The Spin: Paris-Nice Stage 7

Saturday, 10 March 2012

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.

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{ 7 comments }

PeterC March 10, 2012 at 9:47 am

Have enjoyed the analysis of the race this week

Local Gerro FTW

Ankush March 10, 2012 at 9:50 am

As you said, this stage could end up in a bunch sprint. I think Haussler will like to wrap up the race with a victory and Kittel will be itching for a win too.

Rooto March 10, 2012 at 10:18 am

Gorgeous weather in Nice today. Been windy recently, though.

Don’t know the first 100kms, but they turn off the route Napoléon to take the back way – essentially a pre-Alpine plateau, before the technical descent starts into and through the gorges du loup. Very tight gorge – not much sunshine, and could be slippery.

I reckon the col de Vence will be easily controlled by the peloton. About 9kms at 6-7% IIRC. It’s regular, and at this time of year not the furnace it becomes in summer. The descent ’round the back’ I don’t know, but once they’re on the valley floor it’s 20kms of ‘autoroute’.

If I was a betting man, I’d take Haussler for a sprint win. I’m sure events will prove me wrong…

Gerrald March 10, 2012 at 12:40 pm

Sunday will be very exciting, as Wiggins, Leipheimer and Westra are all more than decent time triallists. Still hoping for a big surprise by Lieuwe, I do not think it’s impossible…

Mec'Azur March 10, 2012 at 12:45 pm

The descent to Bouyon from Col de Vence is tricky, narrow, fast; Great roads and some awesome sweeping turns. short climb after Bouyon towards Le Broc but more fast descending on wider roads before reaching the coast at St Laurent du Var; From there its a straight line to Nice, once over the bridge of the Var at the airport, I’d suggest riders stick to the middle of the road to avoid some early Paris-Roubaix cobble sensations as they gear up for the sprint..

MT Dave March 10, 2012 at 6:34 pm

Was it this stage last year that De Gendt and the great tounge were in the breakaway?

SlapshotJC March 10, 2012 at 6:53 pm

Some great stuff this week mon ami…come the tour we’ll expect breakdowns of the local wine and Cheeses as well…;-)

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