Paris-Nice Stage 8 Preview

Sunday, 16 March 2014

The final stage of the race but no procession, this is a punch stage via the Col d’Eze before the finish in Nice.

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.

Tricky Dicky March 16, 2014 at 7:18 am

I think Matthews has withdrawn with saddle sores.

Bundle March 16, 2014 at 8:40 am

Not a bad show yesterday, but slightly unsatisfying. I don’t get used to the idea that mechanicals and crashes make more difference than exhaustion and tactics. It might be the longest P-N, today’s stage is very short, with no real climbing, and I’m not really looking forward. The funny thing is that Bananito is not supposed to be faster than JJ Rojas, but he’s been ahead of him every time he’s tried. Rojas’ ability to be 4th is really becoming legendary, I almost suspect he does it on purpose.

Larrick March 16, 2014 at 10:43 am

Maybe JJ can beat Rui Costa into second just to make the world champ spend minutes rather than seconds contemplating ‘the curse’.

Alpen March 16, 2014 at 11:49 am

Since you love riders who are quietly having a good tour, how about Michael Mathews? He’s climbing incredibly well for a sprinter.

MSR dark horse?

gabriele March 16, 2014 at 5:40 pm

I’d say that the otherwise interesting (or theoretically interesting) course choice by ASO for the Paris-Nice has lead to a globally modest result. They really need to thank Betancur… and Nibali maybe :-P
Probably “riders make the race” is true, but the cyclists really need something “more” to create any serious action.
Tirreno-Adriatico, instead, granted a pretty good show thanks to a couple of really well-drawn stages, notably the Guardiagrele and Arezzo ones.
That said, it was the riders who, once again, made the race :-)

tourdeutah March 16, 2014 at 10:18 pm

I found P-N very entertaining. The racing was hard and fast paced (no breaks survived). Betancur proved to be a good bike handler, tactician, and the fastest finisher. The parcourse was well designed to accomplish what it did. Keep the racing suspenseful over every stage in every competition. They succeeded.

As much as I Love Italian racing, I despise it as well. Poor tv coverage here in America, poor quality tv pictures often interrupted by freeze framing and lots of pixilation. At least P-N provided an HD picture via cycling.tv.

gabriele March 16, 2014 at 11:34 pm

In this case, that’s a problem of your broadcasters.
While it’s true that you can often be deceived by the source images from RAI, it didn’t happen (till now) for this Tirreno-Adriatico. I don’t know if it was HD, because I don’t have an HD screen; but the last Giro, at least, was.

As I said, I really appreciate Betancur, but that’s all, more or less.
What matters, IMHO, is not having suspense because nothing decisive can happen (so the race can’t be decided, indeed), but having suspense because something big is on… I think that Hitchcock, to name a name, would agree with me, for what I remember of his interview with Truffaut :-)
Pa-Ni was pleasant (… nice… ), but the last stage was quite *plain* (despite the “cols”), Mt. Brouilly was a deception, and so many times the technical level wasn’t what you expected: riders winning because the peloton let them slip away (that’s good, but doesn’t prove much in terms of high level competition), or, generally, much ado for nothing. *Reduced* bunch sprints, with little differences.
It reminded me of Freire or Bettini’s Tirreno Adriatico, often decided by time bonuses (Vichot and Rojas fighting for a podium place!).
And that’s ok, it may be considered pretty good cycling, indeed: but ASO’s declared intentions were to create an “open” race in which long range attacks or creative, unexpected actions, could prove effective.
Mission – not – accomplished, for what I’ve seen at least.

Chris March 17, 2014 at 12:51 am

I think part of what you saw that made it a little less exciting was the fact that AG2R brought a strong, focused team that was able to control the race and put it’s leader in a position to win. Luck also played a part: Romain Bardet’s early crash led to him abandoning his personal ambitions and working for Betancur, who had come in as co-leader with Bardet.

Also, Slagter’s mechanical and Thomas’ crash took out two worthy contenders. This is not to take anything away from Betancur – his two stage wins, a third place and an excellent defense of the yellow jersey showed that he was more than worthy of winning this race. It’s just that these incidents removed some of the complexity from the race.

Finally, there was Nibali’s performance, which was perhaps a little underwhelming. He descended like he always does but got dropped in three of the most significant climbs. Just think: if he had been with the leaders at the top of the Col d’Eze, he would have attacked hard on the descent to the finish and put everyone in trouble.

All in all it was an exciting race for me. But that’s probably due in no small part to my countryman Betancur winning the race :)

velopoint March 16, 2014 at 7:06 pm

“… défaillance de Fayence.”

Clever as ever.

othersteve March 17, 2014 at 3:11 am

Nice to see see a french team taking GC.

Gabriele, TDU is not being critical of Italian races he just wishes we can see it!

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: