Paris-Nice Stage 7 Preview

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Tony Gallopin

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.

 

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Augie March March 15, 2015 at 6:28 am

I reckon Thomas could be an outside chance for this. He lives locally and has been training with Porte on this climb, and has been in excellent form so far this year. Plus neither he nor Porte looked to have suffered much from their touchdowns yesterday, no major road rash by the look of things, the only real damage being to their GC position.

Prologue TTs are not Porte’s speciality, he much prefers longer and hillier ones, witness his monstering of Dennis in the Australian national TT over a lumpy course in the cold rain, so I think he’ll have the edge over Kwiatkowski. Gallopin rode brilliantly yesterday and has some time in hand, but I wonder if he will have much left in the tank after that heroic solo effort? Should be a thrilling finish.

Ferdi March 15, 2015 at 7:03 am

Sky have a such a way of not staying upright when races become complicated… Or wet, go figure. Gotta love the way Kwiatkowski attacked from so far. Must have thought he was Hinault or something. I hope he doesn’t change. Great ambition.

Tricky Dicky March 15, 2015 at 8:04 am

That was a terrific stage. For all of the “marginal gains” philosophy, if you look at the number of times Sky riders struggle in the elements, you’d think that they’d spend a bit more time going down wet mountain passes in training at full gas? It looks to me as though Thomas could do with a bit of coaching from Salvodelli or similar?

I flicked over to Tirreno only to see two Sky riders in quick succession with punctures and painfully slow wheel/bike changes.

I then just watched an F1 driver in the Melbourne GP get all wheels changed in 2.9 seconds in a pit-stop and it makes you think, surely they could do some drills for this ….

Different sport I know but, if you get the simple stuff right, those are genuine marginal gains!

Sets up a fascinating finale in both races.

CoDrvr March 15, 2015 at 9:24 am

Paolo SaVOLdelli. Not SaLVOdelli.

Anonymous March 15, 2015 at 9:37 am

Sign up to Eurosport online and with their three hour delay you can watch one race, then the other.

hoh March 15, 2015 at 10:57 am

Weighing the possibility of racing in such conditions would be pivotal in a Grand Tour for them (plenty of other opportunities to gain time compared to one week PN) against one of their stars got injured in such training, Sky would certainly rule train of the sort out by their philosophy.

Sam March 15, 2015 at 8:26 am

I was roadside yday (as I will be today).

Great great stage.

I know that it’s easy – and tempting – to fall into the ‘don’t Sky train in the wet blah blah’ and ‘don’t they know how to ride in the wet’ thing (anyone care to re watch a video of Porte descending in filthy conditions in the front group inc Sammy Sanchez in 2013 Tour of the Basque Country?)

The answer is of course they do – but yesterday I genuinely think there was an issue with their tyres. There’s been speculation about compounds and so on before that’s bound to reignite.

Steppings March 15, 2015 at 8:37 am

You lucky thing Sam! It looked pretty chilly there yesterday as some of the riders crossed the line they had that bleary eyed wrung out look about them. I cannot see TG losing this today, great great effort yesterday but he still looked pretty fresh at the finish as the top pic shows. Must find out the tyres Sky are using so I can avoid, still a good effort by Thomas and Porte though.

BC March 15, 2015 at 8:28 am

+1 to the Tirreno wheel change. How do people get employed by SKY when they appear to have the technical ability of my grandmother ?

P-N was certainly spectacular viewing. One has to wonder what tyres SKY are using for the wet. Thomas has plenty of form for falling off, so no surprise there. It is becoming more a question of when and where, not if. Port looked unsure and without confidence on several corners, which brings into question the performance of the teams tyres in wet weather. Wiggins and Froome have shown the same tendencies previously. It simply can’t be down to a team full of poor descenders, can it ?

Sam March 15, 2015 at 8:37 am

BC: if you want to answer your own question, go and watch Wiggins splitting the peloton at Catalunya in ’13 on a descent. Or chasing down Dan Martin in the rain on a descent in one of the early stages of of ’13 ToB. As for Froome he gets a bad rap, but I’ve seen him descend more than competently plenty of times.

As per my earlier post, there’s something going on with their tyres.

BC March 15, 2015 at 9:20 am

Sam. That was exactly the point I was making, Thomas excepted.

Some tyres that give excellent grip in the dry, become almost lethal in the wet. I am not sure if this is related to the ‘hardness’ of the rubber compound, but there are certainly differences between tyre manufacturers and individual models.

The Inner Ring March 15, 2015 at 10:02 am

They tend to use Veloflex which are great. But it’s also a question of pressure too… and sheer bad luck.

