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Paris-Nice Stage 7 Preview

The final stage of Paris-Nice, the race is stopping a day early. Later today the finish line at La Colmiane will mark the end of Paris-Nice and probably pro bike racing as a whole for months to come.

Stage 6 Review: a fast start, the stage had “breakaway” all over it and many riders wanted a ticket to ride. Amid strong winds, it took a long time for a move to stick and Romain Bardet was among the group of seven that got clear but never much of a lead. On the finishing circuit Bardet was the only one who could stay with Søren Kragh Andersen when the Dane bridged across. Sunweb played a clever relay in the finish, launching Tiesj Benoot while SKA was still up ahead. It gave Benoot some extra help but he looked so strong he could have barged clear solo anyway. Once he got 20 seconds and into that arched tuck of his he looked impossible to haul back.

The Route: 166km and dominated by the summit finish. The Col de Vence should be the launchpad for the day’s breakaway, 9.7km at 6.6% with the steeper parts towards the top. Then on it’s rolling terrain for 100km. Don’t expect big crowds, health measures mean the entire final climb is closed to the public so it’ll feel like a Tuesday morning training ride more than the summit finish of a World Tour race.

The Finish: the same as 2018, it’s a 16km climb to the ski station of La Colmiane atop the Col Saint-Martin. 6.2% is not much but it’s still selective and crucially it’s often steeper, the mid-way kilometre of 3.5% has a flat part and then a steep part so, as ever, beware of averages. Overall it’s a steady climb and a wide road and the kind of climb where being sat on a wheel means saving energy, especially for the second half where the gradient eases a touch. This suits a group more than a lone rider and in 2018 we saw many riders being ejected from the group long before any attacks started. It kicks up a touch for the finish.

The Contenders: a GC stage but if a good breakaway goes clear early, who will bring them back? There are only 95 riders left now and race is lacking the horsepower of Astana and Ineos to control the race. So keep an eye on Guillaume Martin (Cofidis), Ritchie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) or Pierre Latour (Ag2r La Mondiale) who can go in the early move because they’re no threat overall, maybe Romain Bardet too but he might be tired from yesterday’s moves but all the more reason he might move again today as he can’t win from a straight contest against the GC contenders.

This is a climb for Nairo Quintana (Arkéa-Samsic) as it’s long and suits someone who can grind a steady tempo that wears others down. Only he’s not looked so lively in recent days, strong but not floating. Being down on GC now means he can move on the final climb without Higuita and Schachmann having to close him down right away.

Sergio Higuita (EF Pro Cycling) is third overall and faces a dilemma, go all in for the overall and try to overturn Max Schachmann’s one minute lead, or play it safe and go for the stage win? Neither are such obvious options as he’s lost several team mates who’d be relied on to set the pace today. But he sprints well so he’s an easy pick for the stage.

It’s a big test for Max Schachmann (Bora-Hangrohe). His race has been a success so far with a stage win, second place in the time trial and a long spell in the race lead. But can he handle a 40 minute climb? Only he doesn’t need to win the stage today, he just needs to pace himself to limit losses to Higuita. He’ll be sore after a crash yesterday when he smacked into a wall sideways at speed.

Vincenzo Nibali (Trek-Segafredo) isn’t a regular summit finish winner any more but in a depleted field is a big name. Still it’s hard to see him outclimbing Quintana or outsprinting Schachmann but if he can make a late attack before riders worry about the sprint he’s got a chance. Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) ought to enjoy a climb like this too but his form is so-so.

Finally today was always going to be the hard stage for Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quickstep) even if he came into the race in top shape and health, only he’s not. He’s in the awkward position of being 10th on GC so has little room to go in the break today either.

Sergio Higuita, Nairo Quintana
Max Schachmann
Nibali, Pinot, Benoot, Bardet, Alaphilippe, Martin, Porte, Latour, Bardet


Weather: sunshine and clouds, a pleasant 18°C in the valleys.

TV: coverage starts around 1.30pm CET and the finish is forecast for 2.55pm CET. It should be available on the same channel you watch the Tour de France and/or Eurosport.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • DJW Saturday, 14 March 2020, 8:38 am

    In addition to the government instruction that events involving more than 100 persons are now banned, the French Cycling Federation has banned all cycling events in all disciplines and all categories on French soil.

    “La Fédération française de cyclisme annonce dans un communiqué, publié ce vendredi après-midi après l’arrivée de l’étape de Paris-Nice, “l’annulation de toutes les épreuves cyclistes, toutes disciplines et toutes catégories confondues sur le territoire français, jusqu’à nouvel ordre”.

    Does the intended continuation of P-N today mean that the FFC has no jurisdiction over the event?

    • The Inner Ring Saturday, 14 March 2020, 8:45 am

      That was the tweet, the written statement said all amateur races are off, from U23 to village criteriums and also cyclosportives etc. As for jurisdiction the short version is the FFC handles the amateur side of cycling in France while the Ligue Nationale de Cyclisme Professionnel (LNC) does pro racing. But Paris-Nice is run under UCI, FFC and LNC rules.

    • Larry T Saturday, 14 March 2020, 9:30 am

      I think it means ASO’s the big dog here and they’ll do as they please, despite pleas from the government and teams to pull-the-plug. It’s become a hubristic farce now that the Giro d’Italia’s gone along with (it would seem) the rest of the races leading up to Le Grand Boucle. This really makes me sad as they had been IMHO pretty much the only-adults-in-the-room when it came to the governance of pro cycling 🙁

      • The Inner Ring Saturday, 14 March 2020, 9:36 am

        Larry, I can indulge your rantings sometimes but let’s be careful not to spread fake news in these times. There are “no pleas from government” and the remaining teams have opted to continue (NB Israel left yesterday after the stage). The race has spoken to health officials, regional government and others and the plan is the race won’t go to Nice tomorrow, instead it ends on La Colmiane with some drastic measures, eg the start area is closed and the entire final climb is shut to the public.

      • RQS Sunday, 15 March 2020, 12:31 am

        The extra day or two of racing has not created a localised outbreak along the way of the PN so you can’t say this it has been a bad call. Calling it quits before they hit a huge urban population like Nice is the right thing to do, but to call the race any earlier would not have served any benefit, so I think your anger and outrage are a little misplaced.
        As previously stated, if riders were travelling via mass transit or mass transit hubs (like an airport or train station) its a different matter and it is unwise to start a new race where you have so many potential agents of infection, so I’d not advocate that all and any racing takes place.
        Hopefully we can all move through this thing with the least amount of trouble.

        • KevinK Sunday, 15 March 2020, 1:39 pm

          At the risk of being pedantic, it takes a week at least to see the effects of any intervention on the spread of the virus, and there’s really no mechanism that could clearly identify the localized effects of an extra stage of the race. In this particular case, I agree that with the precautions that were taken the added risk was minimal. However, as I saw in races just a short week ago, many riders/fans/staff/officials were not taking precautions. So I think the decision to stop all racing is a good one, and at the same time I think it was reasonable to go ahead and let yesterday’s stage run. But then I might be biased because I really wanted to see the race get to a reasonable point of completion!

          Of course, if we’d had a repeat of what happened at the UAE tour, with a few people showing symptoms yesterday, it would have been a PR disaster (to say nothing of the medical/public health effects).

      • Gabriel Sunday, 15 March 2020, 12:32 am

        Boucle is a feminine noun in French…

  • Chris_SK Saturday, 14 March 2020, 9:55 am

    Worth pointing out, teams and riders are leaving the race early as govt’s and national federations call back citizens prior to implementing tight border controls… like the Mads Pedersen news this morning.

  • Mikael Aagaard Saturday, 14 March 2020, 10:24 am

    As much as I love the races and have been waiting for the cobbled classics, there is only one thing, and one thing only, sensible thing to do, and that is to call the whole thing off! Country after country are imposing still stricter regulations upon people, to stop them from moving around and gathering. In that respect it is pure madness to insist on a peloton to move around from one place to another, regardless of how many precautions they take.
    Too bad for all the athletes who have planned and prepared for specific goals, but in this situation it really doesn’t matter.
    Cyclists and all other athletes should contribute in the way all citizens are being asked to. Keep a distance, don’t move around, for short – take hygienic precautions.
    All these measures are a nightmare for the sport organisations and their focus on brand and money.
    But they have neither moral or juridical power to keep on as if nothing is happening. Call of all sporting events until after summer. Giro, TdF, UEFA football championship and Olympics! It’s the only and right thing to do.

  • TIM Saturday, 14 March 2020, 11:27 am

    I hope you are all well and my best wishes for you all into the future, which is looking uncertain at best. I am not even sure about my own club run tomorrow. I can see this being it until the Autumn.

