Paris-Nice Stage 2 Preview

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Alexander Kristoff

Another flat stage across unremarkable countryside that’ll end in a bunch sprint? We said this in 2013 when the Tour de France took a similar route to Saint-Amand-Montrond only for teams to shred the race in crosswinds and provide one of the most thrilling flat stages of the Tour in recent memory. Sadly for those hoping a repeat episode the forecast says it won’t be so windy.

Stage 1 Wrap: Yesterday’s preview promised an “inevitable bunch sprint” however the riders did their best to avoid it for as long as possible, pedalling in exquisite torpor. Boredom? Or maybe the riders dreaded the finish line where journalists waited for get their view on the CIRC report which they hadn’t read.

Thomas Voeckler and Anthony Delaplace were up the road and at times Voeckler was playing around but suddenly he accelerated hard and the pair got to work in search of the stage win. It was possible, they had a good gap and behind the bunch was spread across the road. Sadly the viewers were awoken from their siesta with the crash of Tom Boonen with 18km to go. The Belgian had a clumsy crash and was left sitting in the middle of the road, cradling his arm in the classic collarbone pose and the resulting injuries rule him out of the spring classics.

Geraint Thomas outsprinted Michał Kwiatkowski for a one second time bonus at the last intermediate sprint while Voeckler and Delaplace’s lead was falling fast andF the bunch caught them on the run into town. Under the one kilometre to go flag and Giant-Alpecin surged prematurely. A mistake? Perhaps but practically every other sprint train had been derailed so the German squad was ahead of the rest. Alexander Kristoff waited before unleashing his long sprint to win his first Paris-Nice stage with Nacer Bouhanni simply sprinting to hold his wheel before Bryan Coquard went full mosquito with a darting dive across the road to sting third place.

The Course: Saint-Amand-Montrond is engraved in cycling’s anthology as the finish of that Tour de France stage where the bunch was split apart. Paris-Nice visits but we’re unlikely to get a replay. It’s a flat and boring, the race reaches the finish line after 127km before a 45km rustic loop featuring a climb, or rather a slight rise in the road but enough to hold a sprint for the mountains prize.

The Finish: after the red kit the route turns left at a roundabout, a minor pinch point before a long finishing straight in a featureless part of town. The roadbook says 500m… but it’s longer.

The Scenario: another bunch sprint seems likely. Nobody is far down on GC so Etixx-Quickstep will protect their yellow jersey before the sprinters’ teams take over to chase down any escapees.

This finishing loop takes place on départmentale roads which are narrow for a large bunch, sprinters will have to be well-placed early on although it’s wider on the approach to town.

The Contenders: given Alexander Kristoff was so at ease on Stage 1 it’s hard to see anyone doing better. But all sprints have an element of chaos, if you could re-run them again and again in a Monte Carlo simulation the results wouldn’t always be the same. With more practice rival teams should get their trains working better so the likes of FDJ, Cofidis, Giant-Alpecin and Lotto-Soudal have an increased chance.

Nacer Bouhanni might have lost his train and trusted leadout Geoff Soupe quit the race but he can ride hobo on the other trains. André Greipel should be there too, ditto compatriot John Degenkolb who tweeted he mistook the distance to go.

FDJ looked poor yesterday and Arnaud Démare was out of place for the sprint. There’s talk of a tilt at the classics but if this means the sprinting isn’t as effective then team’s going to have an awkward week. Heinrich Haussler was close but he’s in that mold of a classics contender too, he needs a tougher finish compared to today’s dragstrip.

Alexander Kristoff
Nacer Bouhanni, John Degenkolb
Coquard, Greipel, Nizzolo

Weather: cloudy for a change with a top temperature of 15°C and almost no wind to speak of.

TV: live from 2.00pm Euro time with the finish expected for 3.50pm. Tune in around 3.00pm to watch the sprint trains gather pace.

