Paris-Nice Stage 3 Preview

Tuesday, 11 March 2014


Another day for the sprinters but the roads get hillier than the profile above suggests before the finish in the Magny-Cours motor racing circuit.

Stage 2 Wrap: a win for Belkin’s Moreno Hofland. I picked Hofland for yesterday… but in a paragraph about how Dutchmen always win in Auxerre but the preview was looking to long so it got deleted only for Hofland to win. Not a household name but a very fast rider, he’s a second year pro aged 22 and having a great week as he’s just signed a contract extension. He won sprints in the Tour de l’Avenir – once pipping Romain Bardet – and his second place in Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne was a step up, proof he can handle the hard riding.

The day’s breakaway saw Aleksejs Saramotins (IAM Cycling) and Anthony Delaplace (Bretagne-Séché) go clear. Not household names either but very good workhorses and Saramotins was only caught with 3km to go. But the action was behind as a late crash brought down several riders, including Gianni Meersman, Tyler Farrar and Edvald Boasson Hagen.

Sic transit gloria
One minute he was heading for the yellow jersey, the next Meersman was out of contention. But if this was fleeting glory, Meersman was putting the emphasis on the transit as he got paced back to the bunch by his team car and, crucially, it was live on TV. It’s not allowed but tolerated because if you crash through no fault of your own then getting some help to get back to the bunch seems fair, you must still ride hard and pace yourself but the windbreak helps to amend the previous injustice. Strictly-speaking a rider can hop from team car to team car in the race convoy as they try to make up lost ground but they cannot get their team car to ferry them back in the draft. This tolerance has to be equal and while Meersman was speeding back to the bunch, others who fell with him were losing time. The OPQS team car was pacing their rider (and Julien Simon of Cofidis) while overtaking others, an unequal outcome which was made only more visible because of the TV camera following in pursuit. In the end Meersman was docked time and he and his team were fined, including Niki Terpstra who gave him an outrageous hand sling. Another reminder that a sprint stage means high tension for a long time rather than a mistaken impression of a dash to the line during the final three kilometres.

Sprint
nom masculin
(anglais sprint)
– Course de vitesse sur une courte distance.
– Dans une course, accélération de l’allure à proximité de l’arrivée.

The Route: the stage starts in Toucy, birthplace of Pierre Larousse, creator of France’s dictionaries and encyclopaedias and a sprint awaits. Two things to note, the tailwind for much of the stage but look at the map below and you’ll see the race cuts west after the second intermediate sprint in La Machine and from here it’ll be exposed to a crosswind from the north. But there’s a breeze rather than a gale.

The Finish: the race laps the Magny Cours race circuit in reverse to the usual motorsport direction. For all the associations with speed, the big wide track only make the bunch look slow. Those second gear corners for motorsport are still taken in 53×11 by the riders, even the infamous Adelaide hairpin with 1700m to go shouldn’t cause much trouble. Unlike previous days we get some safety as the finish is wide and we won’t have riders dive-bombing corners.

The Scenario: another sprint finish with the raised probability of crosswinds. But raised doesn’t mean certain, far from it. Several teams want to get their sprinters into position as after today there’s just one likely gallop left and that’s still a hillier stage.

The Contenders: today’s finish looks like a classic battle between sprint trains and John Degenkolb is the prime pick, he’s come close and has an able team in support. Nacer Bouhanni‘s got a jersey to defend and is the main rival. Gianni Meersman is out with injuries probably a better bet in two days time but he could be out to prove a point and if not, Tom Boonen has the raw power for this. Katusha’s Alexander Kristoff is sprinting well too, the same for Bryan Coquard who is almost there but needs more time.

Weather: another sunny and mild day with temperatures of 18°C (68°F) but with a breeze from the north at 20km/h.

TV: the final hour is live with coverage starting at 2.55pm Euro time and the finish expected for 3.50pm. There’s more on the TV channels / streams here but beware, the promised TV listings don’t appear true for US viewers with NBC not showing it live.

Guide Wolber: a nod to FDJ’s Cédric Pineau who is the local rider. If the race visits his home town, would you like the race to visit yours? Paris-Nice has obvious constraints confining it to a a wide corridor between Paris and Nice. ASO charge the towns en route but this race is not as attractive as the Tour de France. The going rate for a stage finish is around €25,000, about a third of that for the Tour. Towns bid for more the Tour de France because of its fame and media reach but also because the race is so much bigger meaning more people come to stay in town, the economic effect of the Tour is felt instantly too. But ASO has a good bargaining chip, towns that bid for Paris-Nice (and the Dauphiné) boost their chances of being picked to host a stage of the Tour.

The finish might be on the racing circuit of Magny-Cours but to racing cyclists the nearby city of Nevers should rhyme with Look and Time. The two French manufacturers once led the market for pedals and have since moved into frame construction. Both have factories in the area with Look having its HQ as well and the company is the world leader in clipless pedals. Look is sponsoring Cofidis in the race right now and other teams use the pedals, like Movistar.

