The Spin: Paris-Nice Stage 7

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Col d'Eze profile

A final time trial to settle the race. Can Richie Porte be beaten? As Greg Lemond said on the eve of the final stage of the 1989 Tour de France “if he has a bad day and I have a good day anything is possible”, and the American went on to beat Laurent Fignon by just eight seconds on the overall.

But that was a memorable exception. Porte is playing at home and the course is short so he should be safe. But still, who knows? What’s more certain is that the final podium places are unknown. Andrew Talansky, Lieuwe Westra, Jean-Christophe Peraud, Tejay van Garderen and more all all within reach.

The Route: the climb itself is part-technical, part obvious. There are no narrow parts, nor sharp bends but given it is just 9.6km, every second counts. The road climbs away from Nice on some steep sections and there is often a tailwind for the first two kilometres. Then the course begins to bend back towards the sea and level off before the midway section of 7% and then it continues on with spectacular views of the sea below. Each section of road matters: nowing when to change down a gear is important, knowing when to change up is even more important.

The Scenario: it’s hard to see past Richie Porte for the stage win. He won after dropping everyone else on the Montagne de Lure and is probably better against the clock then he is at climbing. He’s a local too, living in nearby Monaco and has been known to climb this road several times a day. In addition his team will know all about pacing the effort after Wiggins won last year and can measure themselves against the time checks of others if need be.

But as recounted earlier this week the mighty Eddy Merckx was so sure of winning one year that he posed for photos with the boat offered to the winner before riding the final stage… only for Raymond Poulidor to win the time trial and take the overall.

Andrew Talansky is the other obvious pick. He might be as strong as Porte, after all he felt so good he attacked three times on the Lure. Plus he’s got motivation to ride fast. He’s good at this effort too, last year he almost beat Wiggins in the uphill time trial of the Tour de Romandie. Talking of almost beating Wiggins, last year Westra almost won on the Col d’Eze so he could win in the absence of the Briton.

Van Garderen was an outside for the podium this time last year but fell back after losing over a minute to Wiggins and he’s not been the threat we’d thought he might be but he’s still sixth overall. Chavanel is in great form and did well on the Montagne de Lure, don’t be surprised if he’s amongst the fastest on the second half of the course but the early 8% gradient could be too much, plus his efforts yesterday won him the stage but also the points jersey thanks to an escape move to win the intermediate sprint. Jean-Christophe Péraud is having a good race and perpetuating Ag2r’s points-winning strategy of poaching UCI points without ever being too visible in front of the team cameras. He was third on this stage last year.

Mountains and Points: a note that Chavanel is guaranteed to stand on the podium as he’s got the points jersey competition sewed up.

The same for Johann Tschopp of IAM Cycling with the mountains jersey, giving the new Swiss team their first World Tour podium… and marginally boosting their chances of a wildcard invite for the Tour de France. Tschopp (say “chop”) is an often unknown character in the peloton but he’s a keen environmentalist, taking care to eat locally sourced foods and living as ethically as he can. He won the big stage of the Tour of Utah last year and in 2010, won the biggest mountain stage of the Giro that year, taking the prestigious Cima Coppi prize.

Weather: sunshine and showers with temperatures at no more than 14°C (57°F). Crucially the  wind will pick up in the afternoon with a breeze of 20km/h coming in from the sea in the afternoon, enough to make a noticeable tailwind, headwind and crosswind at different points on the course.

TV: 3.30 – 4.50pm Euro time on French TV and Eurosport and cyclingfans.com or steephill.tv are the go-to sites for video streams.

History: the Col d’Eze was used as a final time trial for the first time in 1969 and Eddy Merckx won. It was a clever idea to use the uphill TT right at the end but prior to this the race had often been designed by another uphill time trial along the way, for example Mont Dore above Manosque, yesterday’s start town, in 1956.

Since 1969 it has been a regular feature of the race. But the starting and finish points have often changed meaning there is no definitive course record nor an easy way to compare today’s riders with Merckx. Not that the comparison is valid, riders will be using special bikes today with all the aerodynamic advantage possible. Merckx just rode on the drops.

Col D'Eze times

The route now 9.6km and last year Bradley Wiggins clocked a time of 19.12.

Standings after Stage 6

Mark Bom March 10, 2013 at 8:57 am

I’ve been following this blog from pretty much the beginning and still amazed at the level of commitment, passion and time that you put into it! The amount of thought and work you put in makes reading it an absolute joy and power to you. Chapeau!

tonyrone March 10, 2013 at 10:08 am

If I`m unsure about my pick it`s always my ‘go to’ for that particular stage discussed/examined , the vast majority of the time converting me into the point of view laid out clearly before me.

HodH March 10, 2013 at 12:10 pm

+1, when’s the book coming out Inner Ring?

The Inner Ring March 10, 2013 at 12:39 pm

Book? No plans.

I did think there was room for a guide to the great climbs of Europe but Daniel Friebe’s “Mountain High” is excellent (http://inrng.com/2011/11/book-review-mountain-high/) and if there are subjects I’d like to read about in a book about this for a few hours, it’s another to spend months writing it.

The Inner Ring March 10, 2013 at 12:35 pm

Thanks.

As I’ve said before a few times to others, it’s good there’s the illusion of thought and work but often the previews are written fast… which explains the typos and occasional mistake! But it’s all enjoyable and the act of looking at the race route makes watching the race more enjoyable.

Larry T. March 10, 2013 at 9:03 am

“Merckx just rode on the drops.” I’d like to see that again. On the early season fly-away races they forbid these ugly chrono contraptions – why not save the teams a whole lot of dough and do that at all the races? Before everyone starts in with “but Eddy’s bike was, blah, blah..” I’ll admit it quite likely was not the exact same bike he used for the rest of the stages, but the rest of his team most likely rode the same bikes they used on the other stages. So just ban the aero bars and such.

AK March 10, 2013 at 9:39 am

The bike manufacturers want to show off their aero rigs, so I don’t think that is going to happen. And even the regular bikes today are very different from Eddy’s bike. Wind speed and direction are different each year too.

The Inner Ring March 10, 2013 at 10:47 am

Yes, the sport was almost created to sell bikes. In the early days manufacturers wanted to show people how their machines could take people around an entire country, a kind of proof they were reliable enough to get you from the home to the field or factory. Today the likes of Cannondale, Focus or Pinarello want to show who is the “fastest” ad teams ride the special bikes because it is good for business. It earns a whole lot of dough!

Remember even Eddy Merckx probably had a special bike. Aged rubber and silk tubulars and probably special alloy parts, perhaps even drilled chainrings and more.

Gus March 10, 2013 at 9:38 am

Still all to play for, the time gaps are small between the top riders

Al March 10, 2013 at 3:40 pm

It appears that, in the main, TT bikes, aero bars and even clip ons have been left at home- so far standard road bikes are very much the order of the day

Dagoose March 10, 2013 at 4:52 pm

Porte was only 3 seconds off Wiggins time of last year!

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