Paris-Nice Stage 2 Preview

Monday, 5 March 2018

A near-certain sprint finish. Paris-Nice doesn’t offer the sprinters many chances and today’s stage is their day so all their teams will work for this scenario. We’ll see who is the fastest between Elia Viviani and Dylan Groenewegen and it’s a test for their teams because the finish will see see who can fight for space and the right to position their leader. Will the uphill finish tilt it to Arnaud Démare?

Stage 1 Wrap: a three rider breakaway with Pierre-Luc Périchon (Fortuneo-Samsic) outsprinting World Tour riders Pierre Rolland and Jürgen Roelandts to secure the mountains jersey for a few days, apparently Roelandts agreed not to contest the KoM points if he could take the intermediate sprints.

Mitchelton-Scott tried to split the race in the crosswinds but the wind wasn’t cross enough. One rider who was angry was Tejay van Garderen who crashed as the bunch tensed up and BMC’s leader abandoned the race after crashing into a team vehicle as he tried to ride back. As the race neared the finish there was a crash that brought down several GC outsiders like Ilnur Zakarin and Jacob Fuglsang and because it was an uphill finish there was no 3km rule to save them.

Alexis Vuillermoz tried an attack before the flamme rouge and built up a good lead but the final climb and its cobbles got to him and a quartet of Arnaud Démare, Gorka Izagirre, Tim Wellens and Christophe Laporte sprinted for the line. It took a photofinish and Démare was the least camera-shy. Is Démare a sprinter? The only other habitual sprinter in the top-10 was Matteo Trentin, most other fastmen sat up or sat it out.

The Route: in the words of Jacques Brel, let’s go and see Vierzon. First 187km due south and it’s all flat and exposed as they cross the Loire basin and head south parallel to the autoroute and railway line and as good as cycling is perhaps these alternatives are superior ways to cross this plain terrain, if only to get to closer to better terrain starting tomorrow.

The Finish: if the route is uneventful, the finish isn’t. With under 2km to go they cross the Cher river and then there’s a roundabout to line out the bunch and then ionto a narrow backstreet and then a sharp right-hand bend for the 800m finishing straight. There are two river bridges to cross along the way, nothing steep but a quick dilemma, to change gear or to force through? Then it’s uphill to the line at 4%.

The Contenders: Arnaud Démare again? He’s in form and the uphill finish helps him and if he needs local advice then two of his Groupama-FDJ lead out train team mates come from Vierzon in William Bonnet and Marc Sarreau but he’ll have to call them as they’re not on the race. One problem for FDJ is their sprint train is rather obvious and forceful, they hit the front hard and try to stay there and it allows others to sit behind Démare – who himself likes a long sprint – so they can pop around in the final 50 metres.

We’ll see a contest between Elia Viviani (Quick Step) and Dylan Groenewegen (Lotto-Jumbo) but on an uphill finish when both would prefer a flatter run.

Alexander Kristoff (UAE Emirates) can do uphill finishes and André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) can do them even better while Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Phil Bauhaus (Team Sunweb) are two more to watch. Nacer Bouhanni opted out of yesterday’s sprint completely, spending the stage wrapped up like a toddler and barely peeling off a layer for the finish but should be Cofidis’s point man today.

Arnaud Démare
Alexander Kristoff, André Greipel, Dylan Groenewegen
Viviani, Bouhanni

Weather: dry, no wind and a top temperature of 13°C, mild given what’s gone on across Europe for the last two weeks.

TV: 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 steephill.tv for links to feeds and streams. The finish is forecast for 4.30pm CET.

PaddyDunne March 5, 2018 at 11:32 am

The only sure thing I know is the tractor factory is down Station Road. Rode there once just to see we’re our HotBulb Lanz copy Vierzon Tractor was made. Like you do! Tuck your elbows in Bouhanni’s coming through. Although AD looking good for a second stage win

The Inner Ring March 5, 2018 at 4:45 pm

It’s about the only thing in town, although less and less production these days apparently.

Steve March 5, 2018 at 2:41 pm

I’ve been to Vierzon. It was shut. Really. 15th August is a public holiday in France.

The Inner Ring March 5, 2018 at 4:47 pm

I’ve been on a working weekday and it felt closed too. A train connection and time to spare meant an hour to stroll around and was happy for the train to show up there wasn’t much to see. It’s one of those medium French towns that’s probably surrounded by a constellation of out of town retail warehouses and so fewer people go into the town, even if the river and the bridges have some charm.

Ecky Thump March 5, 2018 at 5:49 pm

What are the song’s sentiments about, Inner Ring, please?
I’ve never heard that before, or the artist, and it was a pleasurable listen – in the end. Took me several go’s though.

Richard Bouquet March 5, 2018 at 10:14 pm

Here’s a live version with appropriate gestures from the great man and English subtitles.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=guaEg2U89p8

Brel live was a force of nature – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kaZ9HTH6qPs

ronytominger March 5, 2018 at 11:18 pm
Ecky Thump March 5, 2018 at 11:56 pm

No, but that was beautiful.

Cascarinho March 5, 2018 at 9:08 pm

The song is a man complaining about his girlfriend : “you wanted to see Vierzon and we went to Vierzon ; you wanted to see Vesoul and we went to Vesoul…”, Vierzon and Vesoul being town renowned as very dull. “I wanted to meet your sister and we met your mother, as always”… “But I tell you, I won’t go any further, I won’t go to Paris, I hate accordeon”. It’s a comical song. Brel is a Belgian singer of the sixties, he’s very famous in France.

Ecky Thump March 5, 2018 at 11:15 pm

Thank you very much Cascarinho.
Not quite the tale or the endorsement for Vierzon I imagined.

Anonymous March 6, 2018 at 3:10 am

You know the racing’s dull when all the talk is about a dead singer and one of his lesser known songs.

Dan March 6, 2018 at 1:59 pm

Lol – It’s got me loading up YouTube and having a listen!

Racing should start getting going today.

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