    For fans of the sport this is, of course, disappointing. But people are the most important thing we have. I am certain ASO are following the most recent guidance, which is all we can do. Stay safe and watch in rain on Roubaix Sunday.

  • Francisco Saturday, 14 March 2020, 12:29 pm

    “got clear but never much of a lead”

    In the midst of a disappearing season and an uncertain future we can at least take solace in the first appearance (as far as I can recall) of a syllepsis in inrng’s writing.

    • tjf Sunday, 15 March 2020, 1:31 pm

      I can’t wait till inrg uses a Zeugma. That syllepsis was clever, but a zeugma would be brilliant too!

  • KevinK Saturday, 14 March 2020, 2:44 pm

    Wonderful race, wonderful coverage here. Thanks, Inring!

    • JeroenK Saturday, 14 March 2020, 10:03 pm


      See you all on the other side… Of this pro cycling pause, I hope.

  • shiny side up Sunday, 15 March 2020, 1:13 am

    INRNG saw your tweet about the Spanish doc. speaking to riding outside as bad?
    As my Spanish is okay in most circumstances could someone please elaborate.

    I live in rural area and am actually looking forward to riding alone out in the sticks while sheltering in place.

    • The Inner Ring Sunday, 15 March 2020, 8:57 am

      Spain is asking people to stay at home from midnight Sunday and the message from the doctor was to “park your bike”, to stay at home. The idea is if you crash on a ride you will use an ambulance, medics and a hospital bed that others need. I’m sure many people will think “but I won’t crash” but the idea is that a percentage do and that it’s simply easier to confine everyone rather than creating 36 exceptions.

      • Ecky Thump Sunday, 15 March 2020, 5:00 pm

        Where are you based at present IR?
        Obviously no racing, so no blog I guess?
        Stay well though.

        • The Inner Ring Sunday, 15 March 2020, 8:09 pm

          Won’t post my address, worried too many would be round for coffee… once this situation passes 😉

          Anyway, we’ll see for the blog here, want to do a “Moment Paris-Nice Was Won” piece but it feels odd at the same time. If there’s not much happening in the sport there’s not much to blog about, there’s no obligation here to produce “content” to pad out a page in order to earn revenue from Taboola/Outbrain. But there’s still things to cover, I keep wanting to revisit the 1989 Tour de France (frankly I’ve got a mountain of info, documents and material) and having looked at this and in the wake of Raymond Poulidor’s death, look at the 1964 Tour de France because while people were enjoying the 1989 Tour de France, they were often saying it was “the best since ’64” so it’s something to explore, was it that good, and would it be that good if replayed today? There’s more to look at more recently too, it’s not all dredging up the past. Also if people have questions, happy to explore topics. Best wishes to all.

          • KevinK Sunday, 15 March 2020, 9:38 pm

            If you’re inclined to keep writing, we’ll keep reading. P-N was an entertaining race, and deserves a “Moment” piece.

            Here’s a wild ass idea. Write about the ’89 and ’64 TdFs as if they were happening now. Write a preview piece, laying out the favorites, the context of the rivalries, the key teams, etc. Then the next day, and each day for three weeks, write up the stage happenings in whatever detail your research and inclination leads you. Could be brief, could be detailed, could reprint contemporaneous accounts that are interesting. On lazy days maybe just the final results and a couple of photos. This would be a lot of trouble, but fascinating, and I think we’d all find it tremendously entertaining. Just a thought in case you’re feeling a void in the coming weeks (I know I will be).

          • The Inner Ring Sunday, 15 March 2020, 9:43 pm

            I was tempted to do a whole 1989 mock race during the winter, daily stage previews and reviews, as if the race was happening in real time in December… but the daily Tour/Giro etc previews are the most time-consuming things here so finding three weeks for a semi-fictional thing isn’t easy. But if there’s no Tour this summer…

          • KGB Monday, 16 March 2020, 9:30 am

            If you’re looking for questions or topics, here are two I’ve been wondering about.

            1) Has anyone ever done an anthropological study of the pro peloton?

            2) Pro cyclists’ relationship with food.

            If you can suggest any reading on those topics, or feel like exploring them yourself, that would be interesting (or I think so, anyway). Thanks for your content and all the best.

      • shiny side up Sunday, 15 March 2020, 7:10 pm

        Thanks makes sense

      • Anonymous Monday, 16 March 2020, 12:34 am

        No Teide training then(?)

