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Paris-Nice Stage 6 Preview

A good day for a breakaway which makes it harder to pick a winner today.

Play it again Sam: a slow start, a brief flurry from 11 Belgians in an attack but it didn’t last long and the day’s racing was limited to the end of the stage and the sprint. Picking Bennett for the a pre-race preview has always involved slight caution as over the years he’s occasionally tended to hesitate in the final metres, like a footballer stumbling in front of an open goal or fumbling so close to the touchline, pick your sporting simile. Now he’s much more of a banker and part of this seems down to total confidence in his team. To the point that you wonder if other teams ought to base their tactics on what Michael Mørkøv is doing? But too late, that was the last of the sprint stages in Paris-Nice and Bennett’s taken two and if things hadn’t been so hectic in Amilly, he might well have taken that one too.

The Route: 200km east and across the hills of the Var and the Alpes-Martimes on roads familiar to Paris-Nice and the eponymous tour of these two départments. There are some more solid climbs today but mid-stage they’re hard for pure climbers to exploit.

The Finish: on some twisting roads which make chasing hard but it’s uphill for the last 2km at 4-5%, all on a main road with no surprises. It’s the same finish as used in 2011 (Rémi di Gregorio) and 2014 (T-J Slagter).

The Contenders: a good day for a breakaway, Jumbo-Visma can let a move go clear and sadly they’ve lost Tony Martin after he clipped a kerb yesterday and crashed out which means they’ve lost two riders to pull on the front all day.

Rémi Cavagna (Deceuninck-Quickstep) won’t like such a hilly course but it’s this or the Alps over the weekend and he’s improved technically so he can try to exploit the course. Rohan Dennis might have a go too as Ineos try to salvage something.

Dorian Godon (Ag2r Citroën) may not be your first pick either but the Frenchman is a climber trapped inside the body of a classics rider and surprisingly versatile on a hilly course and due a breakthrough win some day. Other breakaway picks are Patrick Bevin (Israel) who did a good TT and packs a good sprint uphill, ditto Magnus Cort (EF Education-Nippo) Philippe Gilbert (Lotto-Soudal) who is almost on home soil for the finish and Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) but these are suggestions, feel free to add more in the comments below. One popular pick could be Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal)

If no breakaway can stick then Michael Matthews (Bike Exchange) Max Schachmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) are safe picks for the uphill sprint.

Cavagna, Dennis, Matthews
de Gendt, Cort, Godon, Bevin, Gilbert, Lutsenko, Schachmann, Roglič

Weather: sunshine and 16°C, but windy with tailwind for much of the stage, 15km/h but it could gust to 50km/h

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. Tirreno-Adriatico is due to finish 10 minutes later and thanks to the wind Paris-Nice ought to make it first today.

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  • cp Friday, 12 March 2021, 6:26 am

    I sure hope the likes of Morkov and Martin are paid their due–as in paid their money twice, as you imply of Martin’s worth.

    The DQT train today was ridiculous in that last km. It was literally a train. No simile required.

    • Ecky Thump Friday, 12 March 2021, 10:07 am

      On the black market of Inner Ring Ville, the currencies of similes, humour, rhetoric and such like are eagerly exchanged 😃
      I’ve often thought that the rhetorical question “how long is a piece of string”? could well apply to the DQT.

    • morten reippuert Friday, 12 March 2021, 12:21 pm

      Assume they do, Mørkev got a 3y contract extension on a team that won’t give riders over 35y contract extensions longer than 1y (reason Gilbert left)

      • cp Friday, 12 March 2021, 6:40 pm

        Good on them. Money well spent. His name should be on about half of DQT’s victories.
        I didn’t mean to suggest that the similes and metaphors from INRNG are unwelcome in the least, btw, in case I gave that impression. Morkov deserves all sorts of superlatives and linguistic flourishes.

        Do sprinters do anything special for their lead-out guys? Like when a US football quarterback takes the entire offensive line out for steaks?

        • The Inner Ring Friday, 12 March 2021, 6:42 pm

          Gifting luxury watches is quite common. Mørkøv probably (hopefully?) has a few by now.

  • Larrick Friday, 12 March 2021, 6:28 am

    I would have said Godon and that 50/1 e/w might go quickly now 😉

    Trentin is the one I’d add and Latour as an outsider.

    • The Inner Ring Friday, 12 March 2021, 10:14 am

      Decent picks, I rate Godon but a win would still be a shock.

