Paris-Nice Stage 5 Preview

Sprint or breakaway? Today’s stage is a scenic ride and a gourmet’s delight with the finish in Rasteau, famous for its wines. The race has come alive with Michał Kwiatkowski leading Richie Porte by just one second. Today’s likely to see others in action before a nervous weekend spent sprinting for time bonuses and the Col d’Eze decider.

Even if you don’t care for the race, read on because there’s a short tribute to Paul de Vivie, the man who perfected and promoted the derailleur and issued the Seven Commandments for a Cyclist.

Stage 4 Wrap: the early break only had three riders although Thomas de Gendt does count for double such is his ability to power on for hours. It wasn’t enough to stay away and Ag2r upped the pace early, going full speed with 40km to go. A puncture at the same time saw Rafał Majka in trouble and later on he was dropped on the final climb. Andrew Talansky suffered the same fate.

Onto the main climb and Astana rode well as a team. Paolo Tiralongo was the first attacker while behind Team Sky set the pace, their traditional tactic although it wasn’t as selective as previous efforts and the lead group was still large. Just when it was Geraint Thomas’ turn to pull he took off in an attack and was followed by Jacob Fuglsang and Simon Špilak. Behind the moves were being covered by Richie Porte, he could draft anyone trying to get to the lead trio. As Michał Kwiatkowski led the chase Porte attacked and rode past the lead three, scooping up Thomas who was able to follow but no more. The 59kg Porte, 2kg lighter than 2013, kept the power going to the line to secure the time bonuses.

As predicted the fireworks didn’t start until late. The linear climb meant the likes of Kwiatkowski and Thomas were able be there in the finish, if this had been a steeper or more awkward climb things might be different. Note the ride by Tony Gallopin, seventh. He’s a hard rider to label, able to sprint fast but he can do the medium mountains very well. It sets up a close battle between Porte and Kwiatkowski where time bonuses come into play before the Col d’Eze.

The Course: 192km directly south. The opening climb isn’t hard by itself at 12km at 4.5% but it’s straight up from the start. Then it’s a gradual descent to the Rhone valley and a long flat ride south. The wind can blow here but the forecast’s calm. The penultimate climb of the Côte de l’Aleyrac is 6km at 4%, not enough to worry the sprinters.

The Finish: an uphill sprint, the gradient isn’t enough to disadvantage the sprinters, they must simply get the gear choice right. It’s a tricky finish on small roads past the vineyards. The road is narrow and it’s easy to get flicked into the vines. There’s a hairpin-like bend in the final kilometre but it’s wide before the 500m rise up to the line at 4-5%.

The Scenario: breakaway or sprint? With many riders now well down on GC there’s more room for some riders to go up the road and the early climb suits an escape. But a sprint finish is likely because many teams have to get something from this race. The likes of Cofidis and FDJ have been pushed aside in the sprints and this is the last chance to give it go; we might see them hedge their bets by sending a man in the day’s breakaway. More successful teams like Orica-Greenedge and Giant-Alpecin can back their sprinters today.

The Contenders: it’s a hard finish to call. It’s uphill all the way to the line and unlike Wednesday’s Stage 3 finish, it doesn’t flatten out requiring riders to kick. Instead it’s all about solid power to the line. So it’s less for Michael Matthews and more for John Degenkolb. However both types of rider will get their chance, the pure sprinters and the punchy finisseurs.

Alexander Kristoff will fancy this too, he can put out huge power and won’t have faded from yesterday’s stage. André Greipel gets on the list too, he’s in form. The French trio of Bryan Coquard, Nacer Bouhanni and Arnaud Démare all have a chance and the uphill slope should be enough to tempt Sam Dumoulin and Jonathan Hivert into the mix too but Coquard would be the best pick although he’s got a budget lead out train compared to others. There’s talk of a move to IAM Cycling because of his links to Jérôme Pineau – they joking call each other “father” and “son” – and it’s Pineau’s birthday so a gift could be in order.

