The race arrives in Nice today only there’s the small but vital matter of the time trial tomorrow to settle the result. But today could still prove decisive given the technical course and that it’s the chance for several riders to try something.Starting in Sisteron, the race heads gradually uphill before the Col de Lèques. The road is the N85, better known as the Route Napoleon as it apparently marks the route taken by the Emperor Napoleon in 1815 after he returned to France following a period of abdication. There’s nothing too heroic about it, Napoleon needed an easy route and wasn’t searching for high mountains. Still, the early climbs are ideal places for a breakaway to go.
From the profile above you can spot the long descent. It’s almost 30km and fast in places with some technical moments, including tunnels and sharp corners with big drops off the side. Then comes the Col de Vence, 10km at 6.6%. Hard and once over the top the road is awkward for a bit longer. From here the riders can almost see Nice as there’s a long descent to the coast but this is the most technical section of the day on a narrow road. Eventually the road opens up and the race drops into Nice to finish under the palm trees on the Boulevard des Anglais, a fitting name for Bradley Wiggins perhaps.
The finish: flat and on the sea front, ideal for a sprint. The stage might have some big climbs and descents but it’ll be hard for the GC riders to get time on each other, especially since the final 2okm are on wider roads where an organised team can neutralise any rivals. Wiggins has a strong team plus I think Westra and Leipheimer might be content with a podium place so the race for the overall could come down to Sunday’s time trial.
I think it’s more likely a breakaway stays away or that we get a select peloton of 40-50 riders contesting the sprint. Heinrich Haussler is back in form but take your pick from many other contenders. Today is the last chance for everyone to feature in the race or win so expect an lively start, I can’t see the first move of the day going. But you never know.
TV: note the late finish, the riders are not expected to arrive until 5.30pm. The broadcast should be 4.30pm to 6.00 pm.
Locals: too many riders live in the area to name. Some are fiscal refugees in Monaco where income tax does not exist. But many live in the surrounding area and not just French riders, there are many Aussie riders and even Ivan Basso’s mountain bodyguard Sylwester Szmyd lives on the coast.
Weather: a tale of two cities. Sisteron is at altitude and in the mountains and the riders will find temperatures below freezing as they have breakfast and low temperatures at the start. Nice will be warmer but not hot at 15°C, invariably sunny and a light breeze coming off the sea.
Hungry? Sisteron lamb is often served in Nice, with Mediterranean herbs for a local touch. Italian influence is noticeable, socca is a type of pancake made from chickpea flour. Salade niçoise is sold across France, a tomato salad with green peppers, eggs, anchovies, and olives.