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Paris-Nice Stage 4 Preview

A time trial to shape the overall classification.

Stage 3 Review: a long solo break for Tom Devriendt who couldn’t find a friend to go with him on his 180km raid. Deceuninck-Quickstep and Bora-Hansgrohe tried to split the field in the final kilometres but it seemed like there was too much of a headwind rather than a crosswind. The promised bunch sprint happened only without many of the sprinters as a crash took out several riders. Hugo Hofstetter was aiming for Peter Sagan’s wheel only for Cees Bol and Caleb Ewan to close in sideways, leaving the Israel rider nowhere to go but down and he tangled on Ewan’s wheel and the move caught Sam Bennett. Up ahead Ivan Garcia Cortina launched a powerful sprint and took the stage win. Peter Sagan finished second and it was the kind of scenario you’d have expected Sagan to shine in but earlier he’d been working hard for team mate Pascal Ackermann, only for the German to have a mechanical in the final kilometres leaving Sagan to sprint.

The Route: 15km around Saint-Amand, one of the towns in France that claims to be the centre point of France (more on this below). The profile says plenty. The first climb drags on is chased by a quick descent back into town with bends that can be taken at speed before riding along a flat road through town. There are two left hand bends and the road takes a climb out of town, from here for the next few kilometres it’s on a narrow backroad, it’s steep with a 12% and above all rural bordering on farm track and in places the crown of the road is covered in moss. There’s a summit of sorts marked by a communications mast but it’s more of a long false flat until the descent proper back into town begins. Once in town there’s a tricky S-bend with 3km to go. Soon they ride around town passing the Cité d’Or gold museum with its pyramids that you might remember from the day the 2013 Tour de France came to town and Mark Cavendish won a memorable stage in the crosswinds and it’s 2km on a flat road into town.

The Contenders: the two climbs make it harder for some time trial specialists but Victor Campenaerts (NTT) is no flatland specialist, he probably would have a stage of the Giro on his palmarès were it not for mechanical problems on the final climb in San Marino, plus the Belgian has been biding his time all week for today. He’s yet to race a TT but was climbing very well in the UAE Tour.

Take your pick from Deceuninck-Quickstep’s squad. Julian Alaphilippe has ridden this course as he’s a local of sorts. Kasper Asgreen, Yves Lampaert and Bob Jungels can also feature with the Dane the stronger pick.

Trek-Segafredo have Ryan Mullen as a TT specialist but the hilly course is too much, instead Richie Porte finds a course to suit.

Groupama-FDJ’s Stefan Küng is a big rider but can cope with some hills however he’s been on bodyguard duty for Thibaut Pinot so won’t be as fresh. Pinot has won time trials in the past but will surely settle for a good place relative to the GC riders today.

Sergio Higuita has been riding like a Flandrien for the last few days, it’s not because he’s suited to the terrain but because he’s in great form and the course here suits too.

Dylan Teuns (Bahrain-McLaren) has a time trial win already this season and will like this course. Nairo Quintana (Arkéa-Samsic) is flying too but a stage win sounds like a big ask, just limiting his time losses would be good. Mads Würtz Schmidt (Israel) should be good here but a win would be a surprise. Team Sunweb have a trio in Michael Matthews, Tiesj Benoot and Søren Kragh Andersen with Matthews the most mercurial, capable of winning on his best days.

Finally race leader Max Schachmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) can excel against the clock, he won the opening stage of the Tour of the Basque Country a year ago and the course suits him too.

Victor Campenaerts, Max Schachmann
Kasper Asgreen, Sergio Higuita, Julian Alaphilippe, Dylan Teuns
Porte, Matthews, Würtz, Lampaert, Küng

 

Weather: milder, a top temperature of 17°C and cloudy but rain will clear in the morning to leave dry roads and the wind will drop, further aiding later starters.

TV: 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.

The Centre of France? Nobody knows where the centre of France is, or at least it’s a disputed point. Do you plot a point at the middle of all of the French mainland? Do you include coastal islands, including Corsica? If you do it’s still not clear. Several places have staked their claim and have their backers, whether a spot beside a field in Nassigny to the south of Saint-Amand-Montrond, or a small marker stone in the small town of Bruère-Allichamps to the north of Saint-Amand.  In between these there’s a point in Saint-Amand itself too. But the early claims came from more rudimentary maps and recently France’s Institut national de l’information géographique et forestière, the government agency tasked with measuring and mapping France’s geography, says Nassigny.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Anonymous Wednesday, 11 March 2020, 8:01 am

    I don’t think Higuita rode the National TT champs: https://www.procyclingstats.com/race/nc-colombia-itt/2020

    Look forward to seeing how he goes today.

    • DP Wednesday, 11 March 2020, 8:22 am

      Yep, was the RR he won by a minute

    • The Inner Ring Wednesday, 11 March 2020, 9:51 am

      Thanks, fixed the text above.

  • RQS Wednesday, 11 March 2020, 8:05 am

    Surprised Porte features in your reckoning. You might as well put his chain rings to sleep until the TDU next year. I would reckon Nibali to beat him, though I admit Porte has kept his powder dry so far, if he has any powder.

    • The Inner Ring Wednesday, 11 March 2020, 9:50 am

      He’s deliberately not been fighting in the crosswinds and this should mean he’s fresher for today and the course suits him. But we’ll see, he’s getting older.