That’s Paris-Nice: Paris-Nice began as the “Six Jours de la Route”, the “six days of the road“. In the late 1950s the race was taken over by Jean Leulliot. A journalist, he had worked for L’Auto and during the war years he ran the Circuit de France, a copycat race mirrored on the Tour de France but this was a dismal failure on all fronts: sponsors were scared away, some of the results were falsified and at the end of the war Leulliot faced trial for collaborating with the Nazis, notably with claims he’d stick the Gestapo on riders who failed to start. His record is a defining matter but for moment, luckily for cycling he was cleared as he was a force of innovation:

  • A pioneer of women’s racing he started the Tour de France féminin in the 1950s.
  • He started the “Petit Tour de France” for amateurs and independent pros, a forerunner of the Tour de l’Avenir today.
  • In 1963 he organised the first ever air transfer during a stage race, taking the riders to Corsica for a stage.
  • He also invented the concept of the prologue for the 1968 edition of Paris – Nice.
  • The same 1968 race listed a Meilleur Descendeur prize for the fastest rider down Mont Faron… sponsored by a ski manufacturer. Thankfully for rider safety this downhill innovation didn’t survive.
  • In 1972 he introduced the “kilometre rule” meaning crashes in the last moments of the race didn’t penalise a rider’s overall position. This rule has since been extended to three kilometres.
  • The 1974 race was made open to amateurs, a means to allow Eastern Bloc riders to take part. Poland’s reigning world champion Ryszard Szurkowski impressed with high placings but ultimately the Western pros won everything. The race was televised in Poland.
  • His daughter Josette took the reigns after he died. She invited a Japanese team in 1988. None made it to the finish.
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Adrian March 10, 2015 at 6:17 am

Greipel was ill a couple of weeks ago and was anonymous in the sprint yesterday – perhaps he is still off-form?

david p March 10, 2015 at 7:34 am

Or maybe he’s just overrated

Anonymous March 10, 2015 at 4:19 pm

i’d say
in your face 😉

David P March 10, 2015 at 4:29 pm

Do you have a slice of humble pie? I’m feeling peckish.

The Inner Ring March 10, 2015 at 8:15 am

I don’t know what happened yesterday but several Lotto-Soudal riders came in late, Hansen, Bak and De Gendt. It mean two riders from his sprint train weren’t there.

AK March 10, 2015 at 8:42 am

Degenkolb clearly ran out of gas yesterday. He was going well but sat up with 50 to go. Hope this sprint is closer.

Ash March 10, 2015 at 9:02 am

Just one more classics clash with Cancellara and Boonen in top form is all we wanted. Is that too much to ask?
It looks like we’ll never see that again. I don’t think Boonen will win another Roubaix or Ronde, not with so much talent around and his advancing years. I’d love to be eating those words though.

Paul Gorman March 10, 2015 at 9:30 am

My thoughts exactly. Gutting for him (and us).

The Inner Ring March 10, 2015 at 11:04 am

L’Equipe goes as far as announcing the end of Boonen’s career, probably too much but if he’s back for 2016 it won’t be the same. He’ll be missed this April, Etixx-Quickstep have cover in Terpstra and Stybar but they are not quite the same for the home crowds keen to cheer on a Belgian.

irungo txuletak March 10, 2015 at 12:43 pm

Man, what a pity. For what I saw in the omloop he looked good. We will miss the clash with Cancellara and Vanmarcke for sure.
Will be difficult for him to find motivation for the rest of this year, the worlds suit him though.

SeeingElvis March 10, 2015 at 1:55 pm

So sad for Tommeke. I was reading the race on a ticker and my first thought was, “please do not let this keep him out of the spring classics.”
To think that this could potentially be career ending is terrible. Devastating. Wishing him the best.
One thing I have always admired about the Boonen-Cancellara rivalry is that they have openly missed one another when one is out due to injury. Champions who want to win against the best possible field.

frank March 10, 2015 at 8:23 pm

Uh oh…balen we have a problem!
Disastrous for tommeke , 2016 one year older and rivals one year stronger.
Still tipping quick step for all four spring monuments with four different riders after stybys ride at strafe bianche- cav, styby, terpstra and kwiatowski.

Netserk March 10, 2015 at 9:05 pm

All that is missing is Boonen for the Worlds road race, Tony for the TT and Uran for Lombardia. 🙂

frank March 11, 2015 at 4:21 pm

Tommeke for the worlds sounds good, ten years after the. First.

ed g March 10, 2015 at 9:12 am

Following that gif you posted on your tumblr, would coquard appeal or speak to the commisaires about the giant-alpecin rider who seemed to hold him back in the sprint? He looked super fast in the final metres. Thanks for your fantastic gif skills Btw!

Ablindeye March 10, 2015 at 9:22 am

Watch the gif again – Coquard pushes first prompting the angry response back 🙂

ed g March 10, 2015 at 9:31 am

Haha true, looks like he is trying to move him out of the way as he was impeding his sprint though!