  • RQS Monday, 16 March 2020, 1:12 am

    Well if there isn’t racing, there are roads to ride, food to eat and drink to guzzle. Cycling and cyclo-tourism go hand in glove, so regional roads to ride, climbs and food/places to eat could be an alternative – should you wish to keep your blog busy!

  • plurien Monday, 16 March 2020, 10:50 am

    Take your time. We all have to be patient these days, and a time-pressure detox could benefit us all. Your blog has always been at its best when laying down timeless consideration of the sport, so this period means you have more to offer than most others.

    I’m intrigued to know what should happen once the infection rate levels off and more than half of us have dealt with the virus. Does the sport stay shut down for the supposed benefit of an ever decreasing (not dying, let’s hope) minority of ‘clean skins’, whether inside the sport or in the wider population who never get near a bike race?

    • KevinK Monday, 16 March 2020, 1:23 pm

      I’ve been following the COVID-19 stats very closely, and there are a few things to expect. One, the measures now being taken will help, but the spread rate is still exponential virtually everywhere except China. The measures happening are slowing the daily spread rate from about 35%/day (YIKES!!) to 22%/day (where most of Europe is now, except Spain, which is still very high rate, and to a lesser extent Switzerland and Austria — still a frighteningly high number). Italy looks like their spread rate might be dropping towards 11%/day, much better, but still exponential (i.e., doubling in less than a week). So we can confidently predict that when April comes there will be vastly more active cases, and many countries will be experiencing the kind of overwhelmed/near breakdown of their acute-care medical facilities. I don’t think in early April anyone in Europe will be talking about getting back to regular life.

      I am hopeful that as the weather warms, the virus will start to die off as happens with the flu and most cold viruses, but in many places that won’t really happen till at least May. So I think April will be too soon to think about ramping back up to group sports events, and I think there will still be massive world-wide disruption through April.

      The new case rate has become very low in China, and they are slowly returning to normal and just starting to life their restrictions. Italy is well behind China in in how the infection is playing out, and the rest of us are a week or three behind Italy.

      I’m hopeful that things will quiet down in the summer, but previous pandemics usually show 2-3 peaks of infection, and there’s little doubt this coronavirus will be endemic and waiting to flare back up come fall/winter. The issue of herd immunity, which may well not be terribly robust for this virus, won’t become significant for a while. I suspect by this summer the percentage of people who have had the virus and recovered will be vastly less than 50%. So we may well have something of a “rinse and repeat” pattern in 8-9 months.

      • Ecky Thump Monday, 16 March 2020, 4:03 pm

        Those are sobering predictions KK.
        It could be that next season’s sporting calendar could be disrupted too then?
        But possibly the Olympics may go ahead?

      • Ecky Thump Monday, 16 March 2020, 4:07 pm

        Giro – no / little chance.
        Tour – possibly
        Vuelta – reasonable chance
        Unless they’re rescheduled of course.

        • KevinK Monday, 16 March 2020, 5:00 pm

          Yes, pretty much that. One huge problem is that these events take a huge lead time, and government officials will want to see weeks of virtually no new cases to approve scheduling anything. And when the smoke clears, I think the conclusion will be that the early and drastic action taken in a few places like South Korea and Taiwan, and in China after the botched first few weeks, was a better strategy than the relatively wait-and-see, let’s-not-panic response of Europe. So just as it took a lot of time for people to realize the scope of the problem (at least outside of Asia), it will now take a lot of time for people to relax. Expect a lot of caution over the next year.

          And if the summer does look like a safe time for bike racing, how many events can be rescheduled into that warm window? I don’t think you can reschedule the Giro for June, so I think it’s off the table for this year. Seems like the June/July/Aug schedule is already packed. I do think there’s a reasonable chance the Olympics and the TdF will happen, with adjustments. But the staggered way this pandemic is unfolding makes that uncertain.

          One encouraging thing is that warmer countries are generally doing better than cooler weather countries in terms of infection rates, so let’s hope it’s an early and warm summer.

  • Francisco Wednesday, 18 March 2020, 11:43 am

    I will risk returning to the original topic. The sport has been arguing for years about the presumed benefits of smaller team sizes, a smaller peloton or other ways to hypothetically limit the ability of a single team to lock up a race. It is very difficult to test such hypotheses in a normal year without upsetting preexisting contractual or legal obligations. This Paris-Nice may then be seen as an unfortunate but still useful experiment. With teams dropping out, a couple of hegemons absent altogether, a higher than usual ratio of stars to gregari and a general dispostion of going for broke, what can we learn from this race?

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