The Spin: Paris-Nice Stage 4

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

A great day for a breakaway. Today’s stage lends itself to an escape move but team tactics could rule the day.

The start town is Brive, host of the finish of Stage 18 of the Tour de France this July and proof of ASO’s cross-selling model. With towns queuing up for the Tour de France, race organisers are able to twist them into holding a stage of Paris-Nice or the Dauphiné. By some measures we’re now in the south of France although the cold weather feels distinctly northern.

The stage has two parts to analyse, the first 171km and the last 7km. The first part makes for good breakaway terrain, the roads twist and turn and there are some hills. Passing through causse or limestone bushland famed for its truffles, it is still big ring territory, the climbs here are not steep. The first climb to Fangas is 7.7km at 4.9%. The Côte de la Blanquie is 3km at 5.9% and followed soon by the steeper Côte de la Quotidiane, 1.6km at 6.9%. The King of the Mountain points here are valuable, the competition is lead by Thomas De Gendt of Vacansoleil-DCM and don’t be surprised to see him up the road today.

Paris Nice Last 5km

The finish could be exciting. Rodez was once a Roman and medieval fort on top of a hill. The town today is more recent in architecture but part of the town still sits on the same hill and it’s here where the finish will be judged although they use a modern viaduct to reach the old town.

The profile picture provided by ASO doesn’t quite do the finish justice, it twists and turns and kicks up to the line more than the image suggests. This is not as wild as some of the finishes in Tirreno-Adriatico which starts today, but it is the kind of finish where a single mistake in positioning or gear selection will cost you ten places. You climb to the viaduct which is slightly downhill, meaning a big effort and then a flat moment where riders will swamp the front of the bunch before the final kilometre. Doing the maths on the picture above the last kilometre has a gradient of 7.9% making it significantly steeper than yesterday’s finish. But again the graphic is not perfect as most of the climbing comes in the first third, the road kicks up immediately after the viaduct and drags uphill to the line.

Tactics: Will a breakaway be allowed to stay away? Clearly Greenedge want, and even need, a stage win and Simon Gerrans will like the finish. Intriguingly his rival yesterday Alejandro Valverde could be an ally today since Movistar will also want a sprint finish for Valverde to gain the time bonus needed to overhaul Bradley Wiggins.

Wild guess: a breakaway goes but Movistar and Greenedge lead the chase and Valverde wins again. That’s not really that wild so keep an eye on Katusha’s Spanish tandem of Angel Vicioso and Xavier Florencio.

Weather: a tailwind today with sunshine and a top temperature of only 8°C.

TV: 3.00pm to 4.30pm Euro time.

Locals: He’s not native to the region but Romain Feillu lives near the start and the early moments take in some of his training roads. The finish is where Alexandre Geniez of Project 1T4i is from.

Hungry? the limestone causse is truffle country, the underground fungus is a delicacy that commands ludicrous prices. Gourmets will note the region is famous for black truffles as opposed to the white truffles which often come from Italy. The region also skirts the foie gras area of the France, another expensive food celebrated by gourmets.

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{ 24 comments }

CarbonCube March 7, 2012 at 9:21 am

Just discovered this site via steephill. Visiting it is becoming a essential part of my morning routine. Love The Spin. Very good tactical insights and the race is placed very nicely in natural and cultural context.

Keep an eye out for the rabo boys today. They are super pissed and have the strenght to make a difference today. (Mollema?)

Velo Peloton March 7, 2012 at 9:34 am

The race to the sun will have the sun today. It is a beautiful morning in Rodez, already warmer than the 8c forecast.

beev March 7, 2012 at 9:43 am

with this finish – tough from 20k, 2.5k closing hill and last 1k at 8% – it’s hard to see anything other than a repeat of yesterdays protagonists duking it out. can’t wait….

Sim March 7, 2012 at 10:02 am

thanks so much for all the great work that you do, including these stage profiels – love ‘em!

Larry T. March 7, 2012 at 10:33 am

Anyone else out there wondering if the TV producer for this event is working his first bike race? I thought the shot selection on yesterday’s stage was terrible. They had a moto on the leader but the only shots we got of the chasers in the finale were from the helicopter or the fixed camera at the finish. It seemed like Moto2 blew up or went off the road? Worse, the producer switched to odd shots right in the thick of the action! They’d cut away to a scenery shot rather than show what was going on as the finalists jockeyed for position on the run-in. I was yelling at an imaginary producer to “go back to the action!” plenty of times yesterday. Very unlike French TV, where you’d think the TV folks would have PLENTY of experience in this field. Are they breaking in someone new on this broadcast?

Alex March 7, 2012 at 10:34 am

The quality of the content and comments on this site never cease to amaze me.
Thank you INRNG for attracting the highest calibre contributions :)

Ankush March 7, 2012 at 1:08 pm

@Larry T There was a long shot on FranceTV 3 of a deer running around, I was screaming too!

I guess I will just have to accept that irrespective of my bias towards Valverde, he will win races. It was a well executed sprint by him as explained by Inrng. Today I will be rooting for the breakaway riders, Jeremy Roy anyone?

