Paris-Nice Stage 2 Preview

The race was gripping yesterday when the opening stage was turned into a scene you’d expect from a Belgian classic as the bunch was split asunder by the crosswinds. Today has the potential for more action thanks to the course and weather forecast.

Stage 1 Wrap: a circuit race on the edge of Parisian suburbia? On paper it didn’t promise much, a kermesse, a mise en jambe to get the legs turning. The wind got up and the riders got to work and if the likes of Velon want exciting racing there’s no need to reinvent the wheel, just make it blow. The bunch split in half and then the second group began to splinter. It was a predictable scenario but as ever there’s only room for a few riders at the front of the bunch and so no matter how many warnings were given in the morning team briefings plenty of riders and whole teams were caught out.

As they approached the finish several sprinters were floundering with Bryan Coquard the first to blow, then Marcel Kittel and then André Greipel. Démare perhaps had an easier ride during the day as five FDJ riders made the front group but that’s not to say Démare was coasting, just that his team were there for him when it mattered. Kittel’s ejection meant Quick Step needed another plan late in the stage and Julian Alaphilippe took off on the final climb. Tony Gallopin tried to chase but couldn’t and then Arnaud Démare rode across. Démare may be more than a sprinter, and his authority on the final climb showed this, but he is still a sprinter and the result in the final 200 metres was inevitable.

Alaphilippe did well but collects yet another runner-up prize. Sergio Henao, Dan Martin and Julian Alaphilippe will all be pleased after putting a minute or more into their rivals by making the front group. Richie Porte and Ilnur Zakarin galloped up the final climb to take time on their rivals in the second group, notably Alberto Contador, Simon Yates. Two thirds of the field came in over 16 minutes down.

Late in the stage Romain Bardet crashed and gave chase but had the help of the team car, excessive help and being right in view of a motorbike commissaire meant he was disqualified upon arrival and sent home. Harsh? Yes but inevitable. The rule (12.1.040) says “Rider holding on to his team’s vehicle” means certain elimination, there’s no debate. Maybe he could have drafted more but the “magic spanner” was too much. The problem here isn’t Bardet but the inconsistent application of the rules, too often riders get away with a tow in plain sight when the rules stipulate any mechanical, real or simulated, needs to be treated when stopped at the roadside rather than at 60km/h. Like many disasters this wasn’t one single failure but the compound effect of several mistakes and mishaps, for starters the wind but also Bardet’s isolation as he had no team mates with him when the group split and then the crash which brought him and others down. Bardet issued an apology via social media, the right thing to do and pure Bardet with its Latin heading and measured words.

The Route: 195km and featureless. You might hope to read of something special along the way – tomorrow’s preview will be more enlightening – but here the terrain is simply unremarkable as the race proceeds past France’s vast cereal fields, the land where all those baguettes begin. But they harvest another thing in this region: the wind. There are wind turbines dotted across the landscape, testimony to the exposed terrain.

The race heads in a general south-east direction but as the map above shows with 61km to go it bends north-north east. There’s a circuit to complete they cross the finish line with 31km to go before continuing a loop on exposed roads.

The Finish: fast and flat, there’s a long run to the finish along the same road, it’s so flat it runs parallel to a canal and the road is of a generous and consistent width. It’s on a road running NW meaning a likely headwind although the forecast says the wind direction will swirl around during the day.

The Contenders: Marcel Kittel is an obvious pick given the flat “dragstrip” approach and he’s a got a strong team around him. The only doubt is whether he’s rinsed from yesterday’s efforts but of course he made the front group when others didn’t so if the wind splits things he’s often in the right place at the right time.

Alexander Kristoff will be near. He was third yesterday which suggests better than his rivals but he was able to sit tight yesterday while Kittel and André Greipel were doing more work in the front group, the latter is still a solid pick.

What can Arnaud Démare do? FDJ will want to defend Démare’s lead given he’s their leader in this race. He’s in great shape but in a straight sprint the quality of the field means his chances of a repeat win are reduced.

Amid the other sprinters Nacer Bouhanni often springs back after a setback and having finished over 16 minutes down his team will expect something better. His low aero position could help into the headwind. The outside pick is Dan McClay because if there’s a headwind sprint maybe he can repeat that finish from the GP de Denain.

Marcel Kittel
André Greipel, Alexandre Kristoff
Démare, Bouhanni, Groenewegen

Weather: wet and windy with a top temperature of 9°C. It won’t be as wild as yesterday but the forecast says a NNW wind at 25km/h gusting to 40km/h which is enough, if the peloton is inclined, to split the bunch again.

