Paris-Nice Stage 6 Preview

Friday, 9 March 2018

Hopefully two races for the price of one with a breakaway making it and behind the GC contenders exploiting the tricky finish including a surprisingly nasty penultimate climb.

Stage 5 Wrap: Jérôme Cousin went in the break to scoop up mountains points and take the polka dot jersey and it worked. He also won the stage. Nils Politt attacked the break just before the final climb of the day and built up a 15 second lead only for Cousin to bridge across during the climb. The closer they got to Sisteron the less work Cousin was doing to the point where Politt was roaring at Cousin to do a turn. He wouldn’t and Politt tried an attack but Cousin closed him down. At this point Politt was too polite, the pair had a slender lead but the German still insisted on towing Cousin to the finish line. If it’s any consolation he’s going like a train and should be a force for the northern classics, he was powering alone after a long day away and still the chase behind struggled to take time.

The Route: 198km and a Paris-Nice classic as they leave Sisteron and the Durance valley to head to Digne on the Route Napoléon around the foot of the Alps. The Col de Luens is a gentle climb, never more than 7% and often much more gentle. The Col Bas is the highest point of the stage and a short climb, some 8% but less than two kilometres long. Then the descending begins with a long section of the route which twists and turns, passing the ski resort of Gréolieres and then two more second category climbs, a generous award for these more gentle climbs and then the hairy descent down the Gorges du Loup.

The Finish: with 11.5km to go they go through the backstreets of Colle sur Loup and tackle a stiff climb, 1.8km at 10% in the roadbook but out n the road there’s a warning sign saying 16%. It’s an irregular climb that turns one way, twists another and the slope changes as it bends past houses and scrubland before rejoining the main road and the descent to the intermediate sprint in Saint Paul. Then it’s out of the town on another backroad, an uncategorised climb with 3km at 6% and if it’s not as savage as the previous climb it’s still awkward underneath the pine trees. The final kick up sees the road joining the main road into Vence and an undulating road to the finish line.

The Contenders: a lot of riders will have marked today for a breakaway because the weekend stages are likely to see the GC contenders going full gas so today might give the escapees more of a chance. Who goes in the breakaway? Spin the wheel of fortune but to win the stage the rider has to be able to cope with the punch climbs in the finish. So Dayer Quintana (Movistar), Thomas de Gendt (Lotto-Soudal), Robert Gesink (Lotto-Jumbo), T-J Slagter (Dimension Data), Rémy Di Gregorio (Delko-Marseille-KTM) are names to think of among others.

Otherwise in case the breakaway doesn’t work then Julian Alaphilippe (Quick Step) is an obvious pick for a sprint win out of the front group or even a late attack, the same for Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal). Dan Martin (UAE Emirates) has been discreet this week but the finish suits him too.

Alaphilippe, Wellens
Martin, Gesink, Yates, de Gendt, Pantano, Izagirre²

Weather: sunny most of the time but cool as they round the Alps, 10°C at best for much of the stage before 14°C for the finish.

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.

JT March 9, 2018 at 6:21 am

Warren Barguil sat up yesterday to allow himself to get in a breakaway so he is my pick for today.
Thanks for the write up INRNG !

The Inner Ring March 9, 2018 at 10:20 am

I saw him sitting up… but can he win? He’s not in shape but it’d be good to see him try.

Pelican VC March 9, 2018 at 7:38 am

“Racing is licking your opponent’s plate clean before starting on your own.”

Anonymous March 9, 2018 at 8:01 am

Good job Pollit kept riding as they could have shared the spoils of 91st place.

Richard S March 9, 2018 at 8:10 am

Though Cousin didn’t do anything wrong as such if I was Nils Pollit I would have pulled over and waited for the bunch. He was only going to come 2nd and had the good hard miles in his legs for the classics. A ‘if I’m going down you are too’ kind of situation

Ronytominger March 9, 2018 at 9:10 am

Politt said afterwards, he tried this last attack to win and decided to pull through anyway if cpusin could follow, since 2nd in a WT race would still be one of his best results up to date. For cousin its the result of hid career, politt will have more opportunities in the futuurr

Ecky Thump March 9, 2018 at 9:38 am

Someone, somewhere, sometime, somehow will pay Cousin back, don’t worry about that.
He got his win though, and the Polka jersey. Chapeau.

STS March 9, 2018 at 11:37 am

Yeah, maybe, no even probably that win will backfire for Cousin and for his team. That was negative publicity nobody except for the most chauvinistic fans wants. So, I certainly won’t lift my hat for his performance.
But the more important take is that Politt enabled him to get away with this. So he and other suckers will try again to win like this. And that’s the negative impact this behaviour has which goes beyond Politt and Cousin.
But it took some years and painful experiences to learn that even for Cancellara before he stated: “The Swiss train won’t carry any passengers anymore.” And the races became even more interesting when he raced accordingly.
So Politt will hopefully learn from this incident.

Anand March 9, 2018 at 2:03 pm

So, karma?

Eskerrik Asko March 9, 2018 at 8:53 am

Perhaps it had to with being somewhat on the older side myself, but I was rooting for the wily old fox even. (BTW I was a little bit surprised to find out that Cousin is 28 and thus only five years older tha Politt.) “The Katusha rider” should either have maintained a gap on the climb or left the Frenchman with the choice to either do a significant share of the work or to give up his chances of victory altogether.

I really don’t see why Cousin should have adhered to many cycling fan’s interpretation of one of those “unwritten rules”, done half of the work and then watched Politt – who obviously would have been stronger and who would not have given Cousin a chance to outsmart and -sprint him 100 m before the finish line – take off and take the victory.

RonDe March 9, 2018 at 10:50 am

Some “unwritten rules” I agree with. Respecting the jersey would be one. But if there is any “unwritten rule” which says you should share the work in a breakaway then I think that’s stupid. A rider rides his own race (or the race his team boss is shouting in his ear!) and his opponents decide what to do about it. Cousin had no duty to help and Pollitt had no duty to tow him. Each did what they did for the result that they got.

Anonymous March 9, 2018 at 11:16 am

You wouldn’t last long in the peloton with that attitude.

RonDe March 9, 2018 at 11:29 am

You’ve never seen a rider telling someone in the breakaway that his team boss is telling him he can’t help then? You should be more observant. Its not uncommon.

STS March 9, 2018 at 11:39 am

But that’s typically in a different situation. And I hope you are experienced enough to understand the difference.

Anonymous March 9, 2018 at 2:29 pm

I doubt he ever rode a race in his life. He knows nothing about bike racers.

RonDe March 9, 2018 at 7:15 pm

Apologies Mr Lemond, I bow to your racing chops. *rolls eyes*

Anonymous March 9, 2018 at 8:54 pm

Roll your eyes like you want, I know that my 53 years of cycling experience can’t compare with some anglo newborn cycling “fan”. You have nothing to offer here.

CA March 9, 2018 at 5:07 pm

Cousin could have taken shorter turns or just rolled through the front, just to give Politt a hand as a gesture. Politt would have understood if the turns weren’t even, but to sit on 100% and poach the win is pretty shifty.

With that being said, Politt seams super strong right now.

Utah March 9, 2018 at 9:10 am

The categorising of climbs in this race is, too perhaps put it too strongly, a disgrace.

Tomorrow has two category 1 climbs…except it doesn’t. One of them is 16km at 3.8%???

Even worse, Sunday has a climb of 1.6kms at 8% which is has categorised as category 1?!?!?!?!

Richard S March 9, 2018 at 10:12 am

is the categorization of climbs supposed to be uniform across all races? Maybe they are Cat 1 in the context of this race? This race being Paris-Nice and not the Tour de France? If the categorization used in the Tour or the Giro were used across al races the Tour of Britain or the Tour of Belgium would struggle to have a KOM competition. Having said that, its not even uniform across all 3 weeks of the Tour. A Cat 4 in week 1 wouldn’t even be noticed by the time they get the Alps or the Pyrenees.

The Inner Ring March 9, 2018 at 10:29 am

The 16km climb at 3.8% is really the Col de Vé Gautier via the Col de Rostan, it’s a long climb and a proper mountain road. Since they only have three categories for the race, it’s ok giving it 1st category status. Sunday’s Col d’Eze is probably too generous for first category, especially as they only start climbing near the top.

