After the Corse thrills, spills and bellyaches it’s time for the race to step on the French mainland. A team time trial awaits to shake up the overall classification.
The course is fast and injuries sustained in recent days are likely to affect the results. We’re likely to see yellow jersey change shoulders too.
Stage 3 Review The TV images probably had many wanting to visit Corsica. Go but go in June or September when the weather is good but the island is not crowded by tourists. Prices are better and the locals are touch more friendly. The riding is like coastal Italy: stunning but you’re watching out for the rough roads and German motorcyclists. For more on a visit to Corsica, see inrng.tumblr.com.
As for the racing it all came down to the final corner. Orica-Greenedge have Robbie McEwen to visit every stage finish ahead of the race and he relays info on the finish back to the team. It’s hardly a unique strategy but other teams rely on soigneurs whilst McEwen was an acrobat on the bike and perhaps his eyesight counted. Either way Daryl Impey barged into the final roundabout to fit through a gap that must have terrified the team bus driver. But it was perfect and the South African earned his annual wages in one go as he took Simon Gerrans into the perfect place as they came up the finishing straight.
A late charge from Peter Sagan led to a photo-finish and for once the Slovak was out-sprinted. It’s a memorable win for Gerrans and the team, their first stage in the Tour. Don’t underestimate this fact, the team has won many races but success in the Tour is so valuable for a squad riding with the Orica-YourNameHere name.
As for the winner, I agree with Spanish radio’s @BorjaCuadrado, Gerrans is a “cult cyclist.” He doesn’t win often but he often wins big.
Nice and the surrounding area is home for many cyclists – Simon Gerrans included – so today’s route is on familiar roads although in most unfamiliar conditions given the normally busy roads are cleared of traffic. With a flat route and straight roads, local intelligence won’t make any difference.
The course starts in Nice and heads west out along the seafront using the Promenade des Anglais – the large road famous in cycling as it’s often the finish line for Paris-Nice – before passing the airport. The race then heads north up the Var valley where the road will start a loop around the Allianz Riviera stadium that’s under construction for the intermediate time check. The race heads back to rejoin the same roads to the finish in Nice on the sea front.
It’s not a technical course, it’s flat with long straight sections. But the team time trial remains a technical exercise and a moment savoured by team managers especially.
Normally Team Sky would be the obvious choice but they’ve been suffering in Corsica with injuries to Geraint Thomas and Ian Stannard, vital engines. I’m not sure why Thomas is still riding, after all a pelvic fracture won’t heal in a few days. Others have been dropped on the climbs too. Expect to see Chris Froome and Richie Porte take long turns but they can’t carry the team. If the stage win isn’t for them then a good time is crucial. Instead I see four teams:
Omega Pharma-Quickstep would be the other pick but their strongest rider Tony Martin is struggling which discounts their chances. However he’d be good with one leg and for all the talk of injury, he made it to the finish with the front group. With Sylvain Chavanel, Michał Kwiatkowski and Nikki Terpstra they’ve got just what’s needed to keep it flowing, although Chavanel used up a little power yesterday. I think they’ve got a great chance to put Kwiatkowski in yellow.
BMC Racing should do well, in fact if the team lacks mountain helpers for Cadel Evans and Tejay van Garderen it’s because they’ve got the riders to help today.
Orica-Greenedge could surprise. They’re on a roll, several riders live nearby and they’re a cohesive team used to riding in formation whether in lead-outs or on the track.
Garmin-Sharp are next the prime pick. Injury free, the team’s won a team time trial before in the 2011 Tour and David Millar describes the team time trial as “part of the team’s DNA” in his L’Equipe column. Five riders from that day are here and with Rohan Dennis and Andrew Talansky on board they can put David Millar in yellow.
The course is so short and fast that a mistake or a misjudgement can disrupt rhythm or momentum. And with the short distance the time gaps should be small.
Amongst the others Radioshack-Leopard will fight to keep Jan Bakelants in yellow but I can’t see it happening because of the slender lead. Lotto-Belisol have slick sprint trains as well as strong riders. Saxo-Tinkoff by contrast might look to shed some of Contador’s Alpine guard as they head to the finish line. People often underestimate Movistar for team time trials but I can’t see them winning as the level in the Tour is so high and this is a course for the power riders, if it was on a hilly course then they’d be there. Meanwhile the likes of FDJ.fr and Europcar are on damage limitation exercises for Thibaut Pinot and Pierre Rolland respectively. Spare a thought for Cofidis who, according to French commentator Patrick Chassé, saw eight of their nine riders crash in Corsica.
Cofidis, Solutions Credits
Belkin Pro Cycling
Astana Pro Team
Ag2R La Mondiale
BMC Racing Team
The TTT Rules:
Some points to note:
- Time is taken on the fifth rider to cross the line so a squad can leave four riders behind on the course
- Dropped riders are credited with the time it takes them to complete the course
- Any crash, puncture or mishap in the final kilometre sees the rider credited with the time of the rider they were with at the time of the incident
TV: teams go at four minute intervals, with the race starting at 3.15pm Euro time. The last team Radioshack-Leopard is forecast to arrive at 5.06pm.
If you’re a casual viewer then a team time trial rarely offers great suspense. However the short distance means time gaps will be close. The intermediate time check will only be indicative, plenty can change on the return section.
The idea of a time check at one point on the course is getting very dated. With GPS and other tracking technology it should be possible to measure a team’s progress against rivals real time but this seems unlikely to appear on screen for some time.
Weather sunny and a relatively cool 23°C (73°F) although so far each weather forecast has been outdone by the tarmac temperatures. A light 10km/h breeze coming in off the sea to make a tailwind going out and headwind for the return but nothing much to alter the race strategy.
The 10 Second Spin: fast and flat, the course shows off the seafront and sports stadium and suits big time triallists and team pursuit specialists. It’ll be close between OPQS, BMC Racing and Orica-Greendge but injury-free Garmin-Sharp could make it Millar time.
Quote of the Day
“It’s pleasant, it’s nice aesthetically. I see myself… it’s beautiful”
If you’ve got it, flaunt it? There’s something about Pierre Rolland’s full polka dot kit that strays from pro cool to pyjama fool. Commercial pressures can insist a rider pushes the publicity to the max, it’s why he’s got gloves, frame and helmet all in spotted harmony. Riders and teams are competing to be seen in the race and visibility matters even more for Europcar given the team’s future is not yet secure, one of the motivations perhaps for Rolland’s riding. But when asked about his kit on French TV the Frenchman had no problem with the look.