Paris-Nice Prologue Preview

A 6.7km prologue that’s not for prologue specialists. It’ll establish an early pecking order and prise apart the riders in a race that’s expected to be close all week

The Course: not as flat as profile suggests, it dips down gradually before a long drag starting after the 3km point that averages 4% for over a kilometre. Once the road has risen up it levels out before the finish on the appropriately named Boulevard Miserey. There are four corners in total, it’s all about the long straights, consequently it’s not for prologue specialists who dive in corners and power out in a series of big sprints like a crit rider, this route has long sections where the time trial specialists can cruise at high speed. To borrow from another sport, this course suits a beefy MotoGP bike rather than a race-tuned agile Moto3 250cc bike.

The Weather: stable conditions are forecast with sunshine, 13°C and a very light 5-10km breeze which will turn in the afternoon from a westerly to a northerly, a slight help for early starters but only just.

The long term forecasts says glorious spring weather all week with sunshine every day.

The Contenders: Tony Martin won in the Algarve the other day and this course is even better for him, it’s fast for the opening 3km where his unique aero position with those narrow shoulders counts for plenty before he can churn, Panzer-style, a big gear up the hill to the finish. Team mate Michał Kwiatkowski is another fine pick, the Pole has great top-end speed.

Team Sky come with three solid chances. Geraint Thomas ran Tony Martin close in the Algarve and this is his chance to establish his bid for the yellow jersey ahead of Richie Porte who is in good form. It’s a rare chance to see Bradley Wiggins in his TT rainbow jersey. A win is a big ask but the course suits him, the only question is how much his focus on prepping for 250km classics has blunted his power for an 7-8 minute effort. Wiggins will be followed by a special car and if you think it looks nice, wait until you hear it.

Wilco Kelderman is a good pick. He was second in the Vuelta a Andalucia’s short TT stage.

Astana have several options. Lars Boom could be tired from yesterday’s Strade Bianche race but normally has the power for short course efforts like this. Rein Taaramäe is the enigma while Luis-Leon Sanchez could crack the top-10.

BMC Racing have Tejay van Garderen for the GC and he needs a good time here. It might be too short for him to win so a top-5 position would be ideal. What can Rohan Dennis do? We’ll know more about his form and a good performance here augurs well for the rest of the week because he’s the complete package and a future stage race winner. Classics specialist Silvan Dillier starts his second year as a pro but has a big engine and was part of BMC’s winning TTT squad in Spain.

Trek Factory Racing’s best bet is Bob Jungels is in good form and can express his pure power here, the TT course in Andalucia probably cramped his style with the frequent corners. Kristof Vanderwalle is a good TT specialist but there’s no sign of form.

What can Michael Matthews do? We’ll see because a good performance here ahead of other sprinters could set him up for the yellow jersey in the coming days. Matthews is more than a sprinter so this’ll be a nice test of form. Rui Costa can do a good time trial but he’ll surely prefer the Col d’Eze, a top-10 today would be great.

Cannondale-Garmin are still hunting for their first win of 2015 and Andrew Talansky has done some excellent prologues in the past. Since he hasn’t raced we can only go on reputation alone. Dylan Van Baarle is a good rider to watch too.

IAM Cycling’s Sylvain Chavanel is in great shape and has been working a lot on his sprint. He might want to set himself up for the yellow jersey later in the week although for sprint finishes, presumably it’s for the hilly Stage 6 rather than tackling André Greipel, Nacer Bouhanni et al?

Finally Tom Dumoulin would be a great pick but he’s been ill so doesn’t come in top shape. If he’s recovered then he can salvage a result.

Tony Martin
Michał Kwiatkowski, Geraint Thomas, Wilco Kelderman, Andrew Talansky
van Garderen, Wiggins, Porte, Jungels

TV: the first rider is off at 1.35pm Euro time and the last rider will finish at 4.23pm. TV coverage starts from 2.00pm onwards but remember the better riders are all likely to be seeded last.

53 thoughts on “Paris-Nice Prologue Preview”

  1. Nothing about strade bianche ? Such great race, in general, and today didn’t disappoint. Paris nice should also of course be fabulous, especially with some nice weather.

  2. Strade Bianche was certainly a very selective race. Unfortunately the climax was somewhat spoilt by the presence of one unrepentant doper and one currently under suspicion being in the three rider break. Face was hopefully saved by Styber winning,

    As an aside. How is it that BMC, its owner and team manager have escaped the scrutiny and criticism that has recently been directed at some other teams ? Allowing one of their riders, not for the first time one might add, who is under a cloud to take the start of a major race reduces the credibility of the sport at a time when it is desperately trying to turn a corner. This is not a question of legality, but one of simply ‘doing the right thing’. Something those who run BMC simply don’t appear to want to understand.

    • BC, I beg your pardon for what I’m going to say, but you look quite obsessed. Maybe fans should just enjoy races and tackle doping problems when and if they surface as such, according to the rules.
      Hypothesis about the morality of a rider or suspicions about doping practices find themselves better placed, for example, in a forum, or in a pub, as generic small talk.
      I myself enjoy spreading malicious and ironic opinions about that team or those riders when privately chatting with my friends (or in a little forum, possibly with a proper “doping” section), but… if we end up always doing that, even commenting a post about something else, or commenting a comment about something else, I don’t feel that trying to find miscellaneous doping connections at any cost is really appropriate nor healthy for the sport.
      Note that I completely share your opinion about BMC and maybe even about Movistar, as I expressed in this same blog in the past (when the subject discussed was teams and doping). We could even start talking about cyclocross and Quickstep to cast shadows on Stybar. But I just think it doesn’t make any sense.
      We saw a very interesting race, eventually decided by strategical and technical elements much more than by doping, I’d add (whatever doping should any rider have been using on this occasion).
      Valverde, Stybar and GVA (as Vanmarcke or Cancellara or Sagan…) are riders of undoubtable technical value, doping or not, and they showed it today.
      Doping questions are really blinding us as spectators if that’s the most relevant thing we find to say about a splendid race like today’s. And that’s our responsibility, not riders’.
      I apologise again, and sincerely, for the moralising tone of my post, nor I want to single you out. I guess that I myself very often happen to do the same thing. What is more, anyone can post whatever he or she wants, given that the owner of this space allows her or him to do so. Nevertheless, the stark contrast between the variety of interesting themes offered by Strade Bianche and the monochrome vision you suggested, prompted me to underline what I consider to be a general problem in some fans’ attitude.
      Neither I am speaking of the race in this comment, I admit it, but at least I’m suggesting we should do that 😉

      • No offence taken Gabriele. Everyone is entitled to their views – I just happen to think that the logic of your argument is fundamentally flawed by your youthful passion. It would indeed be wonderful if we could have full confidence in what they are seeing, but that confidence is going to be extremely hard to earn after all that has gone before. I don’t consider myself obsessional, moralistic or even monochrome, for me it is simply a shame that a great event had the shadow of the recent past and current problems so prominently and openly displayed. I fail to see how this reality can be ignored nor be seen to improve the image of the sport. That regrettably is simply fact.

        The thrust of your post is that history and current situations should be ignored until guilt is proven, in order to enjoy the sporting attributes of all competitors. To do so would very quickly return us to the past attitudes of the omarta and everything that entails. Remember that many characters from the recent past are still very active, at all levels within the sport. If you are happy to ignore the facts in order to enjoy the sport, fine, but you must allow those of us with genuine concerns and observations to openly express them. Valverde is a proven doper, who has never shown remorse, GVA and his team are displaying by their current attitude a certain contempt for investigative proceeding’s – GVA wants to finish his preparation for the classics before he considers attending a hearing, whilst BMC is once again ‘considering’ the riders position ! When the system is treated with this sort of contempt, we have reason to be concerned. The sport must show by its actions that it has indeed moved on. That some teams are struggling to see the importance of this, even after the damage of the recent past, is to be much regretted.

        To give these characters an easy ride, would in my view be a grave error of judgment.

        • The huge problem cycling has had with doping for the last 20 years has much more to do with the system and its institutions than with single riders or even teams. From any possible angle, the ugliest things which happened, weren’t “doping” (that’s quite ugly, indeed).
          So, it’s not very easy to gain back all the trust just because a Russian oligarch kicked out one President and supported another.

          I’m not very worried by specific cases (of which, feel assured, I keep trace to form my personal valuation of any given rider) because I feel that the problems cycling has with doping depend on more general social structures, attitude, power distributions and so on. Recent and less recent history of cycling is quite eloquent (by the way, scientific essays were published on that matter, and quoted here).
          Maybe times they are a’ changin’ – maybe not. We’ll see.
          Compared with that, die Verwirrungen des Young Valverde could be interesting for a novel, but don’t say anything about his present level of doping, let alone cycling in general.

          In the meantime, I consider totally appropriate to discuss doping subjects like Astana’s situation, UCI reaction and so on, but if we start to see as “shady” what happened in the Strade Bianche, well, shadows like that are everywhere and always be.

          More than everything, maybe we shouldn’t hold very much self-assurance about our perception of those same shadows.
          So much is relative.
          For so many years “Armstrong never tested positive”, whereas, say, Mayo was a bad cheater: later we discovered Lance was asking the UCI to hunt his rival down, hence the ill fame of the basque, fostered by a false testosterone positive and a very-very-very controversial EPO positive (maybe he was even forced to dope less than others, having to bear such scrutiny? 😉 ). Note that honorary UCI president Verbrugge was defending Armstrong “never doped” as late as 2011 and that “there was nothing to cover up” as late as October 2012.

          Sincerely, I’m way more concerned with the system than with the remorse of riders. I’m ready to change my mind as UCI partly changed, but as you said: “it would indeed be wonderful if we could have full confidence in what they are seeing, but that confidence is going to be extremely hard to earn after all that has gone before”. I just apply that to the system before than riders.
          Thus, I suggest extreme caution when throwing the burden on riders who are presented by media campaigns as “the old/new evil” (I’m ready to be much more severe if we speak of teams).

          Anyway, I’m not saying we shouldn’t ever ever talk about doping if we don’t have anything certain. See Astana “audit”, very interesting subject.
          My suggestion is just to give the doping factor the importance it deserves in any given context.
          If you always put that on top, it will just blind you, possibly preventing you from using the most powerful tool to detect *hard* dopers, i. e. technical judgement.
          If you agree, now I’ll just drop the subject (that means, trying not to write anything more about that, even if I’ll read eventual replies), to avoid the paradox of writing a lot of paragraphs insisting we shouldn’t write so much about doping 😛

          • Gabriele. My last comment. The break of three in Strada had TWO riders out of three with past or current doping issues. You can’t simply ignore that observation, and pretend that all is well within the sport. That there have been enormous advances under the current UCI leadership is without doubt true. But don’t be fooled into thinking that without continuous and rigorous scrutiny, the past will remain the past. I am afraid there are going to be several more years of disappointment, before the sport can finally move on.

        • I’ll just interject here BC to note that the people who are most agitated about cheats are the ones who enjoy the racing less. If you want to chase shadows then you will always be able to do it. There will never be a 100% clean peloton because people will always be able to cheat. Sports have rules and disciplinary systems and you just have to let them run their course. Its the only sane way. So I had no problem watching GVA or Valverde yesterday. If and when they are guilty that may change. If and when they are once more free to race under the rules then that may change again. I am not a one man judge and jury and, in my view, no one else should be either. How could you ever enjoy a bike race again if you thought you were? And BC, it clearly does affect your enjoyment.

          PS My enjoyment of cycling doesn’t depend on if I think riders have been sufficiently apologetic either. Let’s just make sure we have the best rules we can and be happy with that.

          • I am not sure I like being analysed by people who know nothing about my background, experience or whom I have never met. I could say my little finger knows more about the bike game (Robert it’s NOT selective suspicion or assumption, they are the facts. Andrew I am not in the lest agitated, you might however refrain from telling me what I do and don’t enjoy) than most of those extrapolating beyond my words. That might just be a little strong and uncalled for, but I will leave it in ! The best physicians normally see the patient first, and even then on occasion get the wrong answer. What did I say to produce such misplaced and misunderstood comments ?

            I said that it was a shame that two of the three man break in yesterdays SB had either a past record for doping, the individual in question having shown not the slightest remorse, and yes rejection of wrongdoing does have implications – most Judicial systems recognize this. The second has a doping investigation pending. That is not suspicion or accusation it is simply fact. I also said it was unfortunate that this situation was bound to reflect badly on the sport. The third rider in the break has a clean record. Maybe if I had said that Peter Sagan appeared to be carrying the equivalent of two bags of Euro sugar around his mid rift the objectors would be happy – except one suspects Mr Tinkoff, who’s Euros are funding this excess.

            None of the above are misplaced observations – they are simply facts, which are being misunderstood or misinterpreted by some here. I came to this blog in the first instance for the wonderful INRNG blog and some truly informed comment. We now have a somewhat different demographic, who’s knowledge base appears to have somewhat shifted from the earlier days.

