Paris-Nice Stage 3: the moment the race was won

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Stage 3 was 194km long and took four hours 36 minutes and 19 seconds. The difference came down to a matter of centimetres and milliseconds. After leg pedalling for hours the race was won thanks to a throw of the arms.

The win in a bike race is determined by the front wheel and both riders here are throwing their bikes. Alejandro Valverde of Movistar on the right of the image manages to straighten his arms more than Greenedge’s Simon Gerrrans and perhaps this is what gives him the win.

Throwing the bike is easy, it’s the timing that is harder. You need to sprint all the way to the line and then lunge at the last moment. A pedal stroke too early and you give up precious momentum; a pedal stroke too late and you throw your bike over the line as opposed to throwing the bike to the line. Practice makes perfect but after hours of racing clarity of mind and a functioning body can’t be taken for granted. Note Valverde above has his right leg extended and is throwing the bike whilst Gerrans is about to lunge.

Today’s finish was a small replay from the Willunga Hill stage of the Tour Down Under where Gerrans and Valverde went head to head, or tub to tub if you like. The Spaniard won that time but Gerrans could be pleased with the overall win. This time Valverde needs to sprint for every place possible as there are time bonuses at stake and he can gain time on his rivals for the overall classification.

Third place went to Gianni Meersman of Lotto-Belisol. Almost out of the picture, the Belgian rider was dropped in the Leopard/Radioshack merger but has won a stage of the Volta ao Algarve this year and looks set to play a role in the classics.

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{ 9 comments }

Larry T. March 6, 2012 at 10:37 pm

We were cheering, while watching France 3 via the ‘net for…well, pretty much anyone BUT the Green Bullet. Oh well. I think Wiggins is making a mistake not counting Valv-Piti as a contender for the overall as he isn’t likely to have a bad day in this short event and could easily jump away from Wiggo and the others to recoup his small deficit on GC. And tomorrow we get Tirreno-Adriatico (we hope anyway) to watch as well! Reading your comments on the stages makes them just that much better, thanks for writing them.

Tricky Dicky March 6, 2012 at 11:36 pm

Thanks for these updates @INRNG – they are great. Gerrans lost this due to poor positioning. He was simply too far back: he definitely had the momentum to come over the top of Valverde. I won’t be surprised to see Valverde to take a lead into the final TT – I’d expect him to win at the top of Mende (more bonus seconds) as well as putting at least a few seconds into Wiggins on that final run-in. The big question for me though is whether the “Leech” can follow Valverde’s accelerations up that climb if Wiggins cannot…

Ablindeye March 7, 2012 at 1:39 am

Interesting point. Just watched an HD recording of the finish and it does seem Gerrans was a little late throwing the bike, which might just amount to the half a wheel he needed. Of course if his positioning was half decent before the sprint he would have won it by a country mile (though that’s easier said than done too).

Good news for him is the chance of making amends in a re-run at the end of tomorrow’s stage are fairly good. If I’m not mistaken the finishing gradient should be similar to that of Willunga? Valverde and Gerrans were untouchable there too so, unless a break gets a little too much rope, what are the odds of the pair contesting uphill sprint number 3.

Frogboy March 7, 2012 at 5:57 am

Just a note in passing, Gianni Meersman rode for FDJ last year, in fact from 2008 to 2011.
Thanks for the blog, I very much enjoy reading your articles.

Dan March 7, 2012 at 7:36 am

@Frogboy My understanding is that Meersman would have been a Radioshack rider if they didn’t merge with Leopard Trek.

Beau March 7, 2012 at 8:13 am

@Ablindeye I was thinking the same re stage 4 finish. Same as Willunga and perhaps 3rd time lucky for Gerro unless of course LL Sanchez wants to come to the party or a break stays away.. but Go GreenEDGE!

robin March 7, 2012 at 8:33 am

Thanks inrng for covering Paris Nice.

I find it very depressing to see Valverde taking a win.

Bundle March 7, 2012 at 8:43 am

Very good analysis fo the finish. This blog is continuously improving.

Guadzilla March 7, 2012 at 9:25 am

Good stuff as always – your race insights are a big reason why I read your blog daily, Inrng.

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