StevhanTI March 9, 2018 at 10:36 am

INRNG has written about this on plenty of occasions already I suggest you dig those post and comments up. The categorization may seem incoherent (from an armchair vantage point) but is often on purpose and far from a ‘disgrace’.

The Inner Ring March 9, 2018 at 10:38 am

There’s this which explains the formula for the Tour’s climbs: http://inrng.com/2015/07/tour-climbs-category-formula/

RonDe March 9, 2018 at 10:57 am

I think the point is that to get these categorizations all mountain roads have not been put into one central computer and been given a lifetime category involving uniform judgments across all races. Its in the context of a particular race and the categories they use. The Tour has five categories, 1-4 and then HC. Paris-Nice only has three as INRNG points out. So a very steep climb will more likely be near the top of the categories as will a very long one here.

StevhanTI March 9, 2018 at 1:44 pm

It’s just a way to offer additional premiums to riders and additional publicity to the sponsors of the teams and the race organisation. Since PN is obviously a smaller race than le tour the amount of € to distribute will be smaller so less categories (and points) on offer make sense. And I really think all the rest is secondary to the organisers and riders; fans shouldn’t care too much about it. Let’s enjoy the folklore and be happy for a c-list rider who gets the chance to shine for a day or two (and bag some money for the team).

BC March 9, 2018 at 10:06 am

The worst thing, if that is the correct word, about Cousins ‘win’ in my eyes was not his wheel sucking, nor even taking the victory from the moral victor. It was his uncompromising and uncalled for comments after the event. As someone else has already pointed out, he will pay dearly for his behavior.

Road Furniture March 9, 2018 at 10:36 am

Which comments do you mean exactly? From the interviews I saw I heard Politt say (paraphrasing) “I’d rather be 2nd than nothing at all” and Cousin said “I’m all in for the win, even if it makes us both lose”.

I find Cousin’s comments and strategy totally normal, especially when you take the wider context of a rider that never wins and has indeed lost in similar situations from being too generous, so he played a different card yesterday.

Politt on the other hand… if you’re happy to get 2nd place, maybe you can expect to finish 2nd more often than the top step.

RonDe March 9, 2018 at 11:00 am

So what you don’t like BC is that Cousin played to win and then said that’s what he’d done afterwards? Personally, I’d rather have such honesty. And I don’t see how he’ll “pay” for such behaviour as wins for him are as rare as rocking horse poo. That might well be the biggest win he ever has.

Kathy March 9, 2018 at 11:41 am

One of his comments after the win was about Kathusha riders: “Je me suis fait un peu insulter par l’équipe Katusha.” So maybe, after beeing insulted by some of them, he was not really in the mood for a polite comment about Politt.

Anand March 9, 2018 at 2:09 pm

This is cycling. It’s not always the stronger that win. Hence the normal comment by fellow cyclists in a race “the strongest won”, or the opposite. No one opposes any view(or, yeah they do), but the guy first to the goal wins the race nevertheless.

You might like it or not, but this is some of the beauty of this sport.

Eskerrik Asko March 9, 2018 at 10:35 am

“Moral victor”, my ass! (Sorry if that is an offending remark, my English may let me down here.)

Apart from referring to Politt as “the Katusha rider” instead of by name – although it could be that it is common parlance in road cycling (and at least he didn’t call the German “the rider in the red jersey” or “the German rider”:-) – I didn’t pick up anything uncompromising or uncalled for that Cousin said after the event.

“Play with his balls” is what he did, it may be a colloiqual expression but it is an objective description rather than a slight towards Politt. Please note that Cousin thereby notes that Politt did have balls:-)

Besides, Cousin also said that he didn’t really like winning in this manner, but what could he do when it was the only way he could win and when he knows that he won’t have that many opportunities to win.

As for “paying dearly”, I don’t think he will be able to repeat tge same trick now that everyone knows he is more willing to be 87th than to be 2nd – but what other price to do expect him to “pay for his behavior”?