            I have seen the effects of doping first hand, I have lived with dopers and observed their life destroying or ruining aftermath in several cases. As one would expect, I have strong views on the subject because of these experiences. The greatest danger as we try to leave the past behind is drop our vigilance. The idea that we should simply believe in what we are seeing until there is some regulatory intervention, is simply naïve at best, and shows how quickly the recent past has been forgotten.

    • …so you’re assuming that Stybar is the “clean” one, then? You’re aware of the reputation of elite cyclocross and what those guys are (supposedly) doing, right? And you’re also aware that Stybar is able to go into that world and beat those guys, right?

      Not to say that I think any of the final three are doping, as who knows?, but to single out two and ignore the other based on selective suspicion is not right.

  3. BC,

    I have always wondered how a certain BMC exec and formerly close associate of our sport’s most notorious doper seems to have largely escaped undue attention.

    Curious to read your take, Inner Ring, on the CIRC report when publicly released. You may already be digesting it privately.

    Back to the P-N subject: thanks for the reviews. When is that photo of Tony the Cop from? He looks to be grand-tour gaunt. No beer and grammy’s cakes for him, huh?

    Looking forward to the racing, between P-N and T-A.

      • They were both police officers, it’s part of a system for elite athletes in Germany where they can compete and train near-full time but have a job too. France has a similar thing, Pauline Ferrand-Prévot “works” for the defence ministry and is salaried for this but really rides her bike etc.

  4. Thoughts from Strade Bianche:

    Does not having radios make races more interesting?
    More often that not, I’d say no.
    Example: today’s Strade Bianche – Sagan is no longer in lead group, so his team could be making a charge from the peloton. They don’t because they don’t know.
    And that’s the thing with no radios, a lot of teams end up doing nothing, because they have to ride conservatively and assume that their guy is still doing well.
    The idea that no radios leads to more exciting racing is – at best – completely unproven; as is often not the case.
    Also, you end up with ludicrous situations like the first Roma Maxima, where a guy is up front (Kadri) and no-one chases because they don’t know he’s there. So, the race is turned into a lottery.

    Sagan’s distinct dip in form last year and this. This is cycling and one has to be cynical about a rider who was seemingly unstoppable and over so many different parcours, and is suddenly stopped.

    Stybar could possibly win cobbled and Ardennes classics, but he’d get those opportunities much more in another team.

    BMC should run Gilbert and Van Avaermat in cobbles and Ardennes.

    • Sorry, mate, but yesterday’s race proves exactly the contrary, that is, the value of not having race radios, WITHOUT DISCUSSION. And sorry for the capitals, but a race where the peloton and teammates are left behind with no possible interfering with leaders’ attacks and counter-attacks, is EXACTLY what we are looking for. Like last year, Het Volk and Strade Bianche have given us 40-50km of real action, tension, and multiple chasing, probably the two best one-day races in the year. L-B-L, G-W and Sanremo are being much worse.
      This said, I’m sorry for Sagan’s form, because he started the mess, like I’m sorry for Valverde, who exposed himself too much, too naively. I agree with Stybar having to go somewhere else, where he can be leader everywhere, and where they let him do CX. Maybe it’s Lefevere that Bakala should get rid of.

      • I see your points, but yesterday’s race might have been made even more interesting had Tinkoff-Saxo been making a concerted chase in the peloton.

  5. So who do we want to win a race? A retard with a dongle in his ear and a DS yelling his -80’s cycling wisdom through it, or a guy with a pair of bright eyes and a good dollop of common racing sense. I know my answer to the question.

      • Very well said, and know what? Why don’t we just come to terms with the idea of having both types of races? What began as a compromise, could finally be a good solution. Having tasted both the polished strategies that a good DS-team coordination can sometimes put in place, and the adventurous feel of a race where it can prove useful to cause stir in first person 50 kms away from the finish line… now I’d struggle with deciding which we should opt out of 🙂

        • No. The most classic races, including stage ones, deserve the chance to shine again, and to be set free from their straitjacket.

          • Part of the straitjacket comes from having all of the top teams in one place. Yesterday we saw a lot of smaller teams in the race which makes the race harder to control and more open to risk-taking. It’s a nuanced argument.

            Make the Strade Bianche World Tour and it’d get more boring.