      • Larrick Friday, 12 March 2021, 10:27 am

        Yep. Hence the each way bet. Maybe I’m just hoping that like Cosnefroy kicked on after winning Paris – Camembert in 2019, Godon will do the same.

  • DJW Friday, 12 March 2021, 9:21 am

    I saw somewhere Bennett’s complaint that other teams were regularly trying to push him off his train. Surely, if a rider can squeeze onto a rivals train without undue force or risk, then he is entitled to do so. Or is this another unwritten peloton rule, or maybe a rule DQS would like to establish?
    In Cav’s glory days the HTC train was largely unmolested. Out of fear or respect?

    • Lukyluk Friday, 12 March 2021, 9:34 am

      I’ve read this as well, but I’m not sure he meant it as a complaint, that sounded more like a backhanded compliment to his team, a way to say that Senechal/Morkov were the best out there. And they may well be.

      There was a long, live helicopter shot of the sprint yesterday, and I didn’t see much in the way of dirty fighting.

      • Andrew Friday, 12 March 2021, 10:18 am

        He did have to push his way back into the train after someone else sneaked onto Morkov’s wheel. It was in the last kilometre I think, but early enough that it didn’t unduly inconvenience him or attract the attention of the commissaires.

      • MellowVelo Friday, 12 March 2021, 3:13 pm

        Bennett was definitely complaining about his train being ‘ interfered with’. He said it twice in his post race interview and he didn’t seem to be smiling under the mask.

    • The Inner Ring Friday, 12 March 2021, 10:23 am

      It’s hard to force someone off a wheel though, there’s a phsyical way of doing it but that’s likely to bring the video commissaires into things, or wait for a corner and drift a touch but at the risk of a crash. The sprinter sat on the back of their train can also defend this position.

    • Samuel Friday, 12 March 2021, 10:44 am

      Seems like mindgames and bravado to me, good luck to the man, great to see him winning consistently again

  • Richard S Friday, 12 March 2021, 10:12 am

    When you look at the top 4 on yesterdays Tirreno stage this years Paris-Nice has a bit of a B list feel to it.

    • The Inner Ring Friday, 12 March 2021, 10:18 am

      Easy day yesterday, you could watch the final 10km of Tirreno get all the action, then hop to Paris-Nice for the final 3km and not miss much either.

      • gabriele Friday, 12 March 2021, 11:35 am

        Yes, but at the Tirreno, you’d better watch the last 50km to see the fight for position on narrowing and winding climb to Casciano, Bonifazio’s descent (of course), and then immediately Poggio alla Croce with Kwiatkowski upping the already whipping pace which Lotto Soudal had imposed, in order to prepare Egan Bernal’s attack with some 35 km to go. He rapidly got a gap with Asgreen on a fast reducing peloton, which was desperately chasing on rolling roads, knowing that no descent would be available right after the GPM. Behind, Wellens, Higuita, Simmons et al. started to jump but the (narly) decisive move happened short of 30 to go, when the three groups were already merging (with Van Aert now pretty much isolated) and Sivakov went on a false flat section, followed by Almeida, Landa and Simon Yates, with the latter two displaying impressive accelerations to get to the front. The four went hard to build a fickle advantage of 20″ which nevertheless grew to some 40″ on the Monticiano climb (classified as a sprint). Nobody was helping Jumpo Visma, which could keep the bunch alive essentially thanks to Foss, and later to Rosen when he recovered enough to work on the front. The final result looked far from being decided.
        And that’s what you’d have lost tuning it for the last 10 km, when UAE decided to help with the chase once on the final fast climb, with Majka and especially Formolo denting heavily the advantage of the four. Yates blew and gave up, losing nearly one and half a minute on the line, while the rest didn’t surrender, especially Sivakov and Almeida, attacking each other with Landa tracking untile the Portuguese launched a devastating acceleration which nobody couldn’t match, despite Landa trying hard enough. Almeida went alone. With the finish line fast approaching and no clue about who could grasp the win, Geraint Thomas lifted hugely the main group’s pace, hence Alaphilippe decided that his teammate’s victory was way too much at stake and got the lead with a sudden surge. His celebration was once again overhasty, screaming actual or brandished self-assurance, as MvdP amended for a bad positioning with a zippy rush to the line which nearly granted us a Liège repeat. Instead, it was Fleche Brabançonne bis, and a second break to the rainbow curse.
        A nice finale, indeed, but it’s a pity if you lost over an hour of star-studded highly committed action (and team strategies).