Dane March 15, 2015 at 3:17 pm

Veloflex are great tires. I ride them on my own racing wheels 🙂

But not so much in the rain, though. The German magazine Tour does the most comprehensive tyre tests I know of, and the rate Veloflex lower than for instance Continental. This matches my own observations.

I suppose it’s a matter of the more “chemical” compounds being better than the natural rubber Veloflex are made of, plus the thread pattern.

CoDrvr March 15, 2015 at 4:53 pm

Inrng, I would assume you of all people knew that there’s no such thing as ‘bad luck’. 😉

The Inner Ring March 15, 2015 at 5:28 pm

There certainly is and sometimes we see a performance and attribute it to skill when it’s just luck. You can do a lot to improve the odds but there’s always some good and bad luck involved but it varies, for example a summit finish is less random than Paris-Roubaix etc.

Tovarishch March 15, 2015 at 9:23 am

Funny when Sky don’t have a tyre sponsor so they can pick whatever type they want.

I refer everyone to my post, yesterday. Thanks for not tipping Thomas today!

J Evans March 15, 2015 at 9:18 am

Seems more likely that people here are looking for excuses for a ‘British’ team than that team are using inferior equipment.
Froome, Wiggins and Thomas are all poor bike handlers; Porte I haven’t watched enough.
Wiggins and Thomas came from a track background, which might explain it – whilst Froome just looks uncomfortable on a bike.
They might have got away with it a few times, but they have performed badly in this respect too many times for it to be ignored. E-QS left them behind yesterday, before Porte’s fall; Froome is decidedly slower than Contador, Nibali, etc.; Wiggins looks like bambi in the rain.
Does Brailsford have the balls to broach this with his tetchy stars?
On Sky’s plus side, they’re previously woeful tactics seem to have greatly improved this season – e.g. Poels was the only person to attack at precisely the right time yesterday.

Stevhan The Invincible March 15, 2015 at 10:50 am

In Sky’s defence, Stannard has track background as well and he seems to be handling his bike quite okay in poor weather conditions, but of course he needn’t be going downhil on those long tricky slopes

AK March 15, 2015 at 9:29 am

Great ride by Gallopin, hope he can keep yellow today but it will be close. Kwiatkowski must have been totally knackered losing touch in the sprint and losing two costly seconds.

hoh March 15, 2015 at 10:46 am

CN’s live ticker & an earlier version of their race report kept on saying that Kwiatkowski did that intentionally to start behind Porte. Made me wonder for a bit whether it’s CN being their usual self or PN has a different ITT starting order for top GCs.

Kwiatkowski Could still have done it intentionally to start ahead of Porte. He might want to ride his own ITT rather than having his DS shouting out his deficit to Porte.

J Evans March 15, 2015 at 11:03 am

He did seem to be looking around and almost intentionally dropping back. Odd tactic, if true.

AK March 15, 2015 at 11:09 am

Yeah, dumping the radio would be more efficient, saves another 2 secs by being lighter.

Anonymous March 15, 2015 at 11:13 am

At the finish Kwiatkowski made some strange move to get in line and to be the last in his group to finish. Looked unnatural, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. But maybe he was just confused for a second, it is easy to get it wrong when it has been this demanding-just look at poor Spilak, thinking he had won.

Keith.warmington March 15, 2015 at 10:03 am

Extraordinary statement. Wiggins is a poor bike handler? He,s not badly with his meagre skills has he!

J Evans March 15, 2015 at 10:19 am

He’s brilliant in many ways – going downhill in the rain is not one of them.

Andrew E March 15, 2015 at 11:40 am

Did you see the few days he was in the Giro in 2013? He was doing pretty badly. As for the rest, I find that Wiggo fans tend to view his record through rose-tinted specs and conflate it with the track. Taken as purely a road rider he’s had some success but in my view is not an all-time great. Yes, he’s a top ITT rider and yes he won a Tour (in a year when his main rivals were either MIA or, in Froome’s case, not allowed to race him) but since then he’s been average and never faced off against the very top riders ever again.

PS He won’t win Paris-Roubaix either. I find it amusing his fans say “but he came 9th last year” and always forget that Thomas came 7th in the same race.

Anonymous March 15, 2015 at 11:46 am

+1

CoDrvr March 15, 2015 at 4:55 pm

+1

Anonymous March 15, 2015 at 5:21 pm

C’mon…

Thomas, Wiggins and 7 others in the lead group arrived at the same time, 20 seconds after the winner, Terpstra. He didn’t win, he may never, but a very good result. Thomas was a half bike length ahead. As to the rest, there is no drug or genetic manipulation in the world that will give Froome Palmares that will ever compare to Wiggins. Go look them up, put them side by side. And talk about a guy who can’t ride a bike, who is worse than Froome?

