Stage 7 Wrap: the race passed banks of snow as it crossed the Nice back country. All the early climbs didn’t do much beyond sap the riders legs and see Lotto-Belisol’s Pim Ligthart rack up enough points to take the mountains jersey. The finishing circuit saw more moves than a discotheque on Saturday night with Carlos Betancur looking feverish at times, nervously checking out every rival. But he’s right to feel insecure and it’s not just because his team manager Vincent Lavenu told L’Equipe he’s still got five kilograms to lose. No, this is the longest Paris-Nice ever and his advantage over Rui Costa is only 14 seconds and there are 16 second in time bonuses in today’s stage alone. Tom Jelte Slagter won the stage, a well-timed effort and a functioning bike allowed him to make amends for what could have happened without his mechanical défaillance de Fayence.
Note Geraint Thomas crashed hard and was seen on TV cradling his collarbone but finished the stage, bruised and grazed but nothing broken but today’s L’Equipe reports he’s out of the race. As these incidents show, it’s not that anything can happen, it is that anything does happen.
The Route: a relatively short 128km but all the more dangerous for this. Starting from sea level the race heads up the Var valley and then tackles some classic climbs, today’s route is a training staple for many local riders. It won’t go higher 650m but it’s up and down and twisty too, especially the Côte De Peille with its hairpins and then the race visits Eze before taking in a loop – a hill repeat if you like – via the Col d’Eze.
The Finish: it’s fast off the Col d’Eze into town but the final kilometre is along the flat Promenade des Anglais, the seaside road.
The Scenario: maybe a breakaway will stick? But still several teams have a keen interest in reeling everything it. Take Europcar who have Bryan Coquard for the sprint but interestingly have Cyril Gautier in seventh overall. Who, what and why is this interesting? That’s the point really, he’s not a big name and he’s unlike to win the race but Europcar are in the World Tour now and need points and so they too are riding with calculators strapped to their handlebars and totting up UCI points – Thomas Voeckler admitted himself. So as much as some might fancy going on the offensive, plenty of others want to play defensive and protect their riders. Expect to see some riders trying hard up the Col d’Eze and a selection here.
There’s still plenty to play for on the GC. Betancur looked nervous yesterday and Ag2r will have to measure their efforts carefully to defend his lead so this stage is far from a coronation, a procession. Rui Costa’s close on GC and seems ready to jump.
The Contenders: If it does come to a sprint finish Carlos Betancur is again a pick but J-J Rojas is the fastest among the GC riders. Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Belisol) and Michael Matthews (Orica-Greenedge) are good bets too, maybe Bryan Coquard strikes too.
Weather: sunny but with a breeze coming in off the sea. Nothing ferocious but it will be advantageous to sprint on the right of the road for the finish.
TV: the weekend schedule means live coverage from 3.25 – 4.55pm Euro time. See steephill.tv and cyclingfans.com for broadcast schedules and pirate feeds alike.
Get ready to work your remote or another window because Stage 5 of Tirreno-Adriatico promises a decisive day of racing and a show with “Italy’s steepest road” in Guardiagrele. The schedule predicts they’ll cross the Passo Lanciano around 3.25pm with the stage finish around 4.10pm.
Local Rider: picking a local rider is a hard task given a lot professional cyclists have their adopted home in the region. Some come for the sunshine and hills of the Côte d’Azur and others for the tax shelter in Monaco. Both choices are backed up by an airport with reasonable connections allowing access to many races. One problem with Monaco is that it’s a crowded place and the savings to be made by residence can be enormous for athletes and others. The fixed supply of land and the money to be made has inevitable consequences: a two bedroom apartment will cost upwards of €50,000 ($70,000) a year to rent. Clearly the tax savings can be enormous but our millionaire sports stars end up living in crowded conditions, the kind of apartment that would cost €7,000 a year to rent 10km away.
What to do? Well one trick is to rent an address in Monaco and stay from time to time but to have another larger residence nearby in France, perhaps tucked away in the hills, where the family can live in comfort. It’s illegal but this doesn’t seem to stop many from trying it. Some do get caught, for example, to pick one name from random Italy’s Paolo Bettini was charged with tax evasion and has since settled for €2 million in outstanding payments. Is a law-breaking tax evader the right choice as team principle for Alonso’s new outfit you might ask? Welcome to pro cycling.