Paris-Nice Stage 3 Preview

André Greipel

Another sprint stage but with a tricky finish to contend with, a sharp climb just 500m from the line will upset the heavier sprinters. This widens the list of potential winners and offers a more lively finish even if the best is again saved for last.

Arnaud Gerard

Stage 2 Wrap: Flat and boring stages aren’t new. Decades ago Antoine Blondin said a boring stage of the Tour de France resembled Charlemagne’s sword: “long, flat and mortal”. Certainly the extended broadcast hours for Paris-Nice won’t be paying dividends yet with hours of nothing happening. Even the post-stage communiqué showed nothing happened, not an injury to treat, nor a single Franc fined.

Yesterday’s action was saved for the final 15km although even then the pickings were slim, a mechanical for Bryan Coquard and his chase back was notable as was a move by Tony Martin with Geraint Thomas in pursuit. Cannondale-Garmin tried to rip things up, alas there was no crosswind but it gave us a chance to see their jersey.

As promised there was a bunch sprint and this time Lotto-Soudal got it just right with Marcel Sieberg pacing under the 1km sign before a big lead out by Greg Henderson delivered André Greipel right into place. Arnaud Démare was close but try as he might he couldn’t pass “The Gorilla”. A solid win and a team effort.

The Route: 179km with some relief, in every sense of the word. A hillier route with a spike in the finish, more of which below. The first mountain pass appears too. The race reaches the wine-growing town of Saint-Pourçain-sur-Sioule to cross the finish line with an intermediate sprint before a 20km loop in the countryside. Again narrow roads feature, a badly-placed rider will use precious energy to move up.

The Finish: the profile’s wrong. The road does rise but then it flattens out to the line. That rise matters, it’s 350m at 7% and it’ll sting before a 300 metre flat run to the line. Here’s Google Streetview of the climb:

The Scenario: there’s more chance of a breakaway going because there are three marked climbs along the way. Win these and you get the mountains jersey, expect current jersey holder Jonathan Hivert to try to get in the move.

Otherwise it’s the last chance for the sprinters. Stage 6 into Nice might let one or two fast-finishers compete but for the flatland gallopers this is the last day to get a stage win so expect many teams to take up the charge. But can their sprinters cope with the climb? Yes is the answer but it’ll upset the trains and tilts the balance more towards more versatile riders.

The Contenders: the late climb in the final kilometre changes the pecking order. It’s no mountain pass, it’s not even a wall but it will harm the heavier riders, especially as they have to get up to speed again.

Bryan Coquard is the prime pick, he’s come close this week and yesterday his chances were ruined by a mechanical in the race. Don’t bet on it though, the pick is deduced by his strong sprint on Stage 1 and the late hill which suits his 58kg build but he’s yet to win a World Tour race so on past results alone it’s beyond him.

Michael Matthews is another pick, he needs the climb to be longer perhaps but we should see “Bling” shining and unlike Coquard, he has won at the highest level. John Degenkolb might be the more inevitable choice, he’s good on the punchy climbs and has been sprinting well and his team gives him an extra advantage.

Among the other “fast uphill” riders there’s Astana’s Borut Božič, Sky’s Ben Swift and Movistar’s J-J Rojas plus Lampre-Merida’s Niccolo Bonifazio.

As for the pure sprinters, it’s all relative as this is an endurance sport rather than a track contest. Only a few riders, like Yauhueni Hutarovich, are allergic to altitude. André Greipel is handy uphill, if his team can keep the pace high on the climb then he can take over to the line. The same for Nacer Bouhanni, the boxer does have a punchy finish. Arnaud Démare will rue yesterday’s missed opportunity but if he couldn’t surpass Greipel then today’s finish will be harder still.

Alexander Kristoff can still strike, he was left dangling in the wind for too long on the finishing straight yesterday but this finish is a good test of force before Milan-Sanremo.

Not that a sprint finish is certain… a well-timed move by lactate king Philippe Gilbert could see him strike.

Bryan Coquard, John Degenkolb
Michael Matthews, André Greipel, Nacer Bouhanni
Kristoff, Gilbert, Bonifazio, Swift

Weather: sunshine and clouds, 15°C and almost no wind to speak of.

TV: live from 2.00pm Euro time with the finish expected for 3.45pm. Tune in around 3.00pm but check if the race is slow again as you risk watching another procession.

That’s Paris-Nice: some pieces on here get read and forgotten, normal since they relate to contemporary issues. But there are pieces that get read again and again. And again. One is the “The story of the Hinault photo” which explains the circumstances behind the famous image above.

25 thoughts on “Paris-Nice Stage 3 Preview”

  1. 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.

  2. One of the things I simply love about cycling is to see the joy of the riders who haven’t won in person, but have contributed with their hard work. Nothing better than to see the winner raise his arms up and behind that you see his team-mates do the same.

  3. Thanks as ever for these excellent previews inrng.

    Tiny point, I would assume that Charlemagne’s sword was ‘mortel’ – deadly, lethal – rather than mortal.

      • I probably wasn’t clear – I’m suggesting that ‘mortel’ is the French word originally used by Blondin. But although ‘mortel’ in French can translate to ‘mortal’ in English (in the sense of ‘is alive, will die at some point’), a more accurate rendition of the quote would probably be ‘long, flat and deadly’.

        As with many words used colloquially, the meaning of ‘mortel’ in French has shifted over the years and is sometimes used to mean ‘awesome’ (i.e. good) and ‘deadly boring’. Tricky to say which use Blondin intended but I’d go with the latter.

        Here ends the linguistic pedantry 🙂

  4. Thanks to Ben for clarification of the word etymology.
    I find language to be extremely fascinating , especially
    when it involves sport, and different cultures.
    This blog site is one of the only where you can find this kind of give and take.

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