TV: coverage starts at 3.30pm and the finish is forecast for 4.40pm CET. Tune in to catch the action on the wind-exposed finishing circuit.

You should find it on the same channel as you watch the Tour de France. It’s on Eurosport and you can rely on Cyclingfans and for links to feeds and streams.

43 thoughts on “Paris-Nice Stage 2 Preview”

  1. Good too see the jury doing their job for once and good too Bardet’s full apology. Made for a good race and sets up the GC battle nicely.

  2. I didn’t see yesterday’s stage but read that Griepel sacrificed his chances to work for Gallopin, given that GC rivals were a minute behind. If that’s true, then good for him, class.

    • It looked like it. Many sprinters do their team work when they can but Greipel often seems to do a lot at this time of year, presumably knowing he can count on full support in the Giro and Tour.

    • Difficult to say. Greipel was taking his turns in the wind, and often does a lot of work on the front during the Classics season, as Inrng said. But on the other hand, they all had to take their turns given the crosswinds and he got dropped on the same climb as Kittel and others.

      • Looked to me that Greipel did a couple of big pulls just before he dropped off, and in quick succession too. Harsh to say he blew, à la Coquard; I would say he was working for the team at that point (maybe he already knew he’d done too much for the sprint.)

  3. ‘Like a Belgium classic’ is probably INRGs the best description of the race. Full on and a lengthy battle. Another day like yesterday and there will be some sore and tired legs in the peloton.

    Good on Bardet and his management team for accepting his penalty graciously. One can’t help but wonder why there is little uniformity in applying this particular rule. Blatant rule breaking in sight of a viewing audience is surely not one of the best ways to sell the sport. Bardet, like Nibali before him, are simply the victims of long term poor implementation of the rules by the authorities.

  4. I was surprised to see Alaphilippe go – I’d have thought that Dan Martin was their GC guy as he has vastly more form in these races.
    Greipel dropping off was entirely forgivable after the work he’d done earlier.
    Démare was hugely impressive up that climb – that bodes very well.
    Well done to the jury – would be nice to see more have the balls to do this (I was watching thinking ‘They should DQ him, but never will’ – he took a couple of very big tows, at one point flying past a BMC rider – Schar?) and fair play to Bardet for accepting it and owning up – makes a very welcome change.
    The first few stages of P-N always seem to be dull as hell unless there’s wind, so here’s hoping for more today.

    • I though it made perfect sense for Alaphilippe to go, in fact I was really cheered to see a sensible attack from him after so many zany ones. Once Kittel was dropped, QST’s best chance of the stage win was Alaphilippe or Gilbert, but there was no way they’d beat Kristoff or Demare in the sprint. So off shoots Alaphilippe on the final climb, makes a great gap. It’d have worked, too, but for the fact that Demare was strong enough to match him and then some.

      • For winning the stage, it was the best move, but for winning overall, which is more important, I’d have thought, wouldn’t it be better for Martin to have gained those extra 15 seconds in the GC? Time will tell – and also Martin may not have had the legs, of course.

  5. Except, that velon invented nothing themselves. They simply took these stupid ideas from the ungifted group, and put their usual media slang into it. Shameless. But good for us, as it again throws a clear light on them, their mo and their “values”.

    To me the only thing, that will make cycling interesting again, is, if the riders have to race. They think about more ways to sanitize the sport, press more money out of it, when the only helpful way would be, to get less money into the sport. Stop the training camps and the whole bs. Instead raise the riders’s salaires. All riders.

    It is hard to have a race going, if everybody is looking at their data or treating the race as a training or having a different goal two races further down the road or is too tired of jetlag or because of the last training camp or lost the fun for racing long ago or has given up already, because life get’s crushed out of them by teams with big budgets or or or.

    The only reason yesterday was a race going and not only a result, is because the teams weren’t in control of the race and the riders took over. Good for this race, it deserves it. But you can’t always hope for wind or rain. Indeed, we shouldn’t wish for it or better, we shouldn’t have to wish for it. The teams try to get ever more control over the races, when this and tv is among the things killing cycling.

    • Thanks for the link – shows what Velon’s ultimate aim is.
      The last thing they want is racing like yesterday: they want controlled, formulaic racing where money means victory (even more than it does now).
      Imagine if cycling was reduced to the major races plus 10 of these glorified crits.

      • It would mean there would be a whole new culture of “underground racing”. While the crit series would go on for a few uninitiated, that fall for the spin on tv, internet and for the happy few, which go to races as they go to a brunch.

