Paris-Nice Stage 4 Preview

A mouthwatering stage if only for oenophiles, today’s route is also promising on the sporting side with two hard climbs in the finish that are climbed twice.

Gien genie: a stage win for Stefan Bissegger, 83 hundredths of a second ahead of Rémi Cavagna. Cavagna was arguably the faster, just, but it was Bissegger who was the more fortunate because coming into the finish and a set of turns Cavagna found Kristian Sbaragli, who’d set off earlier, in his way, and had to brake before overtaking him on a turn. Such is luck and both riders should win more time trials this season. Among the GC contenders Primož Roglič was first, three seconds ahead of Brandon McNulty and there’s a good chance the Slovenian will take the yellow jersey today.

The Route: 188km south on a route that reads more like a wine menu than a bike race as it passes the Macon area and into the Beaujolais. There’s some early climbing to tempt a breakaway as the mountains competition is back on and then the day’s stage is dominated by the finishing circuit, with two laps around the Beaujolais vineyards with two climbs, two very different climbs. Mont Brouilly is the first and it’s been used in Paris-Nice before, it’s very steep in places and irregular, riders scale a wall only to reach a flat section where it’s hard to accelerate and then it’s into the next wall again. Most profiles can’t do it justice. Then it’s off the climb via a short descent and onto bigger roads and onto the next climb.

The second climb is an assemblage of local roads climbing via the the Col de Durbize before the finish line just below the Col du Fut d’Avenas and if it’s a longer, steadier climb it switches between roads on the way up several times rather than sticking to the main road up the hill. So it’s not a steady 6% but a variety of sections, a ramp up through the vineyard then a flatter traverse across, then another ramp up a narrow back road and it keeps on like this.

The Finish: at the top of the second climb, the final kilometre is on a main road and with two hairpin bends, they are wide and curve gently and it rises to the line at 6%.

The Contenders: an uphill sprint in a hilly finish? Meet Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) and following yesterday’s time trial we know the form is good too. He’ll want the win and the 10 second time bonus that goes with it too. With still small gaps on GC – most of the field are within three minutes – there’s a good chance Jumbo-Visma deploy Tony Martin to contain any breakaway today and can use their climbers to try to control on the final circuit.

David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) is one of the few riders to have beaten Roglič in an uphill sprint (Tour de Romandie in 2019) and while he looks like a waif climber, he has some punch in his legs.

Max Schachmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) needs things to go his way, if the climbs are taken at warp speed he’s in trouble but if he can hang in there then he’s got a good sprint. Dylan Teuns (Bahrain) can do plenty but uphill finishes are his speciality.

Neilson Powless (EF Education First) won’t be working to defend Bissegger’s lead as the Swiss rider will struggle and has a punchy finish; fellow American Brandon McNulty (UAE Emirates) could be close. Sacha Vlasov (Astana) can feature too and Alexey Lutsenko should too his form isn’t the same as it was this time last year.

Primož Roglič
David Gaudu, Dylan Teuns
Schachmann, Powless, Lutsenko

Weather: a cloudy day and a top temperature of 11°C, no wind.

TV: coverage begins around 2.40pm CET, about the time they scale Mont Brouilly for the first time and 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. Tirreno-Adriatico starts today and today’s stage is a sprint finish and should finish around 4.00-4.20pm CET.

26 thoughts on “Paris-Nice Stage 4 Preview”

  1. Interesting that this year almost everyone who is anyone chose Tirreno-Adriatico rather than Parigi-Nizza. Grazie Dio for Eurosport so I can watch T-A live and replay P-N later the same day.
    Stay safe everyone, as they say here in Italy – ANDRA TUTTO BENE! (Everything’s going to be OK)

  2. This year’s P-N – a race I normally enjoy – seems to be struggling to come out from the dramatic Strade Bianche shadow. Two sprints and a TT so far. Hoping for a more dramatic and surprising stage today, though with Roglic’s advance on his GC rivals and team support, it’s hard to see anything else than another one week stage race chalked up for him.

    • As Larry says, it’s probably about a certain lack in field depth.
      Pa-Ni has been generally struggling for at least a couple of decade now to match Tirreno’s startlist, although with some notable exceptions here and there like, say, 2010 or 2015 (and perhaps it had been more of a fair match in the last couple of seasons – before this year, obviously).
      Such a situation is also mirrored by the actual level of the final GC podia, especially in the last decade, when Tirreno perfected its GT-like turn, which made the respective results more comparable.
      Of course, ASO’s media pushing for one of their home races and inrng’s Francophilia (as seen in the a-little-dubious – or let’s say that better: rightly very personal – 2020 highlights) might save the day for Pa-Ni (a lovely race from any POV, don’t get me wrong), but the startlist, the level of competition on the road and the racing, too, tend to speak quite loudly in favour of Tirreno-Adriatico.
      However, that doesn’t always or necessarily mean that Pa-Ni becomes less enjoyable, on the contrary.
      When it comes down with little time differences in GC to the last rolling stage, and sometimes precisely thanks to a certain lack of top competition, it can prove extremely emotional. A bit like what happened at last year’s Giro.

