A surprise winner of the prologue in Paris-Nice today. But it was 2°C and windy, the sort of conditions you’d expect a Dutch cyclo-cross rider to “enjoy”, even if Boom is much more than a cross rider, he’s long been mentioned as a real talent. He’s only 24 but has already won the Tour of Belgium and won a stage of the Vuelta last year.

Can he keep the jersey? Well I think he will keep it for a few days. Rabobank don’t have a strong team at the race this year, for example Gesink isn’t there. So it’s in their interest to keep the jersey for as long as they can, rather than looking to do something later this week. Here are some thoughts on the upcoming stages:

Stage 1:

Looks pan flat doesn’t it. It is. With no recognised climbs on the route, riders will only have to worry about railway bridges. But let’s look at the map for the stage:

Notice anything? Look at the way the route heads South West all day long before changing direction in the final part of the race. Tomorrow is forecast to be cold but also windy and the riders will have a big tailwind for sometime but then a 40km/h crosswind after they do the intermediate sprint in Herbault. I’m not sure if the wind will be strong enough to blow the race up but it’s a classic scenario of easy tailwind for ages and then a crosswind in exposed territory. Watch out for crashes at this moment at least. Certainly the team managers will have to warn their riders about this and Rabobank will be at ease, the terrain is so flat it’s almost Dutch. Expect a tactical sprint, the finish should be into a stiff headwind. Anything else to note for tomorrow? Sylvain Chavanel comes from Indre area near the finish so perhaps he’ll want to try something?

Stage 2

The finish into Limoges is hilly but most sprinters should survive if their teams support them. The riders leave the Loire Valley and head towards a hilly area called the Monts de Blond but the climbs are short and not too steep. Local rider of the day is BBox’s Sébastien Turgot who lives in the finish city of Limoges. He’s a strong rider and might show for the sprint.

Stage 3

Up and down. The profile of the day doesn’t do the stage justice. The race heads through the rural and remote Limousin region. This area has its own short stage race, the Tour du Limousin. I know some of the Garmin riders recorded record power readings for this race last summer because every road twists and turns and goes up and down, riders are constantly re-accelerating and changing direction and so the energy consumption is huge. Similarly your blogger rode the amateur version of the regional tour, the Tour de Corrèze, several years ago and found his legs ached, a four hour race felt like six. So all in all this is a harder stage than some might expect and the final climbs should do some damage. Those hoping for honours on the GC will have to be alert.

Attentive TV viewers in France will know Aurillac because it’s often the coldest place on the weather bulletin. I’m no meteorologist but suspect the combination of its altitude and being inland explains the cold. Indeed the town looks set to live up to its reputation, the forecast looks horrendous with temperatures barely above freezing. Paris-Nice is romantically labelled the “race to the sun” but the riders will have to suffer before they feel the warmth.

That’s all for now, I’ll aim to post some more about the following stages later in the week so I can place them in the context of the race and mention the weather too.