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Paris-Nice Preview

Paris-Nice starts this Sunday and there will be daily stage previews here. Ahead of the race here’s a look at the GC contenders.

The Route
There’s a fuller look from January but the summary There are four set-piece stages for the overall classification. First, a 13km time trial on Wednesday; then mid-mountain stage on Thursday; and the final weekend’s stages in the mountains behind Nice. As ever if the wind gets up then every day is a GC stage but as of Friday morning, the forecast for next week looks mostly sunny and calm. Even without wind the other days are no parade either, Stage 2 is the only “easy” sprint stage, the others all have some climbing in the finish. There are time bonuses of 10-6-4 seconds at the finish line.

The Contenders

Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) returns and you’ll remember he lost the race on the last stage last year, he’d taken three stages already and led the race but after after two crashes and a forlorn chase, his shorts shredded it was all over. Paris-Nice suits him, the time trial stage helps as does any uphill finish. His pedigree in stage races precedes him – it’s news when he loses, especially in a week long stage race – and the only rider who can match his searing jump at the end of a mountain stage for time bonuses… is Tadej Pogačar who isn’t here. He has a very strong team in support too. So far, so invincible only all that’s water under the bridge. The big concern is he wasn’t sparkling in last weekend’s Drôme-Ardèche weekend so there are real questions about his form: was he just tired after training and altitude, or is he not yet ready? Wout van Aert could take the lead on the opening day or after the time trial and try to defend but he may not want to push himself that hard either. Instead for a trial run for the Tour’s points competition beckons, see how he combines working for Roglič with his stage hunting.

BikeExchange-Jayco are pinning their hopes on Simon Yates and if they’re bringing Dylan Groenewegen, the team’s roster here has got decent support riders for the GC. They need a result and Yates looks in good form. He’s even won the time trial stage in Paris-Nice before too but to win is require another strong TT and then to win a stage, that’s a big ask.

Adam Yates (Ineos) was a close second to Tadej Pogačar in the recent UAE Tour which alone makes him a prime candidate although the time trial’s is about limiting the damage. Daniel Martinez makes for a solid second option as well, perhaps stronger in the time trials but less incisive on the climbs but it’s relative. Ineos have the riders to help Yates and Martinez keep out of trouble on the opening stages.

Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-Hansgrohe) has been in great form so far this season and now finds a course to suit, he’ll like the time trial and climbs well. The Russian’s posted a statement on social media saying he just wants peace and we ought to take this in good faith but still risks having a microphone shoved in his face every day to ask what this means. Max Schachmann (pictured in yellow) is back for more and this is his first race of the season after Covid delayed his start by weeks, can he win the race for a third time? Each time he’s won in extremis, holding by his fingernails in 2020 and in 2021 he’d settled for second before Roglič got wrecked, the Turini ought to be too high, too long given the opposition here and missed training because of infection and rest.

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João Almeida is a rising GC talent and so far his challenge has been long climbs in the high mountains but his performance in the last Giro showed he’s narrowed the gap and then it was the cold that got to him instead, could that be his problem? As good as he is, how can he win here, to get the better of Roglič, Yates² and Vlasov? He’s very solid in the time trial and if he gets yellow will he hard to dislodge. One other option for UAE is in-form Brandon McNulty (pictured) who is an equal candidate for the win here, he’s climbing well and excellent in the time trials, the pair have a chance to take on their rivals, right up to and including the final stage.

Jack Haig (Bahrain) arguably made a name for himself as a stage racer here, his fourth place in 2019 showed what he could do. But how to get ahead of all the others named above, this is the problem for many outside contenders and the course doesn’t provide many opportunities, next Saturday’s summit finish looms and there won’t be much chance to poach time before or after, he’s arguably better at grand tours. Wout Poels, L-L Sanchez and Gino Mäder all give the team more options and if they can trade attacks, the chance to crack the race open.

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Nairo Quintana (Arkéa-Samsic) has enjoyed a great start to the season and the big climb of the Col de Turini suits him but this time he’s facing a deeper field of World Tour rivals and the time trial won’t help either.

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David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) is in fine form but enough to win a World Tour stage race? Surely not, he’s put on several kilos after turning pro to beef up so he doesn’t get blown around in the crosswinds and his time trialling’s improved but he’ll still lose ground in Montluçon next week. So a stage win and a top-5 placing would mark a triumphant week, all while he shows more leadership.

