110km and it’s all up and down on twisting roads with time bonuses on offer and the overall classification still to play for.
Stage 7 Wrap: a stage win and the yellow jersey for Simon Yates. If the stage win was convincing, Yates’ grip on the race lead doesn’t look as certain with the Izagirre brothers and Tim Wellens within a few seconds of him. He’ll be delighted with the win, he took a stage last year thanks to an opportunistic attack and this time he rode everyone off his wheel, first attacking the lead group and then shaking of Ion Izagirre who was clamped to his backwheel. It was a hard day in the grim conditions. Luis León Sánchez cracked which was half-expected on a long summit finish but he took his team with him; Julian Alaphilippe exploded. If you were watching when Alessandro De Marchi crashed into a ravine, he got up and rode to the finish.
The Route: 110km over familiar roads. The once-traditional Col d’Eze time trial conclusion to Paris-Nice has been replaced by a dash into the hills behind Nice. They leave Nice for a long neutral procession up the Var valley, a handy warm-up and then there’s hardly bit of flat road all stage. It’s all on the typical snaking roads of the region which constantly twist and turn their way up valleys and gorges.
With 55km to go the race climbs out of the Paillon valley for the climb to Peille, the Col de St Pancrace to locals and this is the hardest climb of the day. It’s listed as 6.6km at 6.8%, so worthy of a small Alpine pass on these stats alone but it’s the irregularity that makes it hard work with early sections of 9% and even 12% as it winds up a narrow road with so many bends that a rider need only get 50 metres’ lead to be out of sight. It levels out further up and once over the top comes a twisting descent to La Turbie and Eze with the short rise to the Col and then it’s down the Moyenne Corniche to the coast before climbing the Col d’Eze again but not all the way, it’s 5.5km at 5.5% but with a steep start of 7-8% for the first two kilometres. Over the top they repeat the Moyenne Corniche descent.
The Finish: a flat finish line and before that the run off the Corniche and the small rise around the 1km to go point.
The Contenders: we’ve got used to Alberto Contador shredding the race on this final stage but without him who will try? Certainly the Izagirre brothers and Tim Wellens have a chance to win the race sitting at 11, 12 and 13 seconds down on GC but how to shake Simon Yates? Leaving it to the last climb is theoretically enough given the small time gaps and the time bonuses but they’d need to have Yates on the ropes by then and who else will sap him, especially as Yates can count on Esteban Chaves and Roman Kreuziger for climbing support. Simon Yates is in a strong position, he was the best yesterday and can mark his rivals as they try to unpick him today and should they exhaust themselves the stage is his.
The Izagirres can play the old 1-2 and their Bahrain-Merida team looks strong enough to offer support to get them into the final of this stage.
Tim Wellens is a pick for the stage because he’s won here before and is packing a good sprint. Julian Alaphilippe can get a consolation stage win, he’s been trying all week for GC. If he cracked yesterday he’s likely to bounce back the series of sharp climbs and a sprint suits him.
|Alaphilippe, Wellens, Izagirre²
Weather: damp and possibly stormy along the way, a top temperature of 11°C and the wind could get up in places.
TV: 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 steephill.tv for links to feeds and streams. The finish is forecast for 2.50pm CET.