Paris-Nice Stage 4 Preview

A time trial today and this was supposed to be the first chance for the overall contenders to stake their claim. Two wild stages have ruined the chances for many already so today we’ll learn more about the relative condition of the main contenders.

Sam Bennett Bora Hansgrohe

Stage 3 Wrap: an ordinary stage with a sprint finish but still a surprise result with Sam Bennett beating plenty of star names. As they sped along the banks of the Saône the road rose briefly to meet a bridge and then descended back and this bump disrupted a few sprinters and their timing but not Bennett who surged at the right time and showed he was faster than the rest. He was in the front group yesterday but like many was in survival mode and racked with cramp. It’s a victory that’s been coming for a while and he wins his first World Tour race as does Bora-Hansgrohe.

The Route: a tale of two profiles? The course profile at top of the page doesn’t do the route justice nor does the one supplied for today’s stage shown above left. The first 4km see the road gradually rise and the next 5km it falls, all amid vineyards. Vineyards, especially the Beaujolais, may get wine lovers excited but the monoculture means exposed terrain for the racing cyclist, especially as this time of year there’s no growth and even last year’s branches have been pruned. Fortunately the weather looks calm but the point is that even a slight breeze can be felt on these kind of roads.

At the 10km point they cross the village of Cercié and the road starts climbing for a kilometre to the time check in Saint Lager. Mont Brouilly begins with sharp right to start the climb. The profile on the left is the one from this year’s roadbook, the one on the right is from the 2014 edition and the differences are obvious. The older version  says the ascension reaches 25% but not if riders avoid the inside of the hairpin bends. It’s steep in places and there’s a fuller explanation with photos in the Roads to Ride piece as well as some tips on where to ride in the region. But if you’re in a hurry just note this is an irregular climb on a narrow road, the gradient changes a lot making it awkward for the time trial specialists used to linear efforts.

The Contenders: Alberto Contador is winning more time trial stages than summit finishes these days. This course is ideal for him with the rolling terrain and then the hill to dance up.

Richie Porte is well suited to this stage. In the past once he’s been out of a race he’s tended to lose his focus, his flow so it’ll be interesting to see whether he treated yesterday as a reset in order to resume stage hunting.

Ion Izagirre is a contender, he won a TT stage in the Tour de Suisse last year but is still a B-list rider in terms of his media profile, at least beyond Spain which makes it hard to be confident about him, not that celebrity status counts rather he’s still got an outsider status.

Ilnur Zakarin‘s breathrough came in the 2015 Tour de Romandie and he secured his overall win with third place in the final time trial which included a steep climb. He should feature but a win seems hard.

Julian Alaphilippe rides high on GC and is a contender for the overall but a stage win today is a tall order. Compatriot Tony Gallopin has already won a time trial this year, a flat approach followed by an uphill finish in the final stage of the Etoile de Bessèges but this is another level and a win is probably too much. Tony Martin is in with a chance but he’s been beaten in many time trials of late. Crucially this course doesn’t suit him, he can take 3-5 seconds per kilometre out of some rivals on the flat roads but can easily surrender double this on the climb, especially since this year his focus has shifted to the cobbled classics rather than stage races.

Finally among the others Jarlinson Pantano is the new Colombian TT champion but this is a big step up, he beat Sergio Henao which suggests both have a hard time today.

Alberto Contador, Richie Porte
Ion Izagirre
Zakarin, Martin

Weather: cool and cloudy, 10°C with the possibility of a shower. A 10km/h breeze from the south which is gentle but it could still be felt amid the vineyards.

TV: the last rider is due to finish at 4.33pm. You should find it on the same channel as you watch the Tour de France. It’s on Eurosport too and if all else fails you can rely on Cyclingfans and for links to feeds and streams.

25 thoughts on “Paris-Nice Stage 4 Preview”

  1. I put a small bet on Jesus Herrada at 100/1.
    Richie Porte doesn’t seem to have hit the best of form, and Tony Martin has been down twice. An outsider could snatch it. Or place at 25/1.
    Zakarin and Ion Izagirre looks good though.

  2. One interesting aside for todays TT is the startling starting order of the riders, thanks to the windy conditions previously.
    Contador’s minute man is Kittel (and Sam Bennett a further minute ahead) and Zakarin’s is rolleur-of-the- moment Jelle Wallays.
    Worth watching!

  3. I always wondered if ASO’s profiles are that bad on purpose or what… plenty of technology and know-how to do better, but they tend to be totally trashy (and the Vuelta’s, too, they often border pure nonsense).
    I sometimes thought that they were trying to shake things up confusing the available information for whoever didn’t had a proper recon, but I’m afraid that was just wishful thinking and a pinch of good ol’ conspiranoia on my part.

    • From a cynical standpoint, i’d think it’s a marketing decision. Simplify the profile to make it easier for the casual to understand. We know that the pro teams will have beter information, but if i showed the right profile to a casual fan, or just a friend with a passing interest, they’d most likely be confused by it. Whereas the simplicity of the left profile is beneficial in that aspect, easy to read and understand to the passing fan.

      There’s also an issue of scale, with the two profiles clearly being based of different measurement scaling. Ultimately the right profile isn’t even that good as it still works at a scale that can be bettered. All routes should be laid out on paper at a 1:1 scale :p

      • I think in 2014 they needed to tell a story about an exciting new climb, now the story is of a short and sharp climb at the end of the TT. No teams should be caught out, they rode it in 2014 and there’s always this morning in case they want to revisit.

      • I’m not speaking of this example only… they tend to be always terrible.

        I consider both the Mt. Brouilly profiles very poor. Figures aren’t fully consistent, neither between the two images (it’s not just about resolution) nor within each of them. You don’t need to be a cycling specialist to feel that the maths isn’t working properly, there, and a shoddy work, IMHO, isn’t ever good marketing.

        If you compare them with those from RCS (which are especially good), you’d easily notice that they don’t need to be any sort of unintelligible diagram which only the initiated can grasp – you can read them with different levels of attention or depth, but they’re always quite effective.
        But you can find better results even in amateur websites collecting altimetries, often made up with open source software.

        It’s really not just what they look like, it’s also about getting and offering decent data, which in an era of GPS and open source maps should be fast and easy for everyone, let alone the biggest cycling race organiser in the world.
        I think that some years ago at the Tour the riders were complaining about a final climb which wasn’t at all similar to what the profile showed – not everybody is reconing every stage, not even every uphill finale (some of them are considered less important). It had some effect on the race itself, even if it wasn’t decisive for the TdF final result ^__^

        In RCS case, I observed that sometimes it looks like they deliberately decide no to include something in the detailed view of the route, perhaps in order to get some surprise effect for the finale – I’m not speaking of the main stages, obviously, which are covered in detail, but of those tricky, twisty, hilly stages where the knowledge of the terrain is more essential than everywhere else. And few riders (or none) will have time to recon them. But I’m aware it might just be random.

  4. Enjoyed the TT today. What I saw of Bertie in the tuck position he looked a lot more comfortable and settled in the saddle atop his “new” bike.

  5. Hi. Pantano won the ITT of the national championship of Colombia where Sergio Henao did not take part. In the route race, Sergio Henao was first and Pantano, second

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