The opening stages rhymed with siesta only for the race to hit the TV jackpot yesterday with a Frenchman winning the stage and taking the yellow jersey after a very eventful stage. Can Tony Gallopin win Paris-Nice? It’ll be close. Richie Porte is in the prime position to profit but there are four riders within six seconds of him.
Note the early finish of the stage today, see the TV listings below for more.
Stage 6 Wrap: a candidate for a highlight of the year along with the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. If Stannard’s win against the odds was late surprise, yesterday’s stage saw the surprises spread over hours of viewing and complete with more reversals of fortune than an epic Greek legend as the first two riders overall attacked each other.
The early breakaway had 20 high quality riders but they never got much room in the cold rain. With 50km to go Michał Kwiatkowski attacked with two team mates for company and pulled out a gap which put Team Sky under pressure. It meant a long chase for Team Sky who eventually got back. Kwiatkowski was suffering and looked 10 years older than usual, Porte saw this and attacked to leave the yellow jersey floundering. Advantage Porte… until he crashed on the road to La Turbie. Minutes later Geraint Thomas crashed and Sky pair were caught by Kwiatkowski’s group. Meanwhile Tony Gallopin had taken off long before, the first to sense Kwiatkowski’s weakness and he pulled out a 30 second lead which he defended all the way to Nice. Thoughts quickly turned to his defence of the yellow jersey on the Col d’Eze but it’s worth celebrating his ride and he’s becoming one of France’s most dependable cyclists.
The Route: part-technical, part obvious. There are no narrow parts nor sharp bends but given it is just 9.6km, every second counts. The road climbs away from Nice on some steep sections. The course begins to bend back towards the sea meaning a change of wind direction. The slope levels off before the midway section of 7% and then it continues on with spectacular views of the sea below. Each section of road matters: knowing when to change down a gear is important, knowing when to change up is even more important.
The Contenders: Richie Porte is the prime pick. His prologue time trial wasn’t great but he’s lighter than ever which helps for today’s effort. He’s also a local resident and knows the climb very well plus he won here in 2013. However he’ll be shattered from yesterday’s efforts and the crash will have taken its toll. Plus it’s forecast to be very windy so being extra-light might be awkward. If so then Geraint Thomas‘s prologue power should count for plenty.
Michał Kwiatkowski will want to bounce back and this is his chance to challenge Porte. Normally I’d comfortably back Porte to win but the roaring headwind will hit riders on the upper part meaning the aero tuck and raw power that won the prologue come into use again here.
Tony Gallopin won’t win the stage but can he defend his yellow jersey? It’ll be close, a surprise if he keeps the lead. He’s been almost the equal of Richie Porte and others this week but an uphill time trial where you’d bet on him to be superior to his rivals, even if he knows this climb very well. He was second in the Etoile de Bessèges TT stage earlier this year… but lost the yellow jersey to Bob Jungels. Gallopin won’t want to lose but Lotto-Soudal can be delighted with two stage wins and the mountains jersey.
Porte and Kwiatkowski are the top picks but could be shattered from yesterday’s games. Rui Costa is the third pick. He’s been going well this week and is a force in uphill time trials, he’s won the Tour de Suisse this way. Jacob Fuglsang is an outsider for the win. Bob Jungels has that forceful power needed. Meanwhile Wilco Kelderman and Tejay van Garderen need a result to salvage the week. Finally it’ll be interesting to see how Tony Martin fares, he’s going to lose time on the early slopes but could pick up momentum later on.
|Richie Porte, Michał Kwiatkowski|
|Rui Costa, Jacob Fuglsang|
|Jungels, Kelderman, van Garderen, Thomas, Martin|
Weather: worse than yesterday, the wet and cold conditions will be accompanied by strong winds with gusts of up to 80km/h coming from the east meaning a fierce headwind.
TV: note the early timing. the live coverage is from 1.30pm Euro time with the finish expected for 2.45pm. Tune in early to see what’s going.