StevhanTI March 9, 2018 at 10:42 am

An don’t forget, he closed down two gaps while the other escapees couldn’t even close one and Politt didn’t have a third démarrage in him, so Cousin sure did have the jambes to win. Politt may have said he’d rather be second than nothing but he probably thought about the cheque Cousin has to write for his fellow escapees now, that’ wouldn’t have been the case were all of them caught. There are many many more unwritten peloton rules than the ones we may think we know about.

Eskerrik Asko March 9, 2018 at 8:12 pm

I have never been a part of the peloton, not even a part of a peloton consisting of fourth or fifth tier cyclists who (rightly or wrongly) consider themselves well-versed in the intricacies of the road racing code. But I wonder:
Doesn’t it play any role that Politt was the one who attacked with a full intention and desire to leave he other three riders in the breakaway behind for good? Did he not thereby forfeit the right to expect any of them to share the work equally – or, indeed, to do any work at all – if and once one of them manages to close the gap on him?

Wasn’t it a new situation then, a normal end game, so to speak, with different rules from those that (possibly) would and should have been followed if the four riders (or those of the four who wouldn’t
have had to give up) had kept it together until the finish straight?

I’m still utterly aghast at cycling fans who interpret the “unwritten rules” to require that you have to do our share of the work even when you know doing that would mean handing over the victory on a silver platter to the other guy!

frood March 9, 2018 at 11:01 am

Is there anything Politt could have done differently and still won? He tried to attack Cousin but obviously Cousin was too strong for that to work. it must be a bit galling to know that you’ve painted yourself into a corner like that, with the peloton bearing down on you.

From Cousin’s perspective it was the obvious tactic – he had the polka dot jersey sewn up anyway so the stage win was really a bonus. Although to my mind you would prioritise the stage win over the jersey given that he’s probably going to lose it before the end of the race anyway. Is wearing the jersey for a day or 2 better than a stage win? surely not. however, he has both!

Road Furniture March 9, 2018 at 11:30 am

Firstly, he could have maybe not attacked from 16km out, breaking the trust of the breakaway and tiring his legs.

Secondly, he could have called Cousin’s bluff, maybe Cousin would crack and end up doing more work.

Thirdly, when Cousin took a couple turns in the last 5km he could have stayed a bit longer in his wheel, he seemed to voluntarily come through quite quickly (maybe because he felt Cousin was taking weak turns).

I feel that ultimately if Politt had worked with the 4 riders until the last few km then tried one hard attack he may have stayed away. The obvious caveat is this is all 20:20 hindsight of course.

Vitus March 10, 2018 at 4:04 pm

Politt is anything but sprinter, he knew everyone of these 3 will beta him, so at some point he just had to try it.

RonDe March 9, 2018 at 11:10 am

Bouhanni is not starting today as he’s ill. I must confess I didn’t even realise he was in the race since this seems to have been one of those (many) where he’s been anonymous. One wonders if those at Cofidis still think him worth his reputedly high wages.

Richard S March 9, 2018 at 12:38 pm

Degenkolb has dropped out today too after being similarly anonymous. Obviously Big John has more big wins in the bank than Bouhanni does to justify his no doubt large pay check but if he doesn’t pick up a bit he’s going to struggle to justify being number 1 ahead of Nizzolo at Milan-Sanremo and Stuyven on the cobbles.

Anand March 9, 2018 at 2:12 pm

Cycling fans.

The biggest arseholes and the nicest people at the same time.

Go figure.

Anonymous March 9, 2018 at 2:33 pm

Well. Politt is in the breakaway again today. As is a Direct Energy rider. Third wheelsucking stage win, after Hivert sat on Sanchez the other day?

JT March 10, 2018 at 12:41 pm

Somewhat different for Hivert and Sanchez. Sanchez wasn’t riding for the stage win, he was riding for GC.
Cousin and Politt were both riding for the win, well only Politt was hence the uproar. I didn’t mind too much want Cousin did, it was a bit pathetic but he was willing to lose in order to win. His comments afterwards seemed rather disrespectful from my point of view.
Thomas de Ghent has already punished them for it by going for the mountains jersey when originally he had no plan to do so.

Gabriel Constantin March 10, 2018 at 8:35 am

It would be a lot better if that came from someone with name. Anonymous won’t get you far on this blog.

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