Anonymous March 10, 2015 at 9:27 am

Ar yu Nor man Coll yer btw.

Anonymous March 10, 2015 at 10:10 am

I would say that Coquard did one of those touching the saddle or bum to tell the guy he was there gestures, hardly remotely like holding him back. And then the other guy, Degenkolb’s guy, actually stuck out his arm quite stiffly and seemingly with a purpose to hold Coquard back for a brief (all it takes) millisecond. I am sure Coquard will do nothing, but he was wronged.

Igam Ogam March 10, 2015 at 11:53 am

Coquard’s confident bike-handling and spacial awareness must be pretty disconcerting if you a big rider that can’t move your bike around in the same way. I’d bet the Giant-Aplecin rider was spooked and just trying to fend him off and stop him taking out his front wheel while giving him an earful.

Anonymous March 10, 2015 at 9:43 am

Enjoyed yesterdays stage for all its lack of activity. However I now realise that my wallet is being stretched towards a Look 795, beautiful.

noel March 10, 2015 at 12:12 pm

I was similarly struck… a great illustration of the benefits to your sponsors of being out in the wind in the ( usually doomed) break all day. It did look lovely tho didn’t it…

John Le G March 10, 2015 at 9:20 pm

+1 🙂

Van March 10, 2015 at 1:41 pm

Anyone figure out Voekler’s reasoning behind using the extra brake levers, one water bottle cage, and a bike labeled “CX”?

Mike March 10, 2015 at 3:20 pm

Also wondered about the bike Tommy was on, using a Paris Roubaix rig on the run to Nice?

Thruxmaster March 10, 2015 at 9:21 pm

Are the “froglegs” there to be able to brake more easily when riding relaxed in the bunched peloton, hand on top of the bars?

Anonymous March 10, 2015 at 3:02 pm

Pozzato was back on the bike 9 days after his collarbone break. Maybe boonen just needs to visit an Italian doctore.

SPR March 10, 2015 at 3:27 pm

It isn’t a collarbone break for Boonen.

“This injury [shoulder sprain] is worse than a broken collarbone,” Etixx-Quick Step doctor Yvan Van Mol said according to Sporza. “These days, with a [collarbone] fracture riders are back on a bike after 4-5 days and are able to return to competition after next 10 days. [In this case] it’s impossible.”

http://cyclingquotes.com/news/latest_update_on_boonens_injury/

The Inner Ring March 10, 2015 at 3:39 pm

Even if it was a collarbone break there are different ways to do it, sometimes surgery is required, sometimes it’s avoided. Pozzato went for surgery and got it plated, you can ride again soon.

Note Boonen has also broken his elbow, a fracture of the radius.

SeeingElvis March 10, 2015 at 3:59 pm

It is a compound fracture, making it that much more serious and complex. Heartbreaking.

Francisco March 10, 2015 at 4:48 pm

Referring to a trainless sprinter as a ‘hobo’, and doing a freelance sprint as ‘going hobo’ could well enter the cycling lexicon, as there’s not a word for it yet.

Othersteve March 10, 2015 at 5:32 pm

Epic phrase, I agree. one of many “ringisums”

Wonder what Garmin was doing 3/4th the way through the stage today, they must of thought it was particularly windy?

Michael March 10, 2015 at 6:51 pm

Just curious – do sponsors ever have any say or influence in the style / strategy of a team during a race? Or do they only care about the win at the end of the day? As an avid cycling fan, watching yesterday’s stage I would describe Katusha (and most of the sprint teams) as a brands that do not pull their weight and steal the praise for the work of others. Meanwhile Etixx / Sky gives the impression of a hard working, determined brand that gets the job done.

I know sponsors will pressure teams to get riders in the break, and on the podium. Will they also pressure teams into being at the head of affairs in the main bunch mid stage (when not too many eye balls are watching the telly)?

The Inner Ring March 10, 2015 at 6:53 pm

It’s rare. Once Mapei boss Giorgio Squinzi called which of the three riders from his team in the breakaway would win.

Michael March 10, 2015 at 6:56 pm

Interesting, thought some might want more control especially if they have big marketing budget and cycling is supposed to fit well into their overall “brand image” that they are promoting.

Othersteve March 10, 2015 at 9:57 pm

Yet you would not think they ( Garmin or similar GC team) would possible damage their chances for a stronger overall GC position just to get some TV time. I might expect that from a Eurocar a team with fewer options.

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