      • RQS Wednesday, 11 March 2020, 11:00 am

        Rightly or wrongly I get the sense with Porte that a certain amount of fight has gone out of him and he just doesn’t look like he comes ready to race.

        While losing time in crosswinds and hanging of the back of the peloton are not de facto signs he’s not on good form (or looking to win something) it’s not the place where you see most riders who have racing ambitions.

        Since moving to Trek (and even before then) Porte has either had bad luck or is constantly out of form. He’s a lovely chap, but if I were Trek I would be asking for more, if not to just inspire younger riders.

      • MadBlack Wednesday, 11 March 2020, 1:46 pm

        Just a little surprised by your omission of Nibali. Surely if porte deserves on chairing so does Nibbles, no?

        • RQS Wednesday, 11 March 2020, 3:08 pm

          As good as Nibali is he won’t win. Inrng ‘don’t award chain rings for nearly’.

          Someone needs to have a word with Porte (finished and nowhere near being a podium with many of the best still to ride). Why anyone at Trek decided he was a good bet I don’t know! Sure he gets TDU World Tour points, but his season seems to end in February at the moment. The rest of the time he’s just an exhausted spectator.

          • noel Wednesday, 11 March 2020, 6:26 pm

            to provide a bit of Porte balance… it looks like he finished the highest of anyone who would have GT podium ambitions, ahead of Nibali/Pinot/Quintana/Bardet etc etc so not as bad as it looks maybe? The vast majority of those above him today would be a good 10kgs heavier…

            not saying he’s winning anything soon however….

        • The Inner Ring Wednesday, 11 March 2020, 3:33 pm

          Yes, the chainrings are suggestions for the chance of winning the stage, not placing although obviously if a rider can place they’re in contention to win but it’s for the win. Also riders on the equal ratings are ranked, the first rider named per line is higher rated than the next, and the last. But it’s all just fun and guesswork.

    • brent sword Thursday, 12 March 2020, 5:59 am

      Porte had a bad year last year (was it sickness I can’t remember but I think he had something early in the year) but
      2018- he was 3rd Romandie (3rd in TT) and 1st overall at de Suisse.
      2017 he was 2nd overall at Dauphine (1st in ITT and I recall only lost overall because his team was weak). Won Romandie with 2nd in the ITT. Until he crashed out (certainly his fault) I thought he was the best chance to beat froome because his form seemed great at the TDF.
      Now I didn’t expect him to win because he seems on a build phase but its not reasonable to say he races one race a year. Most riders would give an arm and leg for these results (in just 2 years) and he probably wins more TT at this level than some of the riders given chain rings above.
      Given that porte seems a rather mellow disposition the comments he gets seems out of proportion with reality. He’s no lance Armstrong but he has a lot more results than many given him credit. All the more so because he started much later in life and rode domestique for many years. If he was on better teams and team leader he would have won more.

  • Tintinbike Wednesday, 11 March 2020, 1:05 pm

    Here is an article about how to calculate the centre of a country (or at least come up with some options).

    Not France, but the same limitations apply.

    https://www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/blog/2014/08/where-is-the-centre-of-great-britain-2/

    • The Inner Ring Wednesday, 11 March 2020, 11:06 pm

      Thanks. I quite like the idea of this marker as it’s both central in the literal sense but also completely meaningless, just some spot in a field derived by mapping software rather than a geographic feature.

    • Lukyluk Thursday, 12 March 2020, 3:59 am

      Not to nitpick, but this calculation method on a 2D scale doesn’t factor altitude changes, which means you’d have to cover more ground on a straight line from the “center” to the “edge” if you traverse a region with high altitude variations. As for how deep you can dig before you get out of the “country”, to do a 3D representation of it, I have no idea. Nor do I know if we have enough data on the density of the Earth’s crust under the UK (quite a diverse geological land) to calculate a proper center of gravity without gross approximations. And do territorial waters count, or just emerged landmass? At a tidal average?

      Okay, I did nitpick quite a bit there.

  • RQS Wednesday, 11 March 2020, 3:12 pm

    Am interested to see where Alaphilippe finishes. Still unconvinced by his tour ITT.

  • Morten Reippuert Wednesday, 11 March 2020, 10:07 pm

    @INRNG you seem to miss out on the winners this year.

    Leving out Kragh among the favorites in the preview is huge miss. He has consistantly placed 2th-5th in worldtour ITT’s since he went pro at 21y in 2016. Even last year which was a annus horriblius after Algrave he managed 3rd and 5th in the TDS ITT’s.

    3rd in Het Volk was a sign that he is back wher he should be, and his ride in front at Kurne & the 3 first stages of PN was a dead sure confirmation.
    A short, punchy technical ITT is taylor made for his skills: no brain, just accelerations and high speed conering 🙂

    • The Inner Ring Wednesday, 11 March 2020, 11:00 pm

      True, not getting the picks right so far. I did list him in the text but just couldn’t see how he’d win – the consistent placing, yes – but a good surprise today.

    • Lukyluk Thursday, 12 March 2020, 4:07 am

      To be fair, despite consistent good placings, he had never won a TT before, and comes out of a mediocre 2019 season. I expected him to place well, but I wouldn’t have put him ahead of Schachmann or Campenaerts.

      I think the first stages have taken their energy toll, you had a big advantage if you didn’t have to battle in the wind for the last 3 days, although Schachmann is an obvious exception. He’ll be hard to topple this year.