        It would mean racing would pick itself up again. It would return to its’ roots. As the money would leave road cycling, the races we now know, would be raced again and not only ridden. And in the end, as riders want to race, the riders in the crit series would one after another flock again to the underground races. Imagine, racing secretly Paris – Nice, which ASO runs on 1/10th of it’s budget now. They would ride it under a different name, in disguises, for the fun and the honor. Because money isnt’ everything.

        The issue right now is, that the teams demand riders to be primarly workers. And their job is 24/7. They never are free or have the right to be themselves. It is no wonder, that racing isnt’ the first thing on their mind, because it simply isn’t the most important thing of their “job”. That is to represent their sponsor. I feel kinda sorry for them, but in the end everybody decides themselves what their priorities are?

        I would be relieved and happy, if a certain kind of money would leave cycling.

      • I understand your scepticism of Velon’s motives, but not why you think they don’t want exciting racing. If they want to increase the revenue from racing, why wouldn’t they want the kind of racing that is more likely to attract viewers, and thereby sponsors and revenue?

        I might even wait to see what their race series are actually likely before judging.

        • Because the races they are suggesting are formulaic and repetitive.
          These teams want their income to be better guaranteed – their sole aim is to improve their business.
          No matter what name they go under, the ideas are always the same: simplified racing made for casual TV audiences where everything is bundled into a short period of time, increased reliance on technology (Vaughters saying that it should be like F1 with the bikes allowed to be great different so that they play a big role in who wins), greater likelihood that ‘the best rider’ wins, loads of data about how fast someone’s heart is beating and all usually with baseless promises to eradicate doping.
          They know they can improve their profits whilst probably fooling most of the public that they’re still watching exciting racing (how many times have you read people say that the early parts of races are boring? – look at the thrilling finishes these races will have!) – you just call it ‘the champions league’ or something and say – over and over again – that ‘the winner of this series is the best rider in the world’.

    • Nice rant anonymous but rants are rarely logical, yours being a case in point. How would taking away team control (which means negating the point of teams in effect) and removing racing from TV (thus losing it ANY casual fans and probably instigating several current sponsors of teams from leaving the sport, breathe life into cycling that you think is being sucked out? You may wish it was 1909 and riders in baggy wool jumpers with inner tubes and tyres over their shoulders were taking part in 10 hour stages but that is the past, not the the present. I never understand people who complain because players or teams in any sport do what they gain to gain an advantage. That’s why they are there. PS where does your pot of gold to raise all riders salaries come from? The only source of money for cycling is sponsorship based on public exposure, primarily via established TV channels. Its why numerous team sponsors are almost entirely dependent on being in the Tour.

      • Don’t be silly on purpose. If you want a real discussion, discuss for real.

        Not being a fan of a certain evolution doesnt’ mean no evolution. Not wanting the current tv format doesnt’ men wanting no tv. You read into (my) words, what you think they mean, but tht is totally a making of your own.

  6. McClay’s sprint one of the most impressive I’ve seen in recent times – and he does it all seated, breezing past other, only standing at the last moment.

  7. Why do so many riders get caught out by crosswinds? I’ve never raced but I would have thought the pros, especially when briefed, would be more prepared. Is it a case that a lot of riders just don’t have huge amounts of experience riding in them or are there a lot more factors involved?

    • There can be lots of factors but the first is that there’s only room for so many riders across the road.

      In a strong crosswind a rider sitting behind another rider does not get the same drafting effect. In order benefit from shelter behind a rider they must look at the vector of the crosswind and the slipstream of the rider in front. So when the bunch is doing 50km/h in a crosswind, you often need to be 45° off the back wheel of the rider in front, ie diagonally. When the road is only a few metres wide there is only a room for a few riders. Consequently those directly behind a rider do not get the usual aerodynamic advantages and riders behind the leaders can flounder. Should a gap open up between two riders it can be very hard to close it. More so when teams and riders know there are crosswinds and the strongest and most organised squads will work to split the bunch into pieces.

      Some riders and teams are more experienced at this, typically the Dutch and Belgian teams but you’ll equally see Movistar trying to split the bunch in Vuelta. Every rider knows what to do, but being in the right place at the right time is easier said than done.

    • I’m guessing it’s the fact that only 15 or 20 can fit into one echelon, so no matter how much you’re told to ‘be at the front…’ it’s tough to stay there infinitum, waiting for a split, if 180 other guys are all trying to do the same.
      Having said that, it’s clear that some are a lot better at it than others… the way the front echelon often drifts away by 30sec to 1 min tells you that the most of the strongest guys are at the front for a reason…

      • A minor point from yesterday but, as it was a French team that (unexpectedly?) put the hurt on, perhaps they’d had the opportunity to more thoroughly recon ride the course and prepare?