          • Neither is it so sure that lack of radios in a big race would lead to more open racing. When much more is at stake, DS may just decide they don’t want to take risks of any kind and just keep it tight, thus reducing the margin for unpredictable actions (what we often saw without radios is getting any attacker back in, well before it was really necessary… and many more factors who affect the race in a way that’s not so intuitive).

          • Well, I just saw the research inrng posted below. Interesting, and open to even deeper debate (breakaway gets more margin when it’s clear you want catch them, but what about the effect on the previous work to select the “good” breakaway, to keep it close – or not – and so on).
            Also note that when discussing this subject we often take for granted that “the peloton” is a homogenous monster, some kind of giant shark, but a good deal of negotiation and bluffing is implied in most decision that finally determine what “the peloton” will do (teams who decide not to work to force rivals to do that, so that supposedly stronger teams get tired before the finish line and so on). Much information leaves room for more mind games in the peloton, and for a more prolonged, hazardous arm wrestling between rival teams to share – or not – the necessary work to reel the breakaway in.

          • Yesterday’s stage in P-N was, I suppose, another great contribution of race radios to the greatness of cycling. An attack by Tony Martin created momentary chaos, riders were left to decide if to join the attack or reel it back, it all looked fantastic… until everyone got their instructions and the stage returned to the foreseen scenario.

      • Do the DSes in the car have access to the TV or other live feed? (I’m hoping not a TV up front, but maybe in the back seat with a mechanic?)

  6. A single race frequency broadcasting race status (and safety issues) might perhaps address the concerns of both @Evans and @Mats?

    • Good point – it would take out the Kadri-effect (see above), but wouldn’t deal with the Sagan situation, above.
      I’m not sure if races would be more interesting with or without, but if you take away the ‘lottery’ possibility – as your idea does – that’d be good enough for me.

    • If the information is the same as the tv graphics yesterday, it would lead to even more confusion. Btw, that was the same info a DS would have used had they had radios. 10 secs when it was a minute. 40 secs when it was 10. Nibali when it was Rosa, etc etc.

      You only need to look at rider quotes after races to see that race radios aren’t perfect. “My radio wasn’t working”. “My radio was working but I couldn’t hear it properly”. “My radio was working properly and I could hear it but I couldn’t understand what he meant”. etc etc.

  7. The only really sad thing here is, that if INRNG would have posted an empty space instead of the preview,the comments still would have been the same

  8. Lot of comments about this race already – on the other article about this race. No article on today’s race, hence people want to discuss it somewhere. Is that ‘really sad’?

  9. An excellent P-N preview Inrng. Thank you, much appreciated.

    Maybe a white road classic grabs the attention just a little more than a short 6.7 km prologue time trial.

  10. Is it normal for someone to ride a classic on one day and start a week long stage race the next? Boom doing the Strade Bianche and then Paris-Nice seems a bit overkill, no?

    • A few riders do things like this each year, it’s as much a logistical challenge as anything else. Several riders finish Milan-Sanremo and then fly or drive to start the Tour of Catalonia the next day each year too.

      • Spare a thought for the women (not many) doing Strade on Saturday and Omloop het Hageland on Sunday…

        Thomas was good in the algarve TT, be interesting to see how he gets on today. I’m hoping for a good week for him.

      • “A few riders do things like this each year, it’s as much a logistical challenge as anything else. Several riders finish Milan-Sanremo and then fly or drive to start the Tour of Catalonia the next day each year too.”

        When faced with this knowledge, one can’t help but think of the poor footballers who complain about cramp after flying…

  11. Thanks Inrng for your tireless work.

    Now that we have got the early season PED thing out of the way with BC’s rant, and Gab’s retort. Can
    we just all just agree to get along and keep to the topic of the heading of that Inrng has provided us.
    It’s the least we can do to show are manners to the host! He/she provides us plenty of opportunity to curse and talk nasty about PED’s past and present in the peloton we don’t need to do it everyday.

    We are heading into the guts of the season lets talk racing.

  12. When I think about it I find this prologue as hard to call as the race itself. Maybe Kelderman could win this (going on his Ruta del Sol performance) or Jungels?

    I have Porte as the man to beat overall. Don’t let me down again Richie. Its been too many times!

  13. I think Wigins might pull something surprisingly good out of the bag, yes he’s been training for 250+km classics, but a 7-8 minute effort is not totally dissimilar to riding hard or attacking on a cobbled sector?

  14. How is the start order decided for the prologue. Are the teams allocated start times and they decide in which order the team will start? If so I’m surprised to see Thomas starting later than Porte.

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