Paris-Nice Stage 2 Preview

The day for the sprinters, today’s stage is flat and almost featureless… but that means the terrain is exposed the weather forecast promises a crosswind, only it’ll be a weak one but just enough to set the peloton on edge.

If you can’t beat them, join them: a De Gendt breakaway, but Aimé rather than Thomas and no relation ansd Lotto-Soudal sent Matthew Holmes who took the mountains jersey for his efforts. The pair were reeled in early and a counter move went with Frederik Frison, Alexis Gougeard and Yevgeniy Fedorov and if they gained a minute this vanished quickly with around 20km to go.

In the final 15km it first looked like some riders were pulling up the handbrake to save their legs for another day, only a lot more were being shelled out by the pace to leave a peloton of about fifty. Onto the final climb and Nathan Van Hooydonck led for Jumbo-Visma and Christophe Laporte attacked, taking… team mates Wout van Aert and Primož Roglič with him. Zdeněk Štybar was the only rider who could follow but he cracked at the top of the climb to leave a Jumbo-Visma 1-2-3 going clear.

A year ago Christophe Laporte was on the verge of his first World Tour level win, it was Stage 6 of Paris-Nice into Biot but Primož Roglič got the better of him in the uphill sprint to the line. Now in 2022 Laporte and Roglič were team mates and with 20 seconds’ lead and a peloton struggling to chase the only question was who would win? Roglič in order to take every bonus second possible? Laporte for a home win? Van Aert as he’s just the fastest? In the end it was Laporte got the nod and the new recruit took the win and deserved too given he launched the move. With hindsight it’ll mean a home win ensures positive local coverage. Roglič in second took six bonus seconds on top of the 22 second cushion he took on the line.

The Route: two early climbs to tempt the early breakaway as there’s a mountains jersey to get, watch for Matthew Holmes and Alexis Gougeard. And then nothing, it’s south across the vast empty space between Paris and the Loire river, there’s so little going on that we’re left to remark there’s a sprint in Pussay and to note the race goes through Angerville which sounds irritating but it’s a quiet place that’s home to Tony Gallopin… perhaps he’ll be out to watch as he’s not racing? It’s a land of agribusiness with giant wheat fields and, increasingly, wind turbines. The big question is whether they’re spinning much, the terrain is very exposed to the slightest breeze and it looks like there might just be enough of a crosswind for teams to exploit.

The Finish: after the long ride south, the race crosses the Loire river and then does a U-turn to head back up north, crossing the Loire again to ride into Orléans. Once over the long bridge there’s the flamme rouge and then a left-hand bend with 300m to go.

The Contenders: today’s the big flat sprint finish, a dragster course. So it’s advantage Fabio Jakobsen (Quick-Step) and it’ll be interesting to see Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) in action as he doesn’t need to win, just score and he’ll take the points jersey, and this week is a trial run for the Tour’s points competition. Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix) is in form while Dylan Groenewegen (BikeExchange-Jayco) has had some wins this year but seems a bit hit or miss. Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) is still hunting for his first win of the year and today is a big ask but first we’ll see if he’s back in the mix.

Fabio Jakobsen
Wout van Aert, Jasper Philipsen, Dylan Groenewegen
Bennett, Bol

Weather: cool and sunny, just 7°C. Crucially though it’s cold because of the easterly breeze, it’ll blow up to 25km/h in gusts and as a rough guide, this is the minimum wind speed required to split the field and the open terrain lends itself to this.

TV: the finish is forecast for 4.00pm CET. It’s on France TV and Eurosport/GCN. Watch and then you can can hope to see the final hour of the opening time trial for Tirreno-Adriatico.

34 thoughts on “Paris-Nice Stage 2 Preview”

  1. Yesterday was a perfect example of the recent phenomena of riders joining certain teams and suddenly becoming much improved. Laporte’s been around for years. He’s had a chainring from yourself here and there as a possible contender on harder sprint days, but hasn’t won much. Then all of a sudden he’s tearing the peloton apart with two of the best riders in the world, his team mates. I definitely feel that we’re in a ‘peloton a deux vittese’ moment, or whatever the correct French is!

      • Are we saying it’s suspicious? He’s moved from a team that’s well known as a bit of a Micky mouse outfit to one of the best. Most riders would improve wouldn’t they?

        • I’ve long rated Laporte, he’s been due a big win and kept getting close last year (eg two second places in Paris-Nice stages) and is versatile as he can sprint, win short TTs, goes well up short climbs and is ok when having to rub shoulders and elbows (only weakness has been to race a bit too obviously at times rather than play poker) … so it was a surprise he hadn’t had a big offer to leave Cofidis sooner although he was important to them, their biggest UCI points scorer (well ahead of Guillaume Martin).

