The 80th edition Paris-Nice starts with an opening stage to the west of the capital and a good test for the sprinters with some late climbs to mix things up.
The Route: 160km on roads familiar to both Paris-Nice and Parisian cyclists alike because the race has criss-crossed here before and residents of the capital often head out in this direction because there are hills to climb. The two early climbs on the banks of the river Seine will entice an early breakaway because there’s the mountains jersey to collect.
After the first intermediate sprint at Boinvilliers the race goes onto a circuit around Mantes featuring two climbs, one is for the mountain competition into the village of Breuil… and the other the sprint in Magnanville. Breuil is the harder climb, a tight turn at the start, then a narrow bridge and steeper, plus it carries on climbing after the village and KoM banner before dropping into town and it’s climbed the second time with just 6km to go. It’s not a tough circuit but if several teams decide to force the pace they can try to tire the pure sprinters and open things up for their strongmen.
The Finish: it’s on the circuit so will be used before, the riders drop down from Breuil and the ridge above the Seine into the town of Mantes, the approach involves a long straight road into town but it’s not wide and then a crucial sharp left hand bend, think 130°, with 500m to go and onto a wide finishing straight.
The Contenders: let’s list the sprinters because today should have a bunch finish although it’s not nailed on because of the finishing circuit and its hills, although calm weather and the light headwind should reduce the risks of splits and crashes even if the Paris-Nice opener is always high stress…
Fabio Jakobsen (Quick-Step) is almost unbeaten in the sprints this season and comes with handy train but can he cope with the climbs? This question holds today and also for later this week, a win here and he’ll have a lot to look forward to in the coming days. Today’s finish isn’t mountainous, it’s just whether he has to go into the red to hold position and whether this costs him? The same holds true for Dylan Groenewegen (Bike Exchange-Jayco) and he’s won uphill sprints in Paris-Nice before but will the climbs in the finale blunt the legs?
There are a host of sprinters here who can handle the climbs well. Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix) was imperial in the UAE Tour sprints but can handle hilly circuits with ease.
Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) feels like the invisible sprinter of the season so far, while many have got wins already, the Irishman hasn’t (although ditto Ackerman, Démare et al) but it must be a matter of time and he too is fine with short climbs.
Jumbo-Visma have two options in Wout van Aert and Christophe Laporte and the Frenchman says his place in his new team’s Tour squad is up for grabs this week so you imagine he’s going to be working for van Aert rather than himself. If it’s not certain to be a sprint then WvA is the safe pick, a fast finisher but also willing to make moves.
Is Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain) a sprinter? He’s long been a budget version of Peter Sagan, only these days he’s trading at a premium to the Slovak and doing more than sprints, if anything today might not be hard enough. Likewise Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) likes to contests sprints too but he’d prefer crosswinds and foul weather to reduce the field size. Bryan Coquard (Cofidis) is still hunting for a World Tour win and sat out last weekend after feeling tired, even if he’s fit and fresh.
|Fabio Jakobsen, Wout van Aert
|Jasper Philipsen, Dylan Groenewegen
|Bennett, Trentin, Colbrelli, Coquard, Hayter
Weather: cool and sunny, a top temperature of 9°C. A N-E wind of 15km/h means a 3/4 headwind after the final climb.
TV: the finish is forecast for 4.50pm CET/Euro time. It’s on France TV and Eurosport/GCN and coverage starts just after 3.00pm.