Paris-Nice Stage 2 Preview

A sprint finish awaits but more of the same, an uphill finish like yesterday to make things harder for the sprinters.

Stage 1 Review: a long solo breakaway for Fabien Doubey who collected the mountains jersey as a reward and he could hop to keep it all the way to Nice if he can get in the right breakaways; he finished 11th on GC here last year. It was a sprint win for Sam Bennett in Saint-Cyr, the town that gave its name to France’s military academy. War and martial metaphors are generally best avoided in sports commentary but in a place where battle plans have been studied for centuries, tacticians of any kind will have noted Groupama-FDJ’s strong sprint train yesterday: they’re the strongest but not the craftiest. Sam Bennett was dropped into place in the finish by his leadout and surged clear, sprinting with his hands on the brakehoods. Arnaud Démare finished second and was lucky to avoid being taken down when his leadout Miles Scotson crashed. Scotson wasn’t the unfortunate Aussie of the day though, sadly it was Richie Porte who had already crashed and abandoned the race before the stage had finished.

The Route: 188km and the most northerly start of a Paris-Nice stage… since 1982 when the race began in Belgium. It’s flat today with few secrets to decrypt, there’s only one categorised climb meaning anyone who goes in the break can’t hope to take the climber’s jersey from Doubey so there’s not much of an incentive to go up the road, apart from riders looking for a pre-classics workout. Riders who did Paris-Nice in 2017 will get déjà vu as today’s route shares plenty of the roads used on Stage 2 then and goes to Amilly, just as it did then. There are two big differences though: last time the weather was foul with shivering riders struggling to brake and change gear in the finish and it’ll be dry today and probably too calm for crosswinds; also the finish is different when it was a long flat finishing straight then but today is more technical with an uphill run through town.

The Finish: a right turn and then a sharp left that’s almost a U-turn just before the 3km to go point and then another turn back with 1.6km to go and then it’s uphill into Amilly including a brief cobbled section – regular urban pavé – to the flamme rouge and then the slope levels off and its out of town to another sharp bend with 400m go and onto the finishing straight. Overall it’s not a complex finale but it will reward sprint trains who’ve studied the technicalities.

The Contenders: play it again Sam Bennett (Decuninck-Quickstep)? The hilly finish suits him, his train works and so on. But no sprint is ever the same and so Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ) will hope to win today and the uphill approach suits both riders. The final kilometre is flatter and should open up more opportunities for Pascal Ackermann (Bora Hansgrohe) and Alexander Kristoff (UAE Emirates). Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) should be close too but as ever there are riders with more speed than him in the final metres, if it was cold and windy he’d gain an extra chainring below.

Sam Bennett
Arnaud Démare
Philipsen, Ackermann, Kristoff, Pedersen

Weather: dry and chilly, a top temperature of 9°C and a light NE wind, probably not enough to split things up but if the forecast is wrong by a small amount it’s game on. Watch the wind turbines on the course for clues.

TV: the finish is forecast for 4.00pm CET. It’s on France 3 for locals and VPN users, or Eurosport/GCN for most of the rest of the world and NBC Sports Gold in the US.

23 thoughts on “Paris-Nice Stage 2 Preview”

  1. Very happy for Bennett – it’s quite strange watching his rise and what looks now to be a vague level of performance above his rivals, having expect first Gavira to dominate (what happened?), then Groen, then Ewan… I never expect Bennett to be the one to come through and be the most consistent, but it’s great and enjoying his new found confidence.

    • Interested to see today’s stage, Bennett’s only weakness is inconsistency but if he can do it again today then he’s improved and his career is a story of improvement every year. I’d still pick Ewan for a Tour de France “sprint royale” with all the best in the peloton present but if Bennett can win all three sprints this week he’ll become the certain second.

    • For mine, head to head Ewan is faster which you could see on the UAE stage he won, but the DQ lead out is clearly the best in the biz atm and that’s making the difference. FDJ are super strong, but formulaic and don’t adapt so well and Lotto were disorganized in UAE. I noticed that even on the stage that Ewan won at UAE, the team celebrations were halfhearted and probably cause he ditched them and surfed wheels. I reckon he’ll just be focused on getting Bennett’s wheel and when he does he’ll be a good chance of beating him this year.
      (Disclaimer: I’m Australian 😉

    • Think Gaviria got covid in 2020. Twice.

