Paris-Nice begins with a prologue, a chance for a time trial specialists to shine and for the GC contenders to gain time or limit their losses depending on their outlook and abilities. Don’t miss the early afternoon finish of this race.
The Course: a prologue course on the outskirts of Paris. If you think cycling and Paris, you probably get images of the Champs Elysées on a balmy summer’s evening. Today is far more ordinary and vibes surburbia for all the six kilometre course.
After a long two kilometre straight beside the Seine river the course turns left and storms up a sharp, narrow road, 7% for 100m and then resuming a flat route through suburbia, past pavilion houses and low rise apartment blocks, even passing under one before the 2km to go point. Here which the road drags up a touch as it runs alongside a railway line. Soon after the railway station the road dips and then passes under the line before climbing back up to the 1km to go point before a left turn and then a slight drag up to cross another railway line. Overall this is not as flat as the profile suggests and there are a couple of sections to storm up out of the saddle rather than stay in a low tuck.
Tom Dumoulin is in good form and this is his speciality. He’d design a longer, hillier course if he could but today’s route has some uphill sections to help him beat the heavier prologue specialists. Giant-Alpecin team mate Tobias Ludvigsson can make the top-10 too.
Geraint Thomas was third behind Fabian Cancellara and Tony Martin in the recent Tour of Algarve so add in the absence of Rohan Dennis and Thomas can get his race off to a fine start. Ian Stannard could be worth watching to see if his form is on track.
Wilco Kelderman and Jos Van Emden are Lotto-Jumbo’s two big hopes today. Van Emden is a prologue specialist, a ball of power who was second in the Qatar time trial stage and his team are playing the weather card by sending him off fourth. Kelderman is a classy all-rounder with the smooth pedalling style of Jacques Anquetil and good in time trials but like Dumoulin he’d surely prefer a longer, hillier effort. Victor Campenaerts is worth watching too, a former Belgian and European U23 TT champion.
Known for his hour record, IAM Cycling’s Matthias Brändle is really more of prologue and short time trial specialist but this would be his biggest win ever, a tall order. Team mate and surprise Worlds bronze medalist Jérôme Coppel is in great shape too.
Lars Boom has been good in the past at these kinds of efforts, perhaps he’d appreciate a course with more corners to power out out of. Astana team mate L-L Sanchez could place while Lieuwe Westra should do well.
Direct Energie’s Sylvain Chavanel is in great shape and maybe five years ago would have been a real pick but at 36 the high intensity needed must be harder to produce. Meanwhile Ag2r’s 22 year old Alexis Gougeard is making his name as a breakaway specialist but begun as a time trial specialist. He’s powerful but still young so a strong ride rather than a win seems likely.
Cannondale’s Dylan van Baarle would be a good outside pick normally but recent results aren’t so promising while New Zealand’s time trial champion Paddy Bevin is one to watch but untested at this level. Andrew Talansky is good in time trials but has yet to show top form.
Finally a few more names. Ion Izaguirre of Movistar will want to get his race off to a good start and if a win seems improbable, a top-10 is achievable, the same for Alberto Contador who has done well in Paris-Nice prologues but seems less able in TTs these days.Katusha’s Ilnur Zakarin beat Tony Martin in the Romandie time trial last year but this was on a hillier course after a week’s racing so his stork-like legs probably lack the explosive power. By contrast Niki Terpstra is handy in a short time trial but a win? Michael Matthews did make the top-10 a year ago and will want a fast time in order to get close to the yellow jersey. Similarly it’ll be interesting to see what Marcel Kittel does, he was a time trial specialist before turning pro and discovering he could sprint with the best.
|Tom Dumoulin, Geraint Thomas, Wilco Kelderman
|Mathias Brändle, Van Emden, Jérôme Coppel, Ion Izaguirre, L-L Sanchez
|Chavanel, Boom, Talansky, Ludvigsson, van Baarle, Bevin, Stannard
Weather: cold with a NW wind to sap the riders on much of the course, especially as it could blow to 30km/h meaning even the buildings and railway lines can’t shelter the riders. The chance of rain showers rises for the later starters.
Prologue? the prologue was invented by Jean Leulliot, the long time promoter of the Paris-Nice as a way to parade the riders and get someone in the leader’s jersey right from the start. Today it has a formal status and definition: it must be less than 8km long. A rider doesn’t have to finish it, if they have an accident they can start Stage 1 and will be given the same time as the last rider to complete the course.
Local rider: Nicolas Roche was born in Conflans in 1984. The son of a famous Irish cyclist and a French mother, Roche junior grew up in France and turned pro with Cofidis and enjoyed dual Irish-French nationality for some time but has now dropped this saying he’s always felt Irish. Coincidentally French citizens cannot reside tax-free in Monaco.
TV: the first rider is off at 11.45am Euro time and coverage starts at 1.30pm. The last rider will finish at 2.45pm local time.