      It must also be said that a good deal of Pa-Ni’s fun has been heavily depending on a couple of “Spanish factors”: Contador and/or Movistar shaking things up. It was Alberto’s thing since he had spectacularly gone down bonking on the road to Fayence in 2009, then trying to get the sour taste away in the final Nice stage, and finally getting his revenge only the following year. Then he moved away to Tirreno where actual competition and seriously aggressive racing was. He came back to France just in time to add a pinch of fun in a couple of otherwise dull editions, 2016 and 2017 (especially the former), then it was up to Movistar with Soler first and then Quintana.
      Unlike inrng, I found last year’s edition pretty much uninspiring, easily bested by what van der Poel, Woods or Ganna showed at the Tirreno, even before taking the GC fight into account.
      However, despite time limitations, I’m always more than happy to watch both! And, in particular, I’m looking forward to today’s stage in France rather than in Tuscany (what’s really mouthwatering is next Sunday’s menú!).

      • Paris-Nice needs one thing that out of everyone’s control: bad weather, or at least wind as this turns the dull processional sprint stages into hours of action. But the wind hasn’t blow this year. Tirreno’s great too but the calendar makes a problem, the weekend gets the big audiences so they often go for the big mountain stage and a lively “wall” stage but this means the Monday and Tuesday stage can be a bit of a come down. But these are small differences, it’s great to be able to enjoy both once again and we’re now on the path to all the spring classics.

        • The final (excessively traditional, in this case) ITT obviously doesn’t work as well as it can do in a GT. In that sense, Cascarinho below is right. Other features which make sense in a GT (or as a Sanremo preparation, which is whay they were included in the first place) aren’t as rewarding in a week-long stage race, namely some too easy a sprint finish.

          That said, I think that the harsh judgement about the penultimate hilly stage isn’t spot-on at all. It’s been a great stage in recent years, even if its impact on GC is often limited, of course, albeit with a couple of huge exceptions in that sense, too, like unforgettable 2013. Then it was a pan flat Cav sprint over Petacchi in 2014, but in 2015 it wasn’t straightforward at all, as Tinkoff split the bunch early to successfully get rid of the fastest wheels and allow Sagan’s first win that year. 2016 was once again decisive for GC (because of the big uphill finish undue cancellation, which all the same led to a vintage classics-like edition, as in the late 90s and the first part of the 2000s) and a great duel between Sagan and GVA, with Kwiatkowski, Stybar and Valverde in the mix. 2017 and 2019 were very lively, while 2018 quite dull, but 2020 was great, although in this case it was sort of a “walls” stage due to the change in total stage number, back to the also quite rewarding pre-2013 setting.

          • For me, T-A usually has the better line-up of riders, but the race fails to inspire me – it’s an “un-grand tour”, whereas P-N can be very exciting, depending on the weather. But, then, I have little interest in week-long stage races anyway: it’s one day, or three weeks for me.

        • If you want to do Strade Bianche its near impossible to make it back to Paris-Nice. TA is the perfect choice if you also have ambitions in both Strade and San Remo.

          The hard-men aiming for E3 & Gent-Wevelgem (as well as San Remo, Flanders and Roubaix) usually prefer Paris-Nice due to the harsher weather conditions.

          …Gilbert, Petersen etc. picked PN.
          MDVP, VVA, Alaphilippe, Fuglsang etc. picked TA due to Strade Bianche in order to stay in Italy.
          If you aim for the Giro its more convenient to do TA as well.

      • Don’t forget echelons… That is the big plus of P-N, the rough weather and classics conditions and riders. 2017, dull edition ! And the first stage ! Even the second one, with Colbrelli’s victory ! This year weather is too good. The notion of enjoyable racing can thus depend very much of the spectator : Tirreno is one of the races I watch the less in the season, I often find it rather boring, too grandtouresque. But I think this is the sign of a subterranean fight in the large love/hate relation between France and Italy in sports and in cycling in particular… We have to compare our races again and again, our champions, our teams, our organisers, our countryside, and so on. The uselessness of the Giro/Tour comparison is a good example of this (I both like it, they’re very different), yet it’s done every year. It’s a fight between esprits de clocher, a matter where Italy has nothing to envy to France… But well, I guess it’s like the England/France rivalry in rugby : it’s also part of the game…

      • +1 I think perhaps I should just let you do my comments for me as we are so often in agreement…and mine seem to create more polemics than yours.
        To Cascarinho: I wasn’t trying to stir up Italy vs France polemics though I’ll admit there is certainly some bias in favor of one in most Anglo-Saxons vs a love-hate relationship with the other. I often cite EM Forster’s “Where Angels Fear to Tread” as an example and leave it at that rather than engaging in discussions about it.

