprised in this race, outclassing the likes of Joaquin Rodriguez. Froome though, he came from almost nowhere but I’ve written a profile of him and he’d show moments of brilliance but nothing so consistent before.

Darren: yes, I’ll be covering a few video clips in time too.

Patrick November 4, 2011 at 10:09 am

Thanks Inner!

Nick November 4, 2011 at 1:31 pm

If someone please has a clip of the Remy di Gregorio ‘save’ when he was slipping across the pedestrian crossing I would be stoked!

Inner: maybe a best 10 video highlights during the ‘winter’ to help keep you Northern folks from going too crazy?

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