Ben O’Connor leads Ag2r Citroën and is a very solid rider but will be marked more closely than last year’s Tour. Like Gaudu a solid GC would be a result already, a platform to build on but he’ll also aim for a stage.

Chez Cofidis there’s Guillaume Martin and Ion Izaguirre who ideally should be synthesised into one prototype, the climbing ability of Martin and the descending and time trialling of Izaguirre. Absent such science fiction we’ll see how they combine forces with Martin

Jay Vine (Alpecin-Fenix) is a great climber and he’s turning out some good time trials too, but a top-10 overall would be a first in a World Tour level stage race. Matteo Jorgensen (Movistar), David de la Cruz (Astana) and Neilson Powless (EF) are other candidates for a top-10 but it’s hard to see how they beat the rest above for the win.

Adam Yates, Primož Roglič
João Almeida, Simon Yates
Aleksandr Vlasov, Dani Martinez
Brandon McNulty
Schachmann, Haig, Quintana, O’Connor, Gaudu, WvA

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • DJW Friday, 4 March 2022, 11:44 am

    I’m surprised that Jumbo-Visma didn’t want to exploit Van Aert’s great form and off-road skills in Strade Bianche, one of the most prestigious and exciting races of the season, and surely Roglic could have had adequate support from Jumbo in P-N without Van Aert.

    Q: Would it have been unthinkable for Van Aert to have done both races?

    • The Inner Ring Friday, 4 March 2022, 12:12 pm

      Conceivably he could but having that kind of race in the legs alone would make things hard, then you add on the travel to Paris in time and it’s more difficult. It seems Jumbo-Visma are really in Tour de France mode for this week and want to have Roglič and WvA trying to win yellow and green each. They’ll hope Benoot can hold his own on the Strade Bianche.

    • Davesta Friday, 4 March 2022, 10:41 pm

      Wout and his coach have reportedly skipped Strade Bianche purposely, in order not to peak too soon and give him the best chance in the monuments. He’s already won SB, so is now apparently focussing on Flanders & Roubaix…

  • BC Friday, 4 March 2022, 2:40 pm

    Thanks for all the updates and news. With most ‘cycling’ websites going behind a paywall – and losing huge numbers of ‘clicks’, it is wonderful to still to be able to visit INRNG for the important and stimulating stuff. Thank you.

    • Ecky Thump Friday, 4 March 2022, 6:19 pm

      Agreed, though not on the ‘important stuff’ point; that’s clearly elsewhere.
      The war in Ukraine is casting a huge shadow on my enjoyment of sport at the moment, I just can’t get motivated to watch, it feels almost wrong to do so?

      • gabriele Friday, 4 March 2022, 7:16 pm

        Surely living an European privileged life (even not enjoying the full set of possible privileges) should have felt wrong for the last handful of decades – or centuries. Which of course might open a slightly OT philosophical debate.

        Although we’re sometimes being sold this war as the definitive good vs. evil ethical conflict, I haven’t been feeling much better through Siria, Libia, Yemen, Mali, Palestine, West Sahara, to name just some current onhoing affairs, and there have been many more (Afghanistan, Irak, Yugoslavia, Armenia I and II… an infinite list of horrors) between Indurain and Pogacar.

        I cared, tried to act on my very small scale – and, by the way, didn’t ever stop to watch cycling or ride my bike.

        No need to say that everybody is absolutely entitled to react as it feels opportune on a personal level.

        Yet, I perceive as a no lesser concern the way Western countries are acting as if *this* is the *total* conflict, as in “totalitarian”, that is, affecting every sphere of life (“should we all stop enjoying life worldwide in order to show some respect?”) or involving every person just out of mere belonging (or even refusal to express appropriate belonging: this is being reduced to pure Carl Schmitt “enemy-friend” dicotomy); hence, allowing just everything as an appropriate retaliation on whomever.

        Disclaimer: I’m radically against war and whomever starts one. Though, I also feel that close to no other international actor is actually promoting any strategy of sort towards peace, be it in the shorter or longer term. …Quite the contrary?
        This ain’t new either. Does anybody believe that WWI ended up in a great setting?

