Paris-Nice Stage 5 Preview

A tough mountain stage awaits, a big test for the new race leader Wout van Aert and an opportunity for plenty of others. There are plenty of candidates for the stage win, the kind of day where writing a preview with picks for the day’s win feels too confusing and you just want to sit back and see what happens. Still, read on if you want…

Wout did you expect? turned out it was better to be on Jumbo-Visma than to be called Stefan. The Dutch squad got their second 1-2-3 of the race. Rohan Dennis set the best time early on and spent hours in the hot seat, only for Primož Roglič to set the best time right at the end, then Wout van Aert came in two seconds faster after him. Shocking? Only if you haven’t been watching cycling given Jumbo-Visma have the Olympic TT champion on their books (Roglič), the guy who won the Tour de France time trial last summer (van Aert) and hired a former World TT champ / Olympic bronze too over the winter (Dennis) , what happened yesterday wasn’t a sudden change. Stefan Bissegger said he fell ill overnight, at least he didn’t have to leave the race like Ben O’Connor but if a bug is spreading among some it risks getting others.

Simon Yates did a great time among the other GC contenders, Pierre Latour, Aleksandr Vlasov and Dani Martinez did well too. Latour’s had huge problems with descending, a phobia but he’s been working to correct this and we’ll see how he fares starting today. Yates is the best non-Jumbo rider, 49 seconds down on GC and 39 seconds on Roglič and it’s already a big ask to reverse this but we’ll see, starting here.

The Route: 188.8km and a mountain stage. The altitude never goes beyond 1201m but there’s 3,500m of vertical gain spread across the day, starting with the big Croix de Chaubouret, a summit finish in 2015 when Richie Porte won in a Team Sky 1-2 with Geraint Thomas second… and Michał Kwiatkowski in third but he didn’t join Sky until the following season.

After 100km feature a succession of steep climbs, starting with the climb to Saint-Romain, it’s away from the Rhone valley through the vineyards and all on a small road. The climb to Toulaud is similar, another irregular road up into the vineyards. Then it’s back down to the Rhone valley floor for a 10km breather.

The Col de la Mure has a steep start as it climbs out of Saint-Laurent-du-Pape but it’s all on a wide road, a strong team here can try to control things. The slope eases up but only just, this is a proper climb that will sort out the GC contenders and climbers from others. The first part of the descent is on the same road but there’s a left turn and onto a much smaller, trickier road.

If the Col de la Mure was the last categorised climb of the day there’s still the 6.5km climb to Saint-Vincent, all on a very narrow road to the intermediate sