Paris-Nice Stage 3 Preview

Another day, another flat stage exposed to the wind…

Sailing race: who knows what will happen in the rest of the season, or even if the rest of the season will happen, but Stage 2 is a likely highlight of the year. A pity it happened on a quiet Monday and when part of the peloton was saying adieu to Nicolas Portal. The stage finale resembled what Cyrille Guimard sometimes calls “a sailing race”, each rider tacking into the wind as the peloton split. Nairo Quintana and Julian Alaphilippe made the move only to crash and puncture respectively. Thibaut Pinot was instrumental in forcing the move but lost a few seconds when the front group fractured later, but given he’s riding Paris-Nice precisely because of the crosswinds in order to be more experienced should the wind blow in July only losing 18 seconds was ok. In the end Bora-Hansgrohe had numerical superiority but stuffed up the finish, Felix Großschartner trying an attack in the final straight which blunted his legs and Peter Sagan dropped off Pascal Ackermann too early leaving Giacomo Nizzolo to come round and provide some rare Italian cheer. Max Schachmann stays in yellow while Sergio Higuita was the only other GC rider not to lose time to him. All this on a finishing straight without spectators allowed near the line, new public health orders seek to prevent crowds forming.

The Route: 212km south by south-west, a long stage and ideal for banking kilometres ahead of Milan-Sanremo and the spring classics… or that was the plan anyway. Today’s course doesn’t change direction as much as yesterday did but it features plenty of similar exposed roads.

The Finish: roundabouts and boulevards leading to a slightly uphill finishing straight.

The Contenders: a sprinter is the obvious pick, either they win from the bunch or out of a group that has formed in the wind. Giacomo Nizzolo (NTT) is the form sprinter of the moment, he won a stage of the Tour Down Under, took the bunch sprint in Kuurne recently and so his win yesterday was no fluke. Pascal Ackermann (Bora-Hansgrohe) will want to make amends for yesterday while Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) had a mechanical and lost contact yesterday. But it’s an exercise in story-telling so far, it’s hard to tell between them and the others in a straight sprint, even the uphill drag to the line is fine for all three names cited so far.

Caleb Ewan, Pascal Ackermann
Giacomo Nizzolo, Cees Bol
Bennett, Viviani, Matthews, Bouhanni


Weather: wet, grey and a top temperature of 13°C. The wind will blow at 30km/h, strong enough to split the peloton but the SW direction means it’ll be a headwind rather than the crosswind or three-quarters tailwind that can do so much damage.

TV: 90 minutes of live and the finish is forecast for 4.25pm Euro time. It should be available on the same channel you watch the Tour de France and/or Eurosport.

35 thoughts on “Paris-Nice Stage 3 Preview”

  1. Noteworthy, Israel Start – Up Nation (WTT) made the final with 3 riders, though lacking speed at the finish. Quite impressive – as was the sight of the WC pulling and giving his all to extend the gap for Nibali.
    Lead-out and timing delivery is a skill and apparently Sagan has not completed his “Lead-out 101” yet.

    • He has completed the course on how to be the last “link” when the team tries to make an echelon though… It seems Sagan doesn’t have the same legs in this early season as he did in the previous years, but some of his riding yesterday was really clever.

      • Yes, he did good when “the train left the station” and they left the rest of the group behind. I thought it apparent that he is used to do his own wheel surfing and hasn’t practised the art of leading out. But for sure; he tried.

        • As Inrng points out Großshartner’s attack probably left Sagan with too much to do, and on tired legs after pulling hard to get the break. I don’t think you can be too hard on them. Goal no.1 being to extend Schachmann’s lead.

          With the reduced peloton it maybe that a concerted effort to disrupt the race using crosswinds may prove to have dividends. They will need to drop Nibali to be in with a chance to win the overall. It is at least heartening that they are respecting the jersey, rather than focusing on stage wins.

          • You can be hard on them. They had four men going in to the last km and the co-ordination between them was far less than optimal. Four men ended up missing out on the stage win and throwing an unnecessary 3 seconds on GC to the tiny, exposed, lone form of Sergio Higuita.

        • Well; I did not intend to be hard on neither Sagan nor his group companions, everyone in that group did their outmost and deservedly took seconds from others that were not as alert when the split happened. they worked hard for those seconds.
          I am sorry if it came out like I was demeaning their efforts.

    • not sure what they did in the sprint

      stage 2: Neilands leading out Polit, Würtz sprinting from the rear and finishing in front of both.
      stage 3: A similar situaion – though Würtz ended up beeing completely blocked by the Direct Energy rider.

      In Argentina they did something simlar with 2-3 ISN riders sprinting independantly – though they did win 1 stage.

      …somthing to work on before the classics as it seems Würtz has stepped up this season and finaly seem to have caught up with Polits.
      (Würtz is junior ITT world champ, U23 ITT world champ, U23 paris-roubaix winner etc – he was proberbly the strongest junior/u23 rider in the world and in general won the biggest junior/u23 races ahead of Schachman, Polits, Mads P & MVDP)

  2. Just inside and the final 10km there’s a pinch point into a very narrow road followed by an exposed section where crosswinds will be a factor today. Might become more about GC survival than the sprinters.

    May the winds blow!

  3. I love these kinds of stages. there must be a thousand individual stories of just missing the split and heroic efforts to close gaps, most of which are completely untold or forgotten about. I guess the narrow roads also play a part in ‘encouraging’ the race split up more often.

    quintana and allaphillipe were fortunate to limit their losses, but they’re surely out of contention for the GC now (though nairo can surely go for a stage win more easily now). david millar was suggesting Quickstep dithered a bit when he punctured, but they probably didn’t have much choice.

    It doesn’t feel too different missing so many of the big name teams although this is probably also contributing to the fractured racing. I can well imagine Ineos putting their big lads on the front and calming everything down, but perhaps they’d be more aggressive too.

    • In the previous two years, Ineos were helping stretch the race out with Luke Rowe (happy birthday Luke!) on the front doing a job for his GC guy and we had splits from it.

      Higuita playing the Bernal role this year.

  4. Does anyone know when it was the last time Quickstep didn’t make it into the front group of an echelon split? Can’t remember if that ever happened.
    Perfect racing by Bora, only Ackermann’s sprint came a bit too early.

    • One might argue that they didn’t fail to make it into the front group. they just chose to miss it. In other words, if they had raced for the best rider (with the least amount of bad luck) of the day instead of riding for Alaphilippe and his GC chances, there might arguably been 2-3 Deceunick-Quickstep riders in the front group.

      PS The fly on the wall in the Bora-Hansgrohe team bus probably heard a few swearwords…

    • 2015 Tour de France, stage 2 along the Dutch coast?

      He’s been very vigilant ever since then. (Not sure stage 11 of 2016 – when Sagan, Thomas, Froome and Bodnar went off the front – really counts.)

    • Asgreen was up there – QS took a while to assess if PN will finish thursday morning (Asgreen overall win once race is canceled after the ITT) or if the race will go all the way on to Nice (Allaphilipe).

      Monday afternoon they assumed race will go on and it was worth to let Asgreen wait for Allaphilipe and minimize the loss.

  5. Nice to see Bora develop as one of the true ‘power teams’. Having five solid powerful teams, with EF at the door now also, means each days racing holds so much promise. We may miss what could be quite a special year of racing if the virus shuts things down.

  6. Just another day at the Paris-Nice office: An Israel Nation sliding on his butt while holding on to his bars that were entangled with Ewan’s rear triangle or wheel while he was still upright.

    • Given he has a chamois that’s might have been a smart move, though not seen a rider do that before. Kudos to Ewan for staying upright.

      I’m betting that Sam Bennett has done his race, poor lad.

      I’m guessing after yesterday’s hard riding that today was detante in the peloton. A 9’20 gap, which was slowly wound in sort of confirms this.

      • Not sure Bennett is the poor lad in this situation. He was throwing shoulders liberally, and his shoulder barge of Hofstetter started the chain of events that developed into the crash, with Ewan slamming the door on Hofstetter initiating the crash itself. I can see that Ewan really didn’t want to be in the wind at that moment, but his sharp move to the left made a crash inevitable.

        Bennett’s shoulder barging of Quintana shortly before the crash was ridiculous and over the top. He’s seems to be frustrated, whether it’s at his form, or that QS isn’t delivering the magic lead-out train he imagined. Many people had him pegged for half a dozen wins by now, and he was frankly looking stronger last year at this time with Bora.

        • I think that’s correct, Bennett lost his train when Lotto-Soudal came around, and pushed his way back out of the wind but boxed himself in. Then Ewan caused the crash, and it looked a bit like Hofstetter wanted to make him pay for it – not sure that when he fell, he really had to jam his foot in front of Ewan’s back wheel at the end there and bring him to a halt.

          On the other side Bonifazio rubbing much more than would be acceptable, weaving all over, and even Cees Bol with a cheeky little elbow on Pasqualon at the line. Pretty dirty sprint, still a worthy winner, and I hope Bennett is okay.

        • Well my sympathy is a bit broader than yours. It was the usual argie bargie at the sprint and Ewan was definitely responsible.

          You can understand the desperation though, this is likely the last time the sprinters will get a chance to win. Although Bennett was not in a great position going down and getting injured is not nice. The injury appears more ‘superficial’ if I can use that word, and does not appear to have broken any bones which is what I had assumed. He went to the team bus rather than the medical tent which suggests he is capable of starting today, but I wonder if he’d be better off going home, licking his wounds and getting himself in the best nick for the next race.

        • I’ve seen Hofstetter’s tweet of the shoulder barge on Quintana and that was dangerous. Though I think part of the issue was that he had crossed wheels with the rider in front who was closing the door on him. The better reaction would’ve been to slow and go around the outside. I’m guessing part of Bennett’s behaviour was a ‘not so subtle’ suggestion that Quintana had no place in being at the sharp end of a bunch sprint at that point too.

          I could not see that he played much of a role in his own demise as although Hofstetter gets squeezed, Ewan comes in an puts the squeeze on when he has plenty of room. It’s a case of rudely fighting for a wheel. Bennett was at least innocent in that respect IMHO.

  7. Sprinters are not making it to the line for the 3rd day in a row. Its due to the cancelations in Italy: there are just way too many classic strongmen in this race to allow sprinters to arrive at the 1K mark with dry gunpowder for a sprint.

    Lets see it the race makes it pass the ITT. I suspect we will see the same scenario for the climbers once they approach Nice.

    Hit tip: Mads W to be declared winner of Paris-Nice 2020 thursday morning.

  8. Inrng what was your thinking on Bennett for one ring if I might ask? I would have thought at least two based on the competition, or was it that you anticipated a poor lead out, and/or the effects of the wind on a bigger sprinter. Had he not crashed I would’ve fancied him for a top 5 at least.

      • Reviewing the finish yesterday his DQS support dried up pretty quickly, and when it came to the sprint he was already on his own. In fact his lead out was leading the pack and dropped quickly away leading him to surf the wheels before he got taken out.

        All sprinters find themselves in that mix, but it makes it much harder, especially if you have other, larger sprint trains swarming around you, crowding you out. Could be a tough season for Bennett if he’s not getting the support.

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