Paris-Nice Stage 7 Preview

Saturday, 11 March 2017

The big stage with the high summit finish. When the race route was launched the summit finish on the Col de la Couillole was the novelty for its altitude. It’s the length and gradient that matter today.

Stage 6 Wrap: a stage win for Simon Yates. Earlier on Alberto Contador was in the attacks and his move helped shrink down what was left of the peloton and so by the time Yates attacked there were few riders left with team mates to chase Yates, allowing the Briton to start the final climb with a comfortable margin of 45 seconds. Sergio Henao was second at 17 seconds with Julian Alaphilippe cracking in the final moments. Alaphilippe only lost 12 seconds to Henao (plus the time bonus), a small loss but a big significance: Alaphilippe’s rivals have seen he’s not invincible now and he’ll be under attack today more than ever.

The Route: familiar roads for the large contingent of pros who live or sometimes train in the Nice/Monaco region. After heading up the Var valley the Col de Vence should be the launchpad for the day’s breakaway, 9.7km at 6.6% with the steeper parts in the upper parts. There are then 70km of rolling valley roads to the feed zone in Utelle. After this the valley road rises with long sections of 4-5% before the Col St. Martin proper starts with 7.5km at 7.2%. It’s followed by a fast and long descent of 20km, chance for dropped riders to get back on although they’ll likely be ejected on the climb ahead.

The Finish: a long and steady climb. Altitude is physiological component but 1678m isn’t that much. Instead the duration of the effort today is the real test, this is the kind of long climb you’d get in the Giro or Tour yet it’s only early March now. There’s nothing particularly technical to describe, the early parts have a wide road but its got very little traffic. This is a scenic and rewarding climb to try for yourself with a road that narrows and hugs the mountain further on.

The Contenders: Richie Porte has talked about having “a pair of swingers” and what better on the Couillole? He and Alberto Contador are the two obvious picks for a long finish like this, they’re both down on GC so have some room to manoeuvre, they can attack and hope there won’t be an instant response, especially if they leave their moves relatively late although Contador may prefer to see if he can parlay his 7th place overall and 90 second deficit into an all or nothing move just as we saw him try a long range move yesterday.

Sergio Henao was the best on the Mur de Fayence but that short climb was ideal for his explosive power. Now we’ll see what he can do on such a long climb and having just returned from the Colombian summer (and altitude) we can expect plenty. Team Sky will use their riders, especially Mikel Nieve, to try and put Julian Alaphilippe on the rack.

Ilnur Zakarin‘s a good pick too, he won the main stage in this race a year ago after sitting tight on his rivals’ wheels all the way up the final climb and he need only do the same again to take a win and make a success of the week.

Among the others it’s getting harder to pick a winner. Jacob Fuglsang is riding steady but remains an infrequent winner, Diego Ulissi will surely find the climbing and competition too much. Ion Izagirre is riding well but a win today seems too much. Simon Yates could double up but surely there’s a price to pay for his efforts yesterday? Team Sky are likely to put Alaphilippe under as much pressure as possible with their classic mountain train which probably reduces the chances of a breakaway staying away and some of the obvious fugitives like Thomas de Gendt or Jarlinson Pantano are probably on team duty anyway.

Sergio Henao, Richie Porte
Ilnur Zakarin, Alberton Contador
Yates, Fuglsang, Ion Izagirre

Weather: sunny and a pleasant 19°C in the valleys and mild at altitude.

TV: Live from 4.15pm CET with the finish forecast for 5.30pm CET. You should find it on the same channel as you watch the Tour de France. It’s on Eurosport and you can rely on Cyclingfans and for links to feeds and streams. Note Tirreno-Adriatico’s big summit finish is also today but fear not as the finish in Italy is forecast for around 4.15pm CET allowing you to watch the finish of this race first before hopping to Paris-Nice.

Rooto March 11, 2017 at 7:01 am

Excellent “swingers” joke for the Francophones. Without wanting to write anything rude, readers should check the translation of “couilles”, which is very like “Couillole”.