        • The Inner Ring Friday, 12 March 2021, 11:39 am

          Was more that someone with limited time didn’t have to watch for hours to see how both results were achieved. I enjoyed it all… but it didn’t affect the racing too much and felt like it was always going to come down to a bunch finish. Lots to learn from though, Almeida especially impressive for the way he rode the break off his wheel and almost held on for the win, the intensity of his effort in the finish had me thinking he should try on the Cipressa in 10 days’ time.

          • gabriele Friday, 12 March 2021, 1:40 pm

            Hindsight is 20/20, yet I for one was *very far* from sure that it was going to be a bunch sprint, given that Almeida came sooo close, and even that required huged turns in front by Majka and Formolo, whom Pogacar had no very clear reason to squeeze like that (his fourth place, albeit impressive, is hugely distant from the chance of winning, if you consider who crossed the line ahead of him). Pretty much nobody else had the necessary firepower to cut that difference after the Monticiano climb, barring Quickstep and Ineos which both had a man on the attack. Astana probably might do, and Aranburu packs a decent sprint, yet he was 5th, as in an even longer shot to victory than Pogacar’s. Equally fundamental was Thomas’ rush, whose exact meaning I also failed to fully grasp (self-testing?).
            Hence, even with a reduced time gap of half a minute or so, it wasn’t that obvious that the break was going to be caught, especially if you took into account that they hadn’t been out there since earlier on in the stage as most breaks which face the fury of the bunch.
            Anyway, I think that the very best part of the stage to watch was precisely that moment between -38km and -28km when the 4 men break ended up establishing itself after a flurry of continuous attacks which pushed most of the riders against the ropes.
            Pure fireworks! (with also Soler, Van Avermaet and Bilbao among those who tried to get away and whom I didn’t even name above).
            And, of course, all the strategic conundrum, for example Jumbo needing to chase but at the same time trying to set a pace which could allow more gregari back to support.

        • J Evans Friday, 12 March 2021, 12:12 pm

          Exactly this, Gabriele. It was a fascinating race (even for those of us who aren’t huge fans of week-long stage races).

          It was only marred for UK viewers by Carlton Kirby’s commentary.

          Carlton Kirby: ‘Yates is the heart and mind of this breakaway group’. Baseless. But he’s British and that’s all that matters to Kirby.

          Carlton Kirby while Almeida attacked: ‘João Almeida, who won’t worry anyone in the General Classification’.

          Simon Yates drops back to the Peloton in the last 2km – Carlton Kirby: ‘Yates has decided this isn’t worth the candle’ – i.e. he’s saving his energy. Yates was obviously cooked – why else would anyone work for so long and then give up in the final 2km? (And then he dropped out of the peloton and lost 1.22.)

          PLEASE SIGN MY Get rid of Carlton Kirby PETITION IF YOU’RE SICK OF THE MAN.

          (Apologies for highjacking your comment, but Kirby’s ignorance is appalling – and apologies to those who don’t have to suffer him and are wondering who the hell I’m talking about.)

          • Tovarishch Friday, 12 March 2021, 1:46 pm

            I was wondering about a Kirby drinking game but realised taking just the smallest sip every time he said “for goodness’ sake” would get you absolutely stoned before the end of the stage.

          • Steven Down Friday, 12 March 2021, 1:58 pm

            Reason alone for new to favour PARIS KNEES, though missing a certain lilt…

  • Kjetil Haaland Friday, 12 March 2021, 10:19 am

    “a climber trapped inside the body of a classics rider”
    Another gem.

  • doz Friday, 12 March 2021, 1:13 pm

    Agree with J Evans for once get rid of that clown – I turn the sound down so I can not hear him.
    As always I R many thanks for yr insight

  • jc Friday, 12 March 2021, 1:41 pm

    Seems odd that the race route is being changed because the situation in Nice is improving (or have I missed something?)

    PS Some of us quite like Carlton Kirby, he does spout rubbish sometimes but anyone who has to talk for hours on end with nothing much happening would too.

    • David Saturday, 13 March 2021, 9:52 am

      He doesn’t have to talk for hours on end. He chooses to talk for hours on end. A good commentator would pause and ‘let it breathe’ every so often.

  • D. evans Saturday, 13 March 2021, 7:42 pm

    David Millar seems to have fallen into the same trap, seems unable to stop talking, and consequently sometimes talks nonsense. Pity, I used to enjoy his insights.