John Degenkolb, Alexander Kristoff, Michael Matthews
André Greipel, Bryan Coquard
Bouhanni, Démare, Rojas, Cimolai, Dumoulin, Hivert

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

TV: live from 2.00pm Euro time with the finish expected for 3.55pm. Tune in early to see all the late climbs but it’s likely the fireworks are saved for the long climb.

That’s Paris-Nice: the stage starts in St Etienne which holds the record as the most visited town along the way. It’s a manufacturing city or rather it was. It’s still home to French brands like Zefal, Stronglight and TA. It’s not the birthplace of the derailleur but it is where it was refined, in large part thanks to a man called Paul de Vivie who often went by the nom de plume Vélocio during the start of the 20th century.

Velocio is credited with the invention of the derailleur but this a myth. Velocio experimented with a British example called The Whippet and spent time perfecting it. At the time this was a select technology that was reserved for pure enthusiasts rather than the wider public, like electronic shifting today. Velocio’s riding pal Joanny Panel took things a step further and produced a bike with derailleur called Le Chemineau (the vagabond) and arguably the first bike that allowed people to tame mountain roads. Perhaps the proximity to these hills and also the booming cycle industry in St Etienne and nearby Lyon meant the ideas took off.

He also wrote the seven commandments for cyclists. They might be 100 years old but hold firm:

  1. Stop rarely and briefly, so as not to lose your rhythm
  2. Eat little and often. Eat before you are hungry, drink before you’re thirsty
  3. Never push yourself into such fatigue that you lose appetite and cannot fall asleep
  4. Wrap up before you get cold, undo layers before you get hot and do not fear exposing the skin to the sun, air and water
  5. Avoid, at least when riding, wine, meat and tobacco in your diet
  6. Never force the pace, ride within your means, especially during the first few hours when you’re tempted to ride hard because you feel full of energy
  7. Never ride for show or vanity

There’s a memorial to him at the top of the Col de République today. As riders cross the pass and shift into the big ring with the push of a button they pay tribute to Paul de Vivie.

33 thoughts on “Paris-Nice Stage 5 Preview”

  1. Sky played well yesterday, but avoiding to get out of their safety zone. If Porte had accelerated before, he could have distanced Kwiatkowski seriously.

    • Possibly, but Porte looked pretty controlled, and given the beatdown he delivered on the Col d’Eze in 2013 and his current form, I’m sure he and Sky aren’t too bothered by having EQS defend a single second for the next couple of days.

      I suppose it’s too early in the season to comment on the form of Majka/Talansky/Aru who were all conspicuously out the back on this not particularly brutal climb?

      • I can’t see how Aru can be defined as “conspicuously out the back” when he came in at 24″ in the first chasing group, making the top ten (8th), especially when you list him along with the likes of Talansky (more than 3′ back) or Majka (more than 12′).
        What is more, Aru is competing for the first time this year, he hadn’t raced yet before Pa-Ni, whereas we can observe that all the riders who preceded him have completed at least one stage race this year, at least two in the case of the podium (three stage races for Thomas, and various one-day races besides their two respective stage races for Porte and Kwiatkowski).
        Aru went better than Bardet, Valls, Kelderman, Spilak (and LL Sanchez, Peraud), that is, riders who had been credited by inrng for a good performance today, and who’ve been racing way more than Aru.
        If I’m not wrong, he was the only rider with less than 800km raced (all here in Pa-Ni, obviously) in the top 25. I think that the second-best rider who’s been debuting here in Pa-Ni crossed the line more than one minute behind Aru, that is, Slagter in the 28th position.

        • Ah my bad, it was LL Sanchez from Astana losing time.

          I was also wondering what Lars Boom was saying to Majka, it seemed like an odd time for a chat….