NEW March 7, 2012 at 1:14 pm

General question. Why let a group break away and then spend so much energy at the end trying to catch them?

daniel alpin March 7, 2012 at 1:41 pm

aren’t you doing ‘the spin’ for tirreno adriatico?

Larry T. March 7, 2012 at 2:13 pm

Ankush – that was the least of it! I like the scenery shots but when the finale of the stage is winding up and we’ve been watching for hours to see it, what kind of boob cuts away to “ooooh, how cute” shots like that? I share your feelings about Valv-Piti as well. I hope the bio-passport folks are watching him very closely and he gets tested so many times his belt and pants zippers wear out.

JimW March 7, 2012 at 2:17 pm

@NEW
Tactically that will take the pressure off any teams represented in the break as others are now responsible for the workload as we never chase down our own teammates.
The bunch is almost always faster than the breakaway so they can reel it in when needed.
Enjoy the racing.

Paul I. March 7, 2012 at 2:23 pm

@NEW – there are always riders trying to form a breakaway. In order to prevent one from happening, the peloton has to continually ride at an extremely high tempo. It’s easier to let a “safe” break go, and then let the superior power of the peleton reel them in later.

JimW March 7, 2012 at 2:25 pm

@LarryT
Zipper wears out!
Ha ha.
Oh man.

Between the deer on the roadside and the moto signal breakup I was getting a bit frustrated. I just have to remind myself last season I was reading tickers so incremental accessibility improvements I am ok with. Next season though, I expect top notch sports broadcasting!

NEW March 7, 2012 at 2:48 pm

if teams have someone in the breakaway is it possible for their teams in the Peleton to slow up the Peleton. I have only been following cycling recently and have got hooked, but I have yet to see a breakaway that has gone from the start win a race. Plus it nearly always seems to be the small pro conti teams that do it. If a big name breaks I take it the Peleton wouldn’t let them go?

Barbara N. March 7, 2012 at 3:02 pm

In every course there are riders who have to quit because of gastro-intestinal problems. Now in P-N there are again at least 6 poor ones.
How come that this happens so often? Shouldn’t teams take more precautions about food and hygienic measures?
Of course it’s impossible to rule out every risk, but in my opinion taking some better precautions would help a lot especially with cyclists who are known to be prone to gastro-intestinal problems.

rhys March 7, 2012 at 3:02 pm

Generally if a big name breaks, this is called an attack not a breakaway ;)
Pro-conti teams will get into a breakaway as they (again generally speaking) have little chance of winning the race overall, it gives them a chance to win a stage and to get their sponsor some TV time.
Teams who have someone in the breakaway will rarely contribute to the chase, which in effect will slow the main bunch down as there are less people willing to do the work.
The analogy of playing chess while running a marathon someone on here said yesterday is right on the money.

JimW March 7, 2012 at 3:08 pm

This is awesome.
Tirreno TTT on the left display.
Paris Nice on the right.
Today is awesome, for the next hour.

NEW March 7, 2012 at 3:10 pm

thanks for the insight. Have lots more questions so will be back. don’t want to bore everyone with remedial questions.

The Inner Ring March 7, 2012 at 4:03 pm

daniel alpin: no, sorry but I haven’t got enough time.

Barbara N: riders/teams do take some care but it’s not easy. They’re on the road and it’s hard to sanitise the environment. You have riders blowing their noses in the bunch, when it is wet spray on the road can include cow dung if a herd has been marched down road. Plus the guys are tired after a race, it’s hard to think straight sometimes.

Ablindeye March 7, 2012 at 4:37 pm

Also with regard to illness they are in such close prmoximity in the Peloton and also share hotels etc that if the illness is viral it’s inevitable that a few will go down with it.

Larry T. March 7, 2012 at 5:00 pm

The sickness issue should be – how do so many guys NOT get sick? If you’ve ever stood at the roadside when a large pack comes by you’re (often literally) struck by the almost fog of stuff surrounding the peloton! The spitting, sneezing and coughing are just a few things to think about, all blowing through the entire group. I’ll leave the other liquids and such to your imagination. Then the mechanics handle this contaminated equipment and risk spreading the germs around even more. Next, think of the person responsible for the laundry chores. The overall environment probably rivals a cattle feedlot or something similar. At this level cycling is far from a healthy activity, these guys take huge risks every day on the race.

rhys March 7, 2012 at 7:43 pm

Not to mention the high levels of stress placed on the digestive system with the amount of food that passes through a rider’s guts each day. Eating many energy gels day after day is a far from enjoyable experience come toilet time.

Larry T. March 7, 2012 at 9:47 pm

rhys-reminds me of a quote from someone speaking about a chocolate-flavored energy bar from the folks who pioneered the ghastly things. He said, “I should just throw this thing in the toilet right now and skip the middle-man!” I’ve always wondered why non-racing cyclists eat these things instead of real food, is the marketing baloney THAT powerful?

Cevenol March 8, 2012 at 3:20 am

Love the blog too! For me it’s L’Equipe and inrng every day, I’d love to know of another good site to round it up. Anyone?
Welcome to Mendes PN, where I grew up!

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