Paris-Nice Stage 4 Preview

A sprint stage? Maybe the final sprint stage of the race. Warmer weather will greet the riders and a series of small climbs makes this a draining day.

Paris Nice Beaujolais

Stage 3 Wrap-Up: the stage was cancelled because of snow on the road. The pictures say plenty and it was unlucky as the finale had some great roads to showcase to the world. Ideally the Dauphiné or Tour de France returns as they’d look even better on a summer’s day. Until then they’ll be a closer look on this site at the new Extreme Weather Protocol later today.

Paris Nice snow

The Route: 195km due south. After a start that reads like a wine menu the race starts climbing. The race could have taken the more gentle Rhone valley route but instead sticks inland with some hillier roads. Nothing much but it all adds up to make the promised sprint just that bit harder. The early Col de Brouilly is easy and not to be confused with yesterday’s Mont Brouilly. Later on the Côte de Givors is placed halfway up the much longer climb of the Col du Croix Regis (10km at 3%), perhaps to encourage the bunch to speed away from Givors, a sad looking place full of abandoned factories.

The race drops off the Mont Pilat mountain for a straightforward intermediate sprint in the Rhone valley before the climb near St Uze. It’s a sharp ascent with 3km at 7%, enough to shake-out a sprinter or two. They’ll have time to get back on but it adds to the fatigue for the sprinter and team mates tasked with towing them back.

The Finish: a flat sprint through town on large roads as they pass through Romans-sur-Isère but with 450m to go there’s a difficult roundabout surrounded by a polynesia of traffic islands and then it’s back to a flat wide road for the sprint.

The Contenders: some riders may fancy their chance in a breakaway. Tomorrow’s stage can suit the sprinters but there’s the small matter of Mont Ventoux before and some more hills along the way. More importantly several teams have fluffed their chances so far. The longer the race goes on the more the chances of a breakaway rise and so far several teams, notably Etixx-Quickstep, Katusha and Cofidis so they’ll try to contain any moves.

Can we blame the cold for Alexander Kristoff and Marcel Kittel‘s lack of results so far? Both are pedigree sprinters but have floundered uncharacteristically this week. Take Tuesday’s finish in Commentry, Kittel was 65th and if Kristoff contested the sprint he was fourth and in a whole second back. Today will provide the answers if it’s been the cold or something more fundamental. Between the two Kristoff seems the safer pick given his better results.

Nacer Bouhanni has a track record of winning when his back is up against the wall. Beaten by Démare on Monday then by Matthews and the commissaires on Tuesday we can imagine both he and his team are bubbling with rage. Of course anger isn’t enough to make the pedals go round but he has been present in the sprints when Kristoff and Kittel have not and today’s stage might have more clement weather but it’s got some climbing too and if Cofidis stick a rider or two on the front on the climbs they can further tilt things to their advantage given Bouhanni has often won sprints on hillier days, see his stage in the Dauphiné last summer for example.

Offence is the best form of defence and Michael Matthews can extend his lead in the yellow jersey with a good sprint. He was faster than Bouhanni the other day and can and should place today.

Niccolò Bonifazio was just behind Bouhanni and Matthews. The Italian is a good sprinter but better suited to uphill finishes (and a long range pick for Sanremo). In a flat sprint Arnaud Démare is faster.

André Greipel is still on the mend and so a less obvious pick. By now there’s a long tail of names like Ben Swift, Wouter Wippert and Jonas Van Genechten who could emerge from the Brownian motion of a bunch sprint.

Alexander Kristoff, Nacer Bouhanni
Arnaud Démare, Michael Matthews, Marcel Kittel
Bonifazio, Greipel, Wippert, Swift, Van Genechten, Petit

Weather: dry. Sunshine and clouds, a top temperature of 12°C and a 20km/h tailwind for much of the day.

Pierre Latour

Local rider: Pierre Latour lives very near today’s finish. The Ag2r La Mondiale rider is a 22 year old second year pro. He is listed all over the place as “Pierre-Roger” Latour but the double first name is wrong, he’s Pierre, just Pierre. It stems from a mix-up long ago on a results sheet from which his name was copied into the UCI database. Even his team perpetuates the mistake when friends and family don’t.

Latour made a name for himself last year when he matched Alberto Contador and Nairo Quintana up the Port de Balès in the Route du Sud, the Pyrenean stage race just before the Tour de France. He jumped ahead on the climb in order to tackle the pass at his own pace which moderates the ride in some ways, yet augments it too as the idea of just riding away up a giant mountain pass in order to pace yourself better than Nairo Quintana is a sound theoretical idea but not easy to put into practice. To prove it was no fluke he had a solid summer with seventh overall in the Tour of Austria, fifth in the Vuelta a Burgos and third in the Tour de l’Ain plus a stage win there, impressive for a 21 year old first year pro. Ag2r La Mondiale knew he was good and signed him on a three year deal when almost all neo-pros a get standard two year contract. Last summer they extended, and presumably revalued, this contract to keep him with the team until 2018. By which time they’ll call him Pierre.

TV: coverage starts at 3.00pm Euro time and the finish is forecast for 4.40pm. If you can tune in to Tirreno-Adriatico’s finish forecast for 4.10pm before to double-up on the action then channel hop to Paris-Nice.

Paris-Nice should be on the same channel you watch the Tour de France and/or Eurosport. If not then, and all offer alternative feeds.