          • Yeah, I guess LL Sanchez never was so much of a pure climber, being so heavy… Even when he won the GC of Pa-Ni, in the uphill finish he lost more than a minute from Contador.
            Neither yesterday’s climb was brutal, as you pointed out, but I think it came to sort of a more explosive effort, suited to some one-day racers (Rui Costa, Gallopin, Kwiatkowski himself), while LL Sanchez is sometimes more comfortable in hilly races, or even in the mountains, if a lot of stamina is involved (large solo breakaways, one-day races with multiple and or large climbs, and the likes).

            Anyway, now Astana as three potentially dangerous men with a difference around one minute or less in GC. I wonder if they’ll try something in the tricky hilly stage to Nice or if they’ll just stick to their training schedules and let Fuglsang get the points with his probable 5th spot final placement. There’s a good number of guys from other teams who would be keen to throw themselves in the mix, because they have a teammate relatively well placed in GC who can sit in the bunch, or even come in and help, like Bardet/Peraud, Rui Costa/Valls, maybe even Gallopin/Wellens…
            Let’s hope (for fun’s sake) it won’t be a “useless breakaway vs. Sky train” kind of thing.

      • This is Talaksy’s first ride of the season. He certainly underperformed in the time trial. He hasn’t seemed to regain his form since his crash in last years tour. I am not sure that yesterday is a comment on his overall form however. Talansky had a very inopportune puncture at the beginning of the last categorized climb. I am sure that the timing of his performance had a lot to do with yesterday’s performance.

        • Majka too had some kind of mechanical, I think. Sure they aren’t in top form (Ruben Fernandez, who fell, crossed the line a minute or so later than Porte), but I guess that when a bike trouble makes you find yourself distanced from the group on a climb where slipstream matters so much, you probably don’t even try.

    • Superb commandments indeed! My only (partial) objection is for rule 5: When riding long (more than 3 or 4 hours) at a slow pace, a little meat in your diet is beneficial. IMHO you need protein as well as carbs for fuel.

  2. Interesting re breakaways. Will any of Sky or EQS want to go for time bonuses on the intermediate sprints? Although I don’t see it happening it might be in their interests to bring the race back together before the final intermediate sprint to scoop up seconds. We may be able to see who’s nervous about the last time trial as their the riders who want to eke out seconds over the next few days.

    • Not sure Sky will as Kwiatkowski would easily beat Porte though I suppose Thomas could try to take the lead. Etixx have more interest but might want to save legs for tomorrow.

  3. Thanks for the writeup of yesterday and preview, incisive as usual.
    The endnote about Vivie is fascinating, I was struck by how similar “Chemineau” sounds to Shimano!
    Do M. Panel’s ancestors live in Japan?

  4. surprised not to see more on Thomas’ ride?

    seemed exceptional to be able to attack and follow Porte?

    understood that it may have been different with a steeper gradient but the ride definitely set the mind racing, along with is attack the day before, given I (maybe alone?) had slightly begun to give up hope on him being able to do a Wiggo and go for major stage races – as well as being unsure if he’ll get onto a consistent level to win a series of classics;

    Does anyone think he can beat Porte here? (Doubtful on Col D’Eze I guess)
    Is he racing more for himself than Porte, with Sky managing the ambitions carefully?
    Will his Climbing fitness/weight positively/negatively affect his Classics ambitions?
    Could he push Sky to lead at the Vuelta?
    Is his time trialling slightly weaker than previously?

    Thought Keonig, Porte, Froome would push Thomas too far down the pecking order for Stage race prospects, but maybe he’s now forcing the issue?

    Great if so, he’s a great rider, have just been nervous he doesn’t excel enough in any particular discipline to get the Palamares he maybe deserves.

    (Could he even go to Giro with dual leadership? Or is that madness)

    Any which way, Sky are so strong currently, how will Bernie Eisel get his space for the Tour? Seems impossible to fit him into;

    1Froome, 2Porte 3Thomas 4Nieve 5Kennaugh 6Roach 7Stannard 8Kiriyenka

    the 9th place??? Svitsov, Poels, Koenig, Zandio????