        • Ecky Thump Friday, 4 March 2022, 9:42 pm

          Cycling’s history has often been wrapped around war and conflict, and here we go again.
          We never seem to learn.

          • TDK Saturday, 5 March 2022, 2:16 am

            Het Volk-erm-Nieuwsblad(!) was just last week. Also, I noticed that Tour of Rwanda winner Natnael Tetfatsion was on DH-Androni, who ride Bottechias (OK, so it was never proven that Fascists killed Bottechia, but he was outspoken against the Fascists to the point of death threats against him). And of course there was the parochial, ultraconservative Bartali sneaking Jews out from under the noses of the Fascists and Nazis while sophisticated man-of-the-world Coppi signed up to fight the British (and ended up as a POW — the Italian army didn’t exactly shine in that war)

        • J Evans Friday, 11 March 2022, 1:45 pm

          Well said, Gabriele.

        • CA Friday, 11 March 2022, 3:23 pm

          Gabriele – really well put.

    • The Inner Ring Friday, 4 March 2022, 9:23 pm

      Some of the paywalls are low or thin. Anyway, here’s free, no pop-ups, no cookie selections, no affiliate marketing clickthrus masquerading as kit reviews etc… but above all also just a small blog with infrequent content rather than a proper news service. Next week will be busier.

      Each to their own with the invasion of Ukraine, there’s a lot to process and if you want to help, different ways to do it. I’ve also found Paris-Nice a welcome temporary distraction, been off to recon some stages and a ride on new roads is always good… but you reach a roundabout decorated with bikes for the race and of course they are painted yellow and blue.

      • Wakemalcolm Saturday, 5 March 2022, 1:46 pm

        I’m surprised how thin some of these pay walls are: without naming names, there’s one that contains a lot of cycling news that can be circumvented just through in private browsing.
        Thanks INRNG for not hiding your content. I’d happily buy more merch.

      • CA Friday, 11 March 2022, 3:28 pm

        Inrng – exactly, right now, sport is one of the only distractions we have to help push forward. Otherwise much of the news makes it very hard to press forward.

        But, the other side of this is cycling can push some of these issues to the front by showing support for Ukraine (the yellow-blue bikes) or the female TT riders from last year’s Olympics (Afghanistan’s Masomah Ali Zada). Pushes you to believe there is hope and that change/justice is possible.

        • Ecky Thump Friday, 11 March 2022, 5:25 pm

          Igor Makarov?

  • cd Friday, 4 March 2022, 6:38 pm

    Surprised McNulty doesn’t rate equal to Almeida given his form. Has the team indicated a preference for Joao here as leader?

    • TDK Friday, 4 March 2022, 9:00 pm

      Read somewhere Almeida and McNulty would be co-leaders. Personally I think the profile is a little better for McNulty, but both should be competitive.
      Have to agree that if Roglic is in decent form it’s his to lose (knock on wood!). I wouldn’t read too much into the Faun-Ardeche as both he and Ala had teammates in the pursuit and when it was clear that McNulty was gone for good it was too late to bring them back. And Roglic doesn’t have to be in great form right off the bat to win it all here.

      • The Inner Ring Friday, 4 March 2022, 9:25 pm

        It’ll be interesting to see both in action. On paper I think Almeida is the better rider but McNulty is probably the one who needs to take his chances, Almeida can look forward to leadership in the Giro this year (and probably for several years) while “McNuts” is going to be precious for Pogačar in July so here’s a race to aim for. Plus we’ll see how this works out, a test for the riders and management too.

  • CA Friday, 4 March 2022, 7:18 pm

    Great preview Inrng

    Very happy to hear Sivakov’s decision. Really hope elite athletes throughout the world make this call – especially Ovie!

    Hope to see a great battle for this race, seems like 1,000 years ago that the 2020 P-N started the pandemic. Can’t wait for a seemingly “normal” season.

    • The Inner Ring Friday, 4 March 2022, 9:31 pm

      Easier for Sivakov as he holds French nationality already, but still a personal decision which is why he’d been thinking about it for some time, long before Russian troops were surrounding the Ukrainian border. Vlasov, to take an different example, just lives in Italy, he’s not got another nationality so he can’t swap so easily… but you could imagine him thinking he’s happy in Italy and applying to become Italian if possible and surely they’d take him, similar for Astana’s Riabushenko of Belarus. But again it’s on them and if they have family back home it could be awkward for them, especially if things become even more martial.