          But none of this proves or disproves anything.

        • Not suspicious as such as the things we know JV, Quick Step and Ineos do (use Ketones, spend ages at altitude) are legal. The issue is that some teams don’t/can’t do this, so you end up with a two tiered top tier.

          • Several teams tried ketones but not sure how many are still using them because they don’t really work or even have unintended negative side-effects? But they continue to hold a mystical status where those not using them can feel insecurity about / inferiority to those who they think are still using them, even if they’re probably not.

    • In his post-race interview, I think Laporte said something about having done his first altitude camp ever in the lead up. If so, it’s pretty remarkable that a rider as good as Laporte hadn’t been doing those fundamentals at his previous team, and not so surprising that Jumbo would get some decent performance gains out of him.

      • Laporte has always been known for having a huge engine, I was always surprised he didn’t win more as some of his showings were really impressive. Until last year he said himself he had trouble with long distance, and sure performance department in JV is more precise and have more money than the one in Cofidis… He’s a rider that will surely shine more at the end of his career than at the beginning, it’s not so uncommon even if we tend to forget this with all these superstar youngsters.
        I have the impression the sentence about Bennett is not finished. An expression of doubt maybe ? Or a symbol of his career so far ?

        • Good point on distance for Laporte, that’s been his other weakness with problems once a race goes over 200km, he’s been a pick for shorter races but probably not in the monuments.

          Fixed the Bennett sentence, is this another “rider leaves Quick-Step’s sprint train and struggles” or just he needs a few more races to get going? Bennett’s often seemed to run on confidence so lacking the QS train might make him worry but he was close in the UAE Tour and has a good chance today.

    • A big difference for Laporte between previous seasons and this year is that his role is now riding in support of others rather than trying to win himself. Yesterday his aim was to make it hard up the climb, making it to the finish wasn’t as important. Once they had created the gap he looked to be doing less work than the other two. If he wasn’t on the same team I’m sure they could have dropped him.

    • Or a perfect example of a very good rider who hasn’t improved so much as joined the right team. This happens often enough in other sports, why not in cycling?

  2. Someone reading these comments will be able to tell me how many times a 1-2-3 has been achieved at world tour level before? It’s like jumbo set the difficulty level to easy today!

  3. It can’t really surprise anyone to see Roglic and Van Aert ride away from a peleton. Laporte got the advantage on the climb but spent precious little time on the front after that.

    • I’m assuming they were just trying to drop as many sprinters as possible, then have Roglic do a flyer, leaving Van Aert to mark any chasers and possibly sprint. Surely they didn’t imagine having three riders alone at the crest of the last climb.

  4. Well, Yesterday reminded me of the last 1,2,3s. 1976 with Gewis and 1996 with Mapie. Neither had a happy ending.
    It is always difficult to believe that one team, even a strong one like Jumbo, can pull this sort of stroke over other WT teams.
    I hope for the sake of the sport that I am wrong, but it has to be said.

  5. I’m not saying suspicion isn’t warranted, I defintely wouldn’t bet my house on the whole peloton being clean… But I find it funny what serves as the “trigger” for doping suspicions sometimes. IMHO – and without any evidence of anything, just my own feeling – the race developments on Saturday in Siena were harder to believe than Sunday, yet those posts come this morning, not yesterday.

    I’m not saying this to figure out who’s right or wrong, merely to point out the unknowables in cycling. The whole “Nothing to see here” mentality is asinine, but focusing on the racing until something more solid comes to light sometimes is the best way to enjoy the sport.

    • I completely agree with your last point.

      That said, I guess that what happened on Saturday is made more acceptable by context: it’s a hugely superior rider making the difference on a very hard course and against riders who, for a series of reason, actually sit two or three step below him. The 37″ he got on Valverde are the result of a very selective course – and a single quite unique rider (regardless he’s especially doping or not, that would stay as a fact, unless it’s about “technologic doping”, i.e., a motor). He actually came closer to losing because of the peculiar strategy he chose, and that was quite apparent in the finale.
      When something is peculiar, it’s usually because it doesn’t pay off that much. Despite the victory, sensations went accordingly to this premise.

      What results surprising in Jumbo-Visma’s show is that they made a notable difference on a very easy course, albeit made harder by some previous crosswinds. And the decisive point was also so easy a climb that most would deem it barely enough to make a difference even in a harder race.
      Plus, it was about a whole team – don’t forget Teunissen and Van Hooydonck tearing a solid bunch into thin pieces in a few seconds on those early slopes.
      Van Aert and Roglic would have already been notable because of the nature of the course, but the team performance was what made it shocking. Laporte making that jump after supposedly giving it all and a few second rest? While nobody, literally nobody in the field, was able to jump on, despite having spent all the time until then on someone else’s wheels?
      In this case, a not-often-seen strategy paid off huge and unexpected dividends.

      This is just to explain what rational factors probably made many people feel a little more suspicious yesterday and not as much on Saturday. I’m sure less rational factors are at play (Pogacar looks like a nice guy, that sort of stuff), but it’s not as arbitrary, all in all.
      Pogacar’s show also looked a little more like picking the moment and managing energies, often on thin ice, which is something not granted by doping (which still helps making you more lucid, or simply assuring you’ve got more to spend km after km), while Jumbo’s was quite much more brute power, although well-organised.

      IMHO, but I’d prefer to leave it here, both team are enjoying some sort of notable advantage, be it legal or not, which goes beyond “good & effective practices” in training. They’re not the only ones, for sure. Double speed isn’t new at all, anyway, even in very recent years.

      • Pogacar is either a genuine campionissimo, the next Coppi/Merckx/Hinault, or a bit naughty. I’m willing to go along with the idea that he’s just a really great rider, one of those freaks that pops up from time to time, on the basis that there hasn’t been one for a while and they have to come round every now and again.

        • I am just surprised at the margin by which Pog is so much better than the rest. Particularly in this day and age when most of the juice seems to have been squeezed out of the lemon from a physiological perspective – everyone is at altitude (other than riders from poorer teams), everyone is doing highly structured training, diet and nutrition advances seem to be widely dispersed, the quality of testing, etc, etc. Happy to say that I give Pog the benefit of the doubt and that I love his work, noting that most generations seems to have a person above everyone else, given the conditions of that time. Given how much science and technology has enabled riders to maximise their physical capabilities it is truly remarkable how much better he seems to be. Go Pog.

          • That’s the thing though isn’t it. If everyone is maxed out and doing all they can then it comes back down to genetic/physiological advantages, and everyone might as well be doing nothing!

    • Lukyluk – couldn’t agree more with your last point! For one, we are all very seasoned fans of cycling (if we’re on this blog) and by consequence we can NEVER rule out that doping isn’t a factor. But for the sake of our own sanity, if there is absolutely zero evidence or anything, just accept the results as is and enjoy the race.

      From everything I’ve seen so far, Pogacar seems like an absolute beast and his results look real.

      Plus, after the last 24-months of covid-related-tension-stress-etc. I’ll be honest, I couldn’t care less about doping right now. The only thing I need as a cycling fan is a great season of racing to help move forward with my life.

      Thanks to Inrng for putting up with all of our comments, and I hope in 2022 that none of mine get zapped (but if I deserve to be zapped, please zap away).

    • It can be easy to look at a remarkable result like yesterday’s and cry doping, but the context of the race situation is very important I think…as Gabriele says, this was about the whole team…

      Anybody who’s raced in a strung out peloton in a crosswind will know how hard it can be to simply hold position, let alone move up. Jumbo tore the race up when other teams seemingly weren’t expecting it, which left riders in unusual positions…when van hooydonck and Laporte lit things up at the bottom of the climb, the DSM riders who found themselves on Van Aert’s wheel were gassed and couldn’t follow any longer, then as they blow up and let he gap open, they get in the way of Yates et al who then don’t have the legs to sprint across the gap on a fast climb. Stybar had managed to jump across but clearly it blew him up towards the top of the climb…

      My point is, it’s easy to see Laporte, Van Aert & Roglic ride away from the field, and assume doping. But actually it was Dennis, Tuenissen & van Hooydonck that did the hard work, mainly using the art of surprise…

  6. Laporte was hanging on by a thread. Wout flicked the elbow and Laporte shook his head. Really felt for him there. Motivated to prove himself to the team and his two teammates, being two of the very best, he hung on just that little bit longer over the hill where he could contribute a touch to the line. Great for them to give him his 1st win with the team. That will go a long way to making him feel a worthy part and motivate him even more.

  7. Another “boring” stage turned on its’ head. What is J-V doing? Either racking up some serious training or trying to log a lot of wins before going up against Pogacar at the TdF?!?

    Either way, it is making for some very exciting racing.

    Great on Jakobsen to hold on and collect a very tough win!

    Thanks to Inrng for the great previews and for C-N removing the paywall.

      • Oh no, that’s too bad. Maybe it is geographically based. I’m in Canada and I haven’t seen the paywall for a couple weeks now.

        I thought their advertising revenue model was strong enough to cover their needs. They have a very high readership if they stop playing around with paywalls. I stopped going to their site when the paywall was in place.

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