    Also, come on Pete Kennaugh! Push on!

    (finally – bizarre to see Wiggo out the back so early?)

    • Thomas is like Stijn Vandenbergh at EQS: on any other team they’d be a leader in big races, but find themselves down the pecking order. He should go to the Giro with Porte in the same role as Froome has Poels, Konig etc for the Tour, and it looks like Roche is going to be Sky’s man for the Vuelta.

      • Konig is heading to the Giro as back-up to Porte, according to Koenig himself.

        Thomas will be at the Tour – to understand Sky is to understand why (I didn’t mean that to rhyme). As will Roche and Poels (all form-dependent).

    • Kennaugh – he’s trying to push on – promising 2014 and good start to 2015 at Ruta del Sol – but he’s picked up a niggle of some sort which is why he’s currently at home instead of at Tirreno.

      As per my mail below, Konig is ear-marked for the Giro as back-up to Porte. Sky will want G fresh for the Tour come hell or high water – and you have to bear in mind that G will be riding in the Classics right up to P-R on 12 Apr. He’ll take a couple of weeks off as per usual after that, before starting the build up to the Tour. He wont be lining up for the Giro.

      I think Sky don’t have to make any calls between him and Porte – Col d’Eze will sort that out. G knows the Col d’Eze very well and probably does intervals on it 3 times a week – but so does Porte who I back to take it.

      Once P-N is done, I think G will aim to put on a couple of kilos over the next 3 weeks. I think he did similar last year.

      As for Wiggins, carrying an extra 6-7 kgs is telling. He’s been working for the team in the first 3 flat stages, but I’d never expect him to have been there for the finale yday. He got caught in the split yday early on – probably because he has a huge tendency to ride at the back of the peloton which is just asking to be caught by splits or held up by crashes – but there you go.

      • Is Wiggins road captain for P-N? I noticed a photo of him back at the team car. Perhaps that is the reason he was at the back.

    • I can’t see how Koenig won’t be in Sky’s team. He came 7th overall in the tour last year pretty much single handedly. And on that basis he’s not fighting for the final spot either.

  5. Looks like the new Sky tactics on mountain pass is to have no.2 danger man attack. Main opposition should tire themselves out whilst chasing the no.2, their no.1 would attack again once no.2 is caught.

    Good in theory, but what would happen if opposition refuse/not able to chase down their no.2? Porte looks like he’s chasing down Thomas whilst dragging Michał Kwiatkowski along at some point.

    Besides, they ‘d need to have a dangerous enough no.2 for that tactic to work. Would they be able to have that in the Tour? Moreover, what would trying have a very dangerous No.2 their cost them?

    Well, I suppose tactics is still secondary if you have the strongest legs on the day. It would hardly save your if you are lacking in that department.

    • This is why you pay DS’s good money and overlook suspicions. These are EQS-style classics tactics. Kiawiatkowski rightly or wrongly wasn’t seen as that much of a threat to the Nice overall. If it was Aru/TVG/Talansky getting dragged it might’ve been a different story. Still, Porte was really trying to drop the Pole. I’m pretty sure this wouldn’t work in the Tour for Sky as they lack the critical other star. Porte hasn’t really been at that level plus he’d be coming of the Giro, maybe Konig could work, but they would’ve had a far better chance of pulling something like that off if they had kept Uran. Also, it hasn’t really been their style at the GCs (see 2012 TdF). But it could work, Riis pulled it off beautifully with Sastre and Schleck in 2008.

  6. not sure if Porte could have gone with Thomas at the time – different riders hence the two card trick – maybe Porte could have put the hammer down and gained another second but at the end of the day we have Sky with two riders – team player – although go Porte – stay well!

  7. Rasteau is a “special” village in the Cotes du Rhone Villages appellation; it produces wine noticeably different from the area that surrounds it. It is in my top three wines to quaff, along with its neighbour, Visan and the total different Cabernet Franc produced in Chinon.

    In memory of David Duffield

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