There’s a one page guide to the race with the stage listings, TV schedules, prize and more. See the big Paris-Nice link at the top of the page or click here.
But each day during the race there will be a separate blog posting called The Spin. This allows new elements to be analysed such as the riders in form and the weather conditions. So there’s one guide for the whole week and The Spin is for daily info on the morning of each stage.
Paris – Nice starts today with a short time trial. Don’t call it a prologue, today’s stage is longer than 8km so it is classed as a proper stage in its own right. And that’s worth noting because over the 9.4km time gaps will open up. Whoever is capable of gaining time today will also be capable in the final time trial on the Col d’Eze too.
The course is to the south-west of Paris, in the Chevreuse valley beloved by many Parisian cyclists for its woodland and hilly terrain. Alpine is is not but it is literally a relief compared to the monotony of much of the terrain around the capital.
The climb today is the Côte des 17 Tournants, the 17 bends. Again, no Alpine hairpins but the road winds its way up the side of a woodland ridge with, yes, 17 small corners. But pick the right line and you can ride straight through most of the bends. It’s 1.2km at 6.6% according to Strava, enough to hurt everyone especially since it comes first. Lighter guys might benefit but the rest of the course suits the more solid build as it largely downhill. It should be fast as the course twists and turns to the finish, with woodland, walls and embankments offering shelter to the well-positioned rider.
There are two races today. First we have the prologue, sorry time trial, specialists. These include riders like Tony Martin. He won the race outright last year but I think the hillier course this year will prove too much for the world time trial champion. He can climb but wasn’t in form for the mountains in the Tour of Algarve. Look also for Taylor Phinney, Geraint Thomas, Gustav Larsson, Lieuwe Westra, Patrick Gretsch amongst others. But see the mention of the weather below.
Second we have the GC specialists who are also contenders for the overall. Alejandro Valverde is the favourite for the overall but he will probably lose time today to the likes of my two other podium picks, Bradley Wiggins and Levi Leipheimer. The Spaniard will hope to take back time in the finish to Mende plus scrap for some time bonuses along the way too. It’ll be interesting to see how the Schlecks perform, obviously the climbing later in the week suits them but we’ll soon discover how serious they are about improving their time trial abilities.
Amongst the others, Richie Porte is in winning shape but could be on team duty to help Wiggins. Dennis Menchov lurks as usual, he has been very strong in the Ruta Del Sol. After Leipheimer, another American who should do well is Tejay Van Garderen, the BMC rider can time trial and climb. Ivan Basso is taking part but I don’t think he is in form yet; instead look to the more erratic Damiano Cunego. He’ll lose time today but can climb with the best and has a useful jump for poaching time bonuses.
Pierre Rolland is out with an injury so local hopes rest with Jérôme Coppel. Arnold Jeannesson had a strong Tour de France and was climbing well in Oman, we’ll see if he can time trial today. Rabobank come with Luis-Leon Sanchez who usually has a good race and Bauke Mollema has to win something this year to go from hope and promise to confirmed team leader.
Wild guess: a win for Tony Martin ahead of Bradley Wiggins and Tejay Van Garderen.
Rain and wind worsening for the afternoon. Much of France has enjoyed a burst of spring weather this week but it’s back to colder conditions and rain just in time for the race. As well as rain the wind will be blowing at a noticeable 20km/h from the south-west. Temperatures will reach 10°C (50°F). The weather will worsen slightly, giving early starters an advantage.
It’s on earlier than usual: 13.30 – 15.25 Euro time. For the full list of channels, see the permanent race guide. Hopefully France Télévisions have it covered as the course picks its way through woodland. Scenic but helicopter shots aren’t so useful and the vegetation can scramble the signal.