Anonymous March 15, 2015 at 10:37 am

I noticed Porte had his inside pedal on the down stroke just as he started to lose the rear end. Call it bad technique or just unlucky but it could have put him out for weeks as Boonen’s incident did. Remember Denis Menchov managed a similar spill going Uphill.

J Evans March 15, 2015 at 11:03 am

Yup, Porte was chasing too hard, having been left behind, and pedalled on the corner.

ZigaK March 15, 2015 at 6:57 pm

This^
pedal down in the corner on the inside side – dare I say rookie mistake

Stevhan The Invincible March 15, 2015 at 10:47 am

Nobody mentioning the KOM as a contender for today? De Gendt will smash it, mark my words. He sat up yersterday after his jersey was safe and will want to shine today, not exactly expecting him to win but he’ll be one of the first to put a benchmark-time on the tables today and it might hold for some time.

The Inner Ring March 15, 2015 at 10:48 am

Yes if it was 209.6km instead of 9.6km. He’s great at long range efforts.

Stevhan The Invincible March 15, 2015 at 10:57 am

TDG often says he never warms up for a TT, maybe he should make an exception for that today. Nonetheless, what about Fuglsang? He seems to be on from and doesn’t mind some foul weather neither.

Lenny Bernstein March 15, 2015 at 1:28 pm

He’s fastest at the intermediate time check so far…

Lenny Bernstein March 15, 2015 at 1:33 pm

And has now just gone well into the lead at the finishing line. I’m sure Porte & co will beat that time however.

nicholas_au March 15, 2015 at 10:58 am

Good luck Richie bring it home champ

Mark H March 15, 2015 at 12:33 pm

I enjoyed Artur Vivhot’s tricolore “ass saver” yesterday.
I’m also curious about the neutral service car, it has a few bikes on the roof, presumably of different sizes, has anyone ever had to utilise one of these? I’ve never seen it happen and wondering if it ever has?

Hank The Tank March 15, 2015 at 6:43 pm

Yesterday Wellens got a wheel from the Mavic car.
In a mountain stage with different chasing groups they get used by the riders.

J Evans March 15, 2015 at 1:51 pm

Wiggins not in the TT. I’d have thought he’d want to show the jersey.
You’d also expect him to do well in it, if he had form.
He’d better be ‘saving himself’ for Roubaix…

The Inner Ring March 15, 2015 at 2:03 pm

He’s 8kg heavier than last year so his chances, even in peak form, would surely be low in this uphill time trial.

J Evans March 15, 2015 at 2:05 pm

True enough, but he could still finish the race. Tony Martin’s giving it a go.

Andrew E March 15, 2015 at 4:44 pm

I agree. Wiggins is going to look awfully silly if he comes nowhere in Roubaix.

gabriele March 15, 2015 at 2:43 pm

Lotto played it quite good, as I was hoping in my last commentary someone would do. I thought Astana and Ag2R should have tried something similar, but at the end of the day they probably didn’t have the legs. Nevertheless, I didn’t like Fulgsang attitude, a little bit too collaborative (that is, conservative, thinking about his placement instead of his – reduced it may be – share of winning chances): hadn’t the Sky guys gone down, he wouldn’t have gained anything in what has been a rather good day for him. Even worst, the Lampre duo. As a team, I think they should have played a split…
Knowing the big advantage Porte had with today’s final stage, failing to try anything risky was just meaning fighting for a top 10 placement. Quite sad when you have one (Astana) or even two (!) men in the hardest’s stage top 5.
That said, I think everyone was really worn out on the finish line…

gabriele March 15, 2015 at 2:47 pm

“a top 10 placement”… in final GC, I mean.
(And… as for Omega and Kwiat, they tried hard, nothing to say. Don’t think they’re left with anything to regret)

Lee Woodhead March 15, 2015 at 4:09 pm

Criticism of Wiggins is laughable, he had one of the greatest seasons ever in 2012. Why can’t people celebrate his achievements rather than picking holes. You could argue that Froome has done little since winning the tour also; it is actually really hard to win the TDF. I’m sure team orders slowed Froome down on the ITT & caused him to puncture. We seem to prefer plucky podiums to actual winners.

Gledwin March 15, 2015 at 4:29 pm

I certainly prefer plucky podiums, exciting racing, not knowing who will win, the whole SKY thing of winning the first mountain stage and then canceling out attacks for the rest of the race has ruined stage racing for me, I wish it hadnt and I kinda wish I could route for them but for some reason I cant.

J Evans March 15, 2015 at 5:14 pm

Sky are dull to watch, but that’s not their fault. It’s up to others to have the ability to attack and beat them.