Was it yesterday that Di Marchi, Anacona and Pantano were in the breakaway? I’d expect them to show again.

Eskerrik Asko March 11, 2017 at 8:02 am

It was quite disappointing to watch how it was left to Mikel Nieve to lead the chase and how Simon Yates was allowed to extend the gap during the descent. On the other hand, it was quite thrilling to see how Yates grabbed the chance by the bollocks and went on to win the stage in handsome fashion.

It probably has been said before, but I’ll be damned if this isn’t the best pair of brothers the sport has seen since…well, like *ever’?

Morten Reippuert March 11, 2017 at 10:43 am


and based on combined results Jalabert’s, Indurain’s, Quintana’s, Sagan’s to name a few.

The Inner Ring March 11, 2017 at 10:48 am

The Mosers, the De Vlaemincks as well. Could be a long list but the Yates pair have time on their side.

Cascarinho March 11, 2017 at 2:09 pm

Jean Bobet won Paris-Nice and finished third of San Remo, even if his career was very brief. Then he became journalist and wrote some books about cyclism.

Anonymous March 11, 2017 at 2:25 pm

I’ve read “Demain, on roule” and was fascinated, how distinct a picture of the author formed itself before my inner eye, just listening and following his voice.

And I have to say, it is a beautiful title. Almost can’t think of any better. It evokes a half sad eye toward the past, yesterday, where maybe things weren’t always as we wished they would be, a half resignated sigh for the presence, today, where things are the way they are and a longing hope for the future, tomorrow, to be everything we wish it will be. It is a bittersweet title. Somehow it describes the state of being human in 3 little words. And for some reason, don’t know why, this title is thoroughly french and lovely to me (and no, this isn’t, because it actually is in french. Thanks, I had noticed that…).

Thanks for reminding me of it, think will read it again.

gabriele March 11, 2017 at 1:43 pm

To better catch the intuitive and elusive concept of “better pair of brothers”, perhaps the best way might be to take the results of the “worse” brother as a point of reference.
If you use combined results, you’ll probably end up highlighting “strongest single riders who happen to have a brother who’s a pro cyclist, too”.
Otherwise, you should add Antonio and Vincenzo Nibali; plus so many others, the Coppi’s, Bartali’s and so on would work, despite the premature demise of one brother. But I don’t feel that we would be pointing out at the idea suggested by Eskerrik Asko.

Eskerrik Asko March 13, 2017 at 8:27 am

Sorry for a somewhat belated reply, I was fortunate enough to have a weekend of very long – I refuse to say “epic” – rides on roads that were both mostly icefree and dry, a rare occurence at this time of year.
I was indeed thinking along the lines of a beautifully balanced or not greatly unequal pair of brothers.
In the case of the Yates brothers, the results are still very much in the future, i.e. the expectations are greater than the achievements so far.
I do remember the Schleck brothers, my poor imitation of teenspeak was meant to suggest someone whose knowledege of cycling history is precariously limited and for whom things older than five years are ancient history and therefore not worth finding out.
But I must admit I was secretly hoping that I would be reminded of several pairs of brothers, both past and present, whose achievements I would have the pleasure of looking closer into…

gabriele March 13, 2017 at 10:25 pm

Hi Eskerrik Esko, I won’t pretend to be that knowledgeable, I’ll just hand in a link of a forum about the subject:
It’s in Italian – I don’t know if that’s fine for you, anyway Google translator can provide some help or at least some fun – but the good thing about people’s names is that we don’t translate them anymore as we did with, say, Cartesio (Descartes in Italian!) or Thomas Aquinas (that’s the English version I think) or that sort of things.
Thus, I think that you’ll easily be able to look closer into some of them.

Gervais March 11, 2017 at 2:03 pm

The De Vlaemincks are pretty much untouchable

Nick March 12, 2017 at 1:32 am

Well, apart from the Pelissiers, anyway.

Anonymous March 11, 2017 at 8:07 am

Great stage yesterday and some beautiful scenery,roads to boot. My Lotto tickets on!

Taff March 11, 2017 at 8:13 am

The best move the Yates twins ever did was NOT join Team Sky. Finest British-born climbers, since the great Robert Millar.

Anonymous March 11, 2017 at 8:39 am

Hopefully never will join Sky!

Cilmeri March 11, 2017 at 9:43 am

Possibly (/probably) but others like Thomas and Rowe have developed nicely at Sky.

RonDe March 11, 2017 at 10:24 am

I hear that Froome guy isn’t a bad climber.

jkeltgv March 11, 2017 at 11:44 am

British *born* he said, I suspect deliberately to cover this particular base

RonDe March 11, 2017 at 5:53 pm

Froome was born British. He wasn’t born in Britain.

SirDaveBrailsford March 11, 2017 at 10:27 am

If the stories are true Sky only initially wanted one of them anyway.

Ecky Thump March 11, 2017 at 9:57 am

Has Sky got the team out to employ the mountain train to its most destructive potential?
I’m not too sure of that. They could use it early on but it won’t get rid of the main players, surely?
I think it may be more a case of ‘crossing Rubion’, with 5km or so to go, and the top contenders duking it out.
Porte will follow Contador, Zakarin will follow everyone, Yates will hang in, Alaphilippe should have Dan Martin for company and Henao with Nieve.
Alaphilippe to limit his losses and ride accordingly?
Anything more than 10″ on GC going into tomorrow would be acceptable, no?

SirDaveBrailsford March 11, 2017 at 10:26 am

My thoughts exactly. Sky’s team here looked distinctly B Team when I saw it on paper. Of course, that’s B Team for Sky. Nieve is the only one here with genuine mountain class outside of Henao himself.

JH March 11, 2017 at 10:37 am

A bit harsh on Alaphilippe? Sure, he’s more puncheur then climber, so we except him not to do well. But I thought that was a pretty good defence – all of his rivals, except Henao, lost time to him (possibly Yates, but that was him riding into the top 10, not into GC contention). Not sure how rested he was, but he’s still coming off that amazing TT win, which must have been tiring. Still a breakthrough performance in stage racing.

The Inner Ring March 11, 2017 at 10:47 am

Probably, reading L’Equipe this morning it turns he had cramp yesterday rather than cracked.

Cepphus Grylle March 11, 2017 at 1:43 pm

I don’t think he needed to follow Porte’s attack yesterday. He’s not a GC threat and they were already cutting in to Yates’ lead. Better, surely, to wait for the moves of those nearest on GC (namely Henao) or sit on Martin’s wheel, who was riding pretty comfortably, and make a move a little later. A bit naïve perhaps? Or maybe he thought he could take further time and bonus seconds. I hope it was just cramp and it doesn’t affect him too much today.

Chris March 11, 2017 at 9:53 pm

Cepphus – fully agree with that.. he should’ve let Porte go, and watched Henao’s wheel.

RonDe March 11, 2017 at 5:55 pm

I’ve never trusted Henao as a rider. He seems to promise a lot but ultimately fall short. Alberto is going to make him wish he had brown shorts tomorrow.

Patch March 11, 2017 at 9:43 pm

I don’t understand why Martin wasn’t let off the leash on stage 6? Couldn’t he have helped Alaphilippe more by poaching bonus seconds, while making for a good plan B for QSF?

STS March 12, 2017 at 12:21 am

So the stage (eight) is set for a re-match of last year’s (at the same location) great show of Contador vs. Team Sky. Not sure though if he has another helper except for Pantano capable to help him stay away once he created a gap. And hopefully we won’t see any motorbikes helping Team Sky chase Alberto as they did last year.
What role will QS play in that game? As Martin doesn’t seem to be keen to go on long escapes Contador might face even higher odds fighting not only one but two teams who don’t want to let him go.
Anyway that stage will surely not disappoint. Can’t wait for the kick-off.

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