    • Unless road cycling dispenses with sprint stages and TTs, I’m not sure what the problem is (similarly with the comparative quality of field versus T-A, as suggested by Larry). As TTs go, yesterday looked to be a sporting course that had a genuinely surprising number of changes to the leader and some of the best TTers in the World (although not Ganna!). Similarly, while I’d take the final 50+ km of Strade Bianche any day, I’ve enjoyed the final 10 km or so of sprint stages that have lead-outs for Bennett, Demare, Pederson, Bol, Ackermann, Bauhaus, Kristoff and so on, while the wind just needed to blow a tiny bit more for some sustained echelons a few days ago. Would be nice to see a few more big GC contenders though.

    • My impression is that P-N gives more variable racing the T-A. No doubt that is more so when the wind blows. T-A often ends up as being all about the single “mountain” stage, whoever wins that wins the race. Whereas with P-N the final result is often in doubt until the last few metres of the race.

      A very subjective thing but I get the feeling that P-N is seen as a “bigger” sporting event in France than T-A is in Italy, more spectators (even in current circumstances) at the road side.

      • Hard to agree much with your first paragraph, given that the actual difference in that sense between the two races is quite slight, albeit currently in favour of Pa-Ni (about 4 vs. 5 victories for whomever won the queen stage, since 2010 included). And please note that I’ve *not* included for Pa-Ni either Thomas victory or Bernal’s, even though it could be argued that they both offered the most convincing uphill display in the editions they ended up winning.
        OTOH, a long range move in the “wall” stage was decisive for the final victory at Tirreno even for Contador, although he also won on the longest climb and wasn’t hence included above.
        That is, the global picture looks quite balanced, indeed, as it could be easily foreseen given the importance of Tirreno’s huge hilly classics-like stages.

        That said, I can absolutely confirm your second point. It’s as you say, perhaps because Pa-Ni has so much of a more serious tradition behind it: Tirreno surged strongly in the last couple of decades, but it’s more than 30 years younger and was long a different sort of race, devoted to the racing style of the Classics rather than focussed on GT racers. And, sadly enough, general public – I mean, people who aren’t specifically cycling fans – tends (or tended) to know and appreciate more the races where GT champions lined up (with lots of huge exceptions, of course).

        • 2013 T-A, Didn’t Froome blew everyone out of water on MTF, then promptly lose it on the hellish undulating circuit (part of it so steep certain Jans had to walk up) two days later? I wouldn’t say TA are always dominated by MTFs.

    • If you want mountainous stages to be more than just a final sprint at the end, one thing that would help would be to get rid of the 10 second time bonus for winning the stage. That way, riders would have to attack further from the finish in order to gain a meaningful amount of time.

  3. I wonder what Ineos will do. Dylan van Baarle had a much better time trial than Geoghan Hart and stands 9th at 14 secs. Laurens de Plus is also slightly better classified than Geoghan Hart. If Van Baarle is in good form like he seems to be, he fits in the Lutsenko/Teuns category

    • He is not even close to the ‘regular’ early spring version ofLutsenko…. Looks like both Lutsenko & Fuglsang is aiming for a later spring peak this season
      (Fuglsang appeared to be close to his usual form at Strade-Bianchi but was disabled by his puncture when they started Monte Sante Marie and chased more or less alone for the next 3ok, just like Lutsenko was close to normal on the 2nd mountain stage in UAE)

  4. For a sport with aesthetics at its very heart and soul, what a sight Bissegger was yesterday.
    The world’s most beautiful supermodel surely couldn’t make that Poc aero helmet look appealing in any way, but his riding style seemed to defy all known laws of aerodynamics 😃
    The Flying Pork Pie?

  5. Roglic, of course the obvious choice, and he delivered. Many years ago I stood on the Col D Eze and watched the peleton pass the lavender and perfume fields.

    But what I want to observe is what I think is the Roglic conundrum, it cost him last years Tour and seems to be repeated. He kicks hard and takes a gap, no one can follow, slowly the gap grows and the diesel engine riders wind it up, they come back a little, for sure Roglic takes the stage but he seems unable to drive it home. Which of course will let other riders in.

    His lead today went from 18 down to 10. It is almost that he has the killer kick but not the ability to drop into a TT mode once the gap is there.

    We will see. Good ride though.

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