But it’s not all good news. The company was making ski-bindings in the 1980s which provided the connection to cycling pedals. In time the cycling thrived but the ski division, Look Fixations, was bought by Rossignol and its gone downhill since, the factory has seen workers leave and even temporary closures following a collapse in orders.

Denny March 11, 2014 at 8:39 am

Excellent preview once again.

PS It should be Stage 2 Wrap, not Stage 1 Wrap.

NN March 11, 2014 at 8:40 am

“Outrageous hand sling” – didn’t Cavendish get a hand sling in the 2013 Tour de France stage 13 from Kwiatkowski to bridge to the leading echelon? Seem to remember Cavendish said so in an interview, without any criticism. He wasn’t filmed so he escaped penalty?

Is the hand sling illegal? Have seen it 3-4 times the last two seasons (including in leadups to sprints) plus the Cavendish-Kwiatkowski one which wasn’t filmed.

Alpen March 11, 2014 at 9:03 am

It’s definitely illegal, and it definitely gets done…another grey area. If you’ve ever been sat behind the guy doing the sling, you know why it’s illegal. If you’ve ever been trying to close a gap and struggling to get that last meter, you know how big a help it can be!

NN March 11, 2014 at 9:30 am

Always thought it was illegal, but since it has happened more and more I wasn’t sure…

Strange that Cavendish mentioned it in an interview then. However, I can’t find the actual interview so maybe I remember it wrong.

Sam March 11, 2014 at 9:32 am

Cav mentioned it in his latest biography

GeorgeY March 12, 2014 at 10:58 am

Yes but Cav was a madison specialist so the rule doesn’t apply.

The Inner Ring March 11, 2014 at 9:33 am

Exactly, it’s not allowed but the fine is modest. What was outrageous was that it was so open yesterday, often it’s by stealth rather than the final kilometre and on TV.

MikeF March 11, 2014 at 9:11 am

Hand slings are listed as Flying Relay in the table of race incidents – subject to a fine of 200 Swiss Francs and a penalty of 10 seconds – rising to 30 seconds if in the last kilometre.

Alpen March 11, 2014 at 9:02 am

Watching Meersman try to get back on was voyeurism at it’s best!

On one hand, you’re incredulously tisk tisk tisking him for the ridiculous slipstream he’s getting as he’s rocketing by other dropped riders, glued to the bumper of the OPQS car which must’ve been doing a solid 60-70 kph. On the other hand, you’re kind of rooting for him to see if he can make it back, only to later be surely docked for the antics. He gets withing spitting distance of the back of the bunch, legs are giving out on him and his loyal teammate drops back and gives him a sling straight outta the Ghent 6 day…..it was all terribly illegal, but very entertaining.

The Inner Ring March 11, 2014 at 9:39 am

And he’s out with injuries from the crash and won’t start today either.

Alpen March 11, 2014 at 11:44 am

Yes, sounds like he got quite beat up in the crash, makes his exploits even more impressive. He was really digging deep.

Leo March 11, 2014 at 10:10 am

Hey Inrng, you’re being followed. I heard the Eurosport UK commentator mention your tweet about Meersman throwing the bike on the roof and jumping in the back seat.

The Inner Ring March 11, 2014 at 11:03 am

Hi, a couple of others mentioned this. Good to bring some amusement to proceedings on TV but it’s happened before.

Tovarishch March 11, 2014 at 12:33 pm

I’m confused (not unusual). I was looking forward to see how Adam Yates got on but I see that it is now brother Simon who is lying a very creditable 70th O/A and second OGE. Is this a change or did I get it wrong?

The Inner Ring March 11, 2014 at 10:48 pm

It’s Simon in the race.

Andy Mac March 11, 2014 at 1:44 pm

Meersman’s chase back on was great entertainement!! As Alpen said “…..one one hand you’re rooting for him but in the other……” Anyways, this looks to have left the door open for Geraint Thomas. Very attentive this year and alway at the front of the bunch so as to miss the crashes. Sky have clearly learnt from Wiggins DNF in 2012 TdF. I think we’ll see GT as a serious GC contender. VAN AVERMAET at 3 seconds from GT has to fancy his chances if BMC can keep him safe. Juging from Het Volk (sorry I can’t spell Nieuuuwwssblad) has has the form, Chavanel a further 3 secs and then Nibali at 21 seconds. All good stuff.

Khalid March 11, 2014 at 11:43 pm

Wiggins DNF in 2012 TdF? Did not finish what, downing his 30th pint after the Champs Elysees?

Andy Mac March 12, 2014 at 3:27 pm

Good spot. 2011.

patrick March 11, 2014 at 6:20 pm

“…and its gone downhill since.” Pun intended?

The Inner Ring March 11, 2014 at 7:03 pm

Sorry, it was a bit mean but the company is struggling.

Qwerty March 11, 2014 at 11:14 pm

Good pick and I enjoyed the “emphasis on transit”

Seems poor Meersnan broke six ribs in his crash but got up to ride like crazy.

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