Andrew E March 15, 2015 at 4:49 pm

Lee, you could argue that. But you would have to ignore several race wins (against the top guys) as well as a 2nd and a 4th in the Vuelta. And that “one of the greatest seasons ever” was pretty much matched by Froome a year later.

Wiggins is what he is but outside of the ITT his 3 years since the Tour win have been underwhelming on the road and he has, for one reason and another, failed to race in the big races against the top guys. It says it all that his own team preferred someone else in the race they really covet.

Tovarishch March 15, 2015 at 4:53 pm

You really don’t like Wiggins do you? I am not sure this is the place for your character assassination.

j March 15, 2015 at 5:13 pm

No character assassination; just fair and accurate comment.
Fans of particular riders don’t like it when they are criticised – even when it is reasonable.

Anonymous March 15, 2015 at 7:09 pm

Really? So a rainbow jersey, a dominant performance in the one race he set out to win and a top 10 in a cobbled classic are underwhelming. There are a few dozen other riders who have underwhelmed a lot more.

hoh March 15, 2015 at 6:14 pm

Wiggins is a talented rider, but he may have wasted that talent on chasing TDF.

He was luck enough to be the first ever British rider to win a TDF, so that works out very well for him, boosting him to a household name. However, he could have focused his talents on classics and potentially win as much PR & Flanders as Cancellara or Boonen.

I’m not sure which, the 2012 TDF (he had not prospect of winning any other to be honest) or multiple PR & Flanders wins over the years, would be more prestigious in pure cycling terms (British patriotism not withstanding). My personal inclination is the latter.

I hope the window of winning PR hasn’t closed for him, but he did leave himself a very narrow window of this year’s PR only. Maybe Sky will give him a hand in the future if his team got a wildcard invitation. Who knows.

Anonymous March 15, 2015 at 5:27 pm

The Tour, others were not in the race or not allowed to race; the Olympics ITT, Martin had injured himself in the Tour.
Before and since 2012, on the road, very little.
Try to be objective.

Beth March 15, 2015 at 8:00 pm

Really don’t know what Wiggins has deserved to get this kind of bashing. It’s pretty ignorant. 99% of pros would give their right leg for his palmares – 2 x Dauphine, 1 x Paris Nice, 1 x Romandie, TDF, Tour of Cali, Tour of Britain, World ITT, 4 Olympic gold medals, multiple track WC. Need I go on?

As for poor bike handling, anyone who saw him throwing his TT bike up and down hills and round corners in the pouring rain at last years Nats will disagree with you.

He probably won’t win PR, but don’t underestimate his commitment. It’s how he wants to bow out from riding at this level and he’s realistic about his chances. I’ll be applauding a great career – whatever the outcome.

Anonymous March 15, 2015 at 4:54 pm

You are not alone in feeling this way, Gledwin. But Sky isn’t the original inventer of that, they have only taken over from others, who had the same “vision” of cycling as a professional sport. And with every new reincarnation, what teams can imagine gets more strerile, one dimensional, controlled and boring. Luckily we still have the riders, the roads, the wind, the weather and a few other things that interfere with their ideas. And as much as I dislike watching Froome ride – it always makes me nervous and impatient – he is actual a real road rider/racer, which could never be said about Wiggins.

Tovaishch March 15, 2015 at 7:11 pm

This is getting more like Cycling News every day. Thank dog for Inrng, him(her)self.

The Inner Ring March 15, 2015 at 7:49 pm

I might have to start pruning comments if they drift too far from the original topic, we’ll see.

Othersteve March 15, 2015 at 9:07 pm

Perhaps an issue is that road GT cycling today is a lot different then it was just a few years ago.
So we have a lot more room for criticizing riders and sub disciplines of the sport participating at GC events. We have extreme specialization with in the peleton today with trackie WC’s, x- mountain bikers WC’s, Cyclo-Cross WC and even a BMXers. ( Cycle-cross has always been a close sister to road)

They all bring different benefits and drawbacks to our teams and how we view those teams. Not to mention managing these different strengths.

It would be interesting to see in a spreadsheet what the makeup of the 5 most expensive teams and the cycling history of its riders. I would imagine its not like the days of Hinault and Lemond were you took a roadie team to the GT’s and maybe one sprinter.

Might want to keep that in mind when you respond to one critical of your favorite rider.

Lee Woodhead March 15, 2015 at 11:05 pm

Sorry if I derailed the thread but I just tire of the Wiggo bashing. He has set himself goals & achieved them. He has had a great career & a unique one among british cyclists. Many TDF riders have taken time on the ITT & then defended through the race.

Sam March 16, 2015 at 7:26 am

A fair few exiles here from the now-closed CN comments section.

A pity.

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