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.
– 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.