      Apart from that, until now he looks like another good example of the “Quickstep effect”.
      Of course he’s good, but so many sprinters in QS get to be arguably the best of the bunch or very very close – only to step a little down and back once they leave. Just check vintage 18-19 Viviani for references.
      Both in Viviani and Bennett’s cases (and unlike Gaviria’s), the QS experience happens when they’re both well into their careers, that is, their own potential had become more or less clear in previous seasons.

      In more general terms, I personally believe that after Cav’s decline (the last 7-8 years or so) it has not been being a great era in terms of pure sprinting talent, which means that the access to the top is a little more open and at the same time subject to more variables.

      In fact, the best talents haven’t actually been *pure* sprinters (think Sagan and Kristoff but you might include Matthews, Degenkolb, Trentin, or Boasson Hagen) , which allowed both a supplement of longevity to older and equally talented but more specialised athletes, despite being well past their peak (Cav, Greipel), *and* granted some space to some very fast wheel who was perhaps lacking in terms of huge talent, but who could nevertheless rack up victories in easier races just out of pure muscle, sprint train or daily form.
      Sanremo’s results also support this idea, in a sense.

  2. Has there ever been a rider that has has so much “bad luck” as Richie Porte? Hopefully he will be back racing before too long.

    I wonder what is go to happen when the “new” UCI regs come into force in a couple of weeks time. In every race I have seen riders are still throwing all sorts to the side of the road -bidons, musette bags, wrappers etc. Perhaps in a few cases they are in designated collection zones but generally that is not the case. I suspect until a good few riders are docked time or points the trail of litter will continue. It does not help the image of road cycling at all.

    • There are supposed to be regular waste zones as a new feature of the races but as you suggest, changing habits and minds is going to be difficult. It looks bad when riders are just throwing waste into the countryside but as pros if they’re told to stop because it affects work (the fines are big, there are points and time penalties at stake) the hope is everyone learns fast. It’s bound to be inconsistent with the TV commissaire able to spot one rider and not another but there’s a simple way not to get caught: put the empty wrapper back in your pocket or under your jersey etc.

      • Some 10 years or so ago we were asked not to dump rubbish during our club races. I thought what do you expect us to do Put it back in our pockets. Now I think How prescient was that!

    • Just tuned in to watch the peloton ambling along through the fields of central France, the first thing I noticed was the continual number of bidons being thrown into the adjacent fields. It really is no surprise that some places are saying “no thank you” to hosting bike races. Perhaps a bigger issue than “puppy paws”!

      • Worst sight was Roglic taking empty wrappers out of his pocket and just dropping them on the road. He’s gone down in my estimation for that.

  3. Continuing the subject of new regs, are we going to see dropper seat posts as standard from now on? Will this affect the placement of transponders and cameras that now get mounted in that space?

  4. Good point. I’ve wondered for a while why they don’t use dropper posts for a super tuck, given you hear about mechanics using Ultegra cassettes or even weights in the downtube to hit 6.8kgs, it seemed a viable option. (Qualifier: I’ve never used a dropper post so don’t know if there are disadvantages I don’t understand.)

    • Another point of failure perhaps?
      Seal failing and dropping/raising the post 10K into the Stelvio might ruin a stage for someone…

  5. Quick Step are amazing… 2 wins and a 2nd yday, following Ala’s podium at Strade Bianchi… and to think Bora didn’t really want Bennett…

  6. I only was able to see the last km in reply, but it’s not clear: what happened to Bennett today? Did the crash put DQT out of position? Or is it the consistency issue that INRNG speaks of?

    • He said in his post race interview that he misjudged the distance, he thought there was further to the line, so he left it too late.

      Pretty poor race reconnaissance, if true.

      • Upon rewatching the end, though, his explanation makes sense. He was nowhere to be seen after the crash and he looked like he was almost soft pedaling (at 50k/h…)

        I sometimes wonder how they remember the finish after riding for so long all day. I can barely remember to have dessert after dinner.

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