22 thoughts on “Paris-Nice Stage 4 Preview”

  1. “Pierre Latour lives very near today’s finish. The Ag2r La Mondiale rider is a 22 year old second year pro. He is listed all over the place as “Pierre-Roger” Latour but the double first name is wrong, he’s Pierre, just Pierre. It stems from a mix-up long ago on a results sheet from which his name was copied into the UCI database.”

    how do you even know this stuff, it amazes me. But i digress. Was wondering whether you think that yesterday’s cancellation changes the favorites for overall. Thursday’s climb is pretty far out from the finish and Friday’s isnt steep (or so it appear from the 5.4% average gradient). In my mind this is a plus for G.

    • Thursday stage could still be for the sprinters, especially as the forecast looks moderate. For the GC, it’s hard to say but it meant one less chance for someone like Alberto Contador to take back time with the time bonuses.

    • Could it change things in favour of Matthews? If he wins today he’ll have a 24 second lead I suspect (and more over other GC riders). However this shouldn’t be enough of a lead, but he should be able to limit losses to a certain degree over the next few stages?

      Agreed this has probably worked out well for G, but it may well come down to the time bonuses on stages 6 and 7, and Majka for one is less than 10 seconds behind Thomas.

  2. I’ll go with Matthews for today too. He seems to becoming a bit of an early season specialist. He obviously trains well at home through ‘winter’ and isn’t peturbed by European early spring weather. Today looks a bit too lumpy for Kittel although with Terpstra, Boonen et al to tow him back maybe he’ll be ok.

    • Not sure if this is what you meant but Matthews stayed in Europe for the winter this year in order to have a better spring campaign. Didn’t ride any of the January/February Australian or Middle-Eastern races. The P-N prologue was the first time he’s pinned a number on.

  3. Today it should be more about Tirreno-Adriatico…

    Nice Italian-style second half of the stage, you don’t get a flat nor straight kilometer in the last 70 kms or so (out of some 210), except a brief relief from -19 to -10 kms to go, just before a killer finale which delivers one 8,5% km with over 15% peaks, until the last three kms of sinous up-and-downs within the town centre (some twelve 90º bends in a couple of kms).

    Beautiful woodland landscapes through some of the less known and less populated hills of Tuscany (Volterra got famous because of the Twilight series o__O).
    Not as much a postcard as other places, but perhaps a bit more authentic.
    Keep an eye on the Larderello geothermal power plants (in case they show it), it looks like sort of a Seventies science fiction set, nuclear-style towers and huge silvery piping spread across an idyllic valley with its ol’ good villages. Quite “green”, but the impact on the rural landscape isn’t exactly reduced, even if it might be considered as *fun* or *interesting* in a postmodern perspective.

    Great roads to ride in Autumn or Spring, you never get to high (about 600 m above sea level or so) nor you have to face long climbs, but it makes for some natural series with the ever changing slopes. You can ride tens of kms without seeing a car or any other sign of human presence, which is pretty uncommon in Italy.

    • Nice preview – and definitely the one to watch today (although with Eurosport online you can watch T-A and then follow it up with P-N – I quite like the clash).

      • Indeed. And you can do the same both in Spain and in Italy through free-broadcast public television. Three hours of very fine cycling.

        I believe – and I’m not the only one – that the *number one* priority for the UCI, Velon and whoever likes to say they’re sooo interested in the well-being of cycling… is really to do “whatever it takes” to have the whole WT on air in relevant channels throughout the main interested countries, in order to raise as much as possibile the critical mass of viewers in core markets. Economical and, even more important, political leverage would grow largely (it’s not like that most of the *huge* USA sport have any proportional impact outside their core market…).

        All that, if you want to try to make money or have a say in wider decision-making processes, I mean: I know that you, J Evans, and others are favourable to a niche sport.
        I really can’t decide myself, but what I’m saying here is that *if* the tasks are “x and y”, there are some key moves which simply aren’t being talked about.

        It really makes little sense to prattle about little technological details or overlapping races or the format when you can draw, say, nearly one million spectator – all at once! – just getting the Giro on the Spanish public tv, and same goes for the Tour on a main channel in Germany and so on.

        The Giro isn’t broadcast properly… in France!
        Yeah, I know that the French only care about the Tour and so on, but it would be huge numbers anyway (see the real cases of Spain and Germany). Italy, France and Spain are the biggest markets for televised cycling, by a great deal. It’s really crazy that the sport isn’t making the most of its best products in its central markets. And nobody speaks about that.

        • True about the Giro in France, RCS sold the rights to BeIn in France and US, a very small but wealthy sports channel (Qatari backed off shoot of Al Jazeera) so the Giro earns money but few people can watch it in the US or France.

        • I actually don’t care either way how popular cycling is – that’s not the problem I have with Velon and their ilk.
          And completely agree that it is insane that the Giro cannot be watched properly in France. But would the likes of Velon want to stop that, or would they want to make the most money possible (perhaps introducing more of these kinds of deals)?

          • As I said, I don’t have a clear position on the matter, hence I don’t know nor probably care so much about what would the likes of Velon do… what I was saying, and what I’m sure of, is that *if* they want what they *say* they want, then they should be lobbying hard on the question of TV exposure.

    • Old Ecky usually likes a pint of British thumper, or a Belgian Beer if he’s feeling exotic but, by ‘eck Gabriele, the Isole e Olena Cepparello is a half decent tipple 🙂

  4. thx Gabriele – amazing to read that the first Larderello power plant was converting the natural steam into electricity more than 100 yrs ago…

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