    • Othersteve Saturday, 5 March 2022, 1:16 am

      Interesting perspective CA, I believe you are North American? Will Sivakov choose to ride as a Russian in 2-3 years when it suits him.

      Just saying seems like a weak move.

      • Eskerrik Asko Saturday, 5 March 2022, 8:47 am

        No, he won’t. And it won’t.

      • gabriele Saturday, 5 March 2022, 10:27 am

        Perhaps not a weak move but surely a sad one, that is, sad that he and many others were put in such a position.
        To start with, because nationality is still being used as a strong inclusion/exclusion tool by so many State, and most people (say, Vlasov in Italy, as named by inrng above) won’t have it easy to make any switch.
        Personally, I’m not proud of what “my country” has done in recent years (my country? My State? Still, I’m proud of what many people do there and around the world), even less so if we speak of the international structures it belongs to.
        And which one should I choose? The one where I live, very far from any sort of geopolitical innocence, or a supposedly more ethical one? Bhutan? Rojava?
        As othersteve and Eskerrik Asko pointed out, when should such a refusal end? What’s the time frame? When you retire from the country you invaded (wow, it’s now ok again to be a USA citizen… or not?). When you lose the war? When people forget your genocides?
        It’s so absurd. We’re throwing out of the window all the “values” which supposedly make Europe “different”, it took seconds. Perhaps we should actually stop boasting about them because they were never really there.

  • gabriele Friday, 4 March 2022, 7:39 pm

    Both Strade Bianche and Pa-Ni feel like that, through this generational shift of sort, we’re enjoying a handful of huge riders while lacking a bit of alternative top-class competitors. Once you lose a couple of them out of some grotesque bad luck (van der Poel, Bernal), the pyramid becomes suddenly very steep, perhaps a touch too much.
    Adam Yates is being forged again at INEOS, still he’s won *1* serious stage race in his whole career until now (and three quite lesser ones, especially Turkey and Croatia). Simon’s personal credentials are more solid, maybe his current situation isn’t as much, yet we just had a debate on him so I think most of us agree that he’s still *incompiuto*, so to say.
    Most of the rest are hugely promising, but that’s pretty much everything for now.
    Strade Bianche could be an Alaphilippe-Pogacar great duel, but beyond them we’re left with Valverde (in form, what an occasion for him :-P… though, despite a couple of podia and two further top-10s, it’s not usually his race) and… Carapaz… ok… Benoot… Moscon… uhmm.
    The Tirreno as it has become common sucks up most talent in early March, and yet scanning through the startlist I’m left with a vaguely similar sensation, albeit surely not as neat.

    • The Inner Ring Friday, 4 March 2022, 9:27 pm

      Also looking forward to the Strade Bianche tomorrow. Alaphilippe vs Pogačar looks likely but the Frenchman cramped up badly in the Drôme Classic last weekend, was that an attack that means he’s now over it, or is he going to be prone to it again tomorrow?

  • Old Fish Friday, 4 March 2022, 11:23 pm

    Just wanted to thank you Inrng for another wonderful review. For someone from country with no cycling traditions and only having started watching cycling few years ago, finding your blog was god send. It very much provides that “european” feeling and allows understand intricancies of sport that otherwide would slip through. I have actually started reading blog from the very first post and I am still only in 2011, still waiting on decision on Contador, haha.

    Back to Paris-Nice, excited to see how McNulty will look like against top level competition. Great TT pedigree with junior world gold and two u23 podiuma, seems climbing really well, did 16min @ ~6.5 w/kg on the way to his win in Faun-Ardeche. If he can keep this level for longer climbs, I would pencil him for podium without a doubt.

    • Shearman Saturday, 5 March 2022, 4:48 pm

      I discovered the blog in about 2011 but then went back at the start of the pandemic and did the same, reading from the very beginning. It was fascinating following those stories unfold at they did at the time – highly recommended. I’ve often thought the collected blogs of Inrng as a book would make a superb addition to cycling literature.

  • 150 Watts Saturday, 5 March 2022, 1:35 am

    Others have talked about McNulty but I will also be interested to see if Jay Vine can find anything extra this year. Easier said than done though.