        • FDJ was in front of the peloton when Lotto and Etixx started the ‘bordure’ since they had started the chase on the escapees just a few minutes before. But I can’t think that the timing was random they knew it was a good time to be in front.

  8. Perfectly put re Bardet’s DSQ; the problem is the unequal application of the rules. So, so sad to lose one of the most exciting riders at the race, but of course the rules are the rules. I can’t help feeling they’d not have tried it if many riders didn’t regularly get away with it – and especially when trying to get back in as the line approached quickly, rather than make an attack stick. This wasn’t the same league as Nibali’s absurd tow in the Vuelta, but if the rules were more fairly enforced I think we’d get a lot less chancers.

  9. Peloton already split into six groups again, right after start of stage 2, teams talking about carnage and chaos on Twitter. Still 2 hours before we get live pictures.

  10. Humm, yeah, we need shorter stages, like 75 kms ones, the first hours of a cycling race are always sooo boring ^__^
    And all that rain, wind, cold, someone please call an EWP…!!!

    • +1 I tuned the thing in via Youtube thanks to some nice person who uploaded it so I didn’t have to wake up too early, figuring it would be a ho-hum stage to have going during breakfast. But as soon as I saw the nasty conditions it was, “Mmmm, this could get interesting.” Same with today’s stage – nasty wind and rain is certainly not fun to race (or ride) in, but it often makes for great racing entertainment. Regarding Bardet, I thought the UCI had banned mechanics hanging out the windows for any reason. Perhaps the mechanics should be licensed and sanctioned on a personal level when they violate the rules? Perhaps if a couple of team mechanics were kicked off the race a time or two, this practice would end? I keep wondering where the TEAM is in these instances? Same with Porte and BMC. What are they doing there if it’s not to work for the leader? If a mishap occurs and the leader is dropped it would seem there are 3 choices – 1) cheat by towing the guy back into contention risking expulsion 2) getting on the radio to have the rest of the team come back and try to drag their leader back TTT style or 3) throw in the towel, let the leader go out-of-contention for GC and try for some stage wins. I guess no team ever wants to take the risks involved in option 2?

      • Larry – I thought I read that in Bardet’s case his team had missed the splits and were too far back to help, and in Porte’s case BMC did exactly option 2, but to no avail without ‘windy’ Schar…..

        • Sort of what I meant, the teams didn’t do much for their leaders for which various excuses were handed out afterwards. What does it say about a team where the leader is the only guy “in the race” when it’s rainy and windy or the other team where the loss of a single team member the previous day dooms the team leader’s GC chances?

    • Haha, great points Gabriele! I know, everybody is always so quick to complain, but yesterday’s race was awesome.

      50kph for 2 hours in massive cross-winds was awesome. I followed on cyclingnews yesterday from work – how are people actually able to watch these races?

  11. Disappointed that only the last 37km were on live coverage of stage 2. This being Eurosport Player of which I pay a monthly subscription. Would be nice if I could more or less view the whole stage.

    • Indeed. It’s all very well being told that the stage was exciting before the race came on air, but it would be nice to see it for oneself.

    • Why does everyone have to blame Eurosport, when the production company from ASO only delivers pictures from 15:30 on? No station had an earlier coverage. What should Eurosport do to please you, have own motorcycles on the road cause you pay 7 Euros a month?
      And if there weren’t for the weather, no one would be interested in the first 50k of a flat transition stage. But if you can come up with a business model how whole stages of every race can be broadcasted for a decent price without making a deficit, feel fre to sell it to Eurosport or others, they’ll love to hear that.

      • The problem yesterday was that the race was well ahead of the fastest schedule so by the time the TV slot came along – it’s France Televisions, not Eurosport nor ASO who decide this – the action had been done. I can see the frustration when the race is going wild and there’s no way to see it.

        As Vitus says if money was no object the whole race could be live from start to finish – we’ll get this at the Tour de France this summer but start to finish live coverage is still very rare – but if the wind didn’t blow then I suspect some would be complaining about the lack of action.

        • By “production company from ASO” I meant the one they sold the rights to produce the coverage , names don’t matter in this case. What Eurosport bashers don’t get is that they are only customers who just can’t decide when and if they show a whole stage. And even if they could, nobody would show a stage like this right from the start, from paper. Under good weather conditions the first 2 stages are not that interesting.

  12. How silly of me wanting to watch a race when I pay a miserly subscription. Sorry ASO too, perhaps I should be honoured that I am able to view some KM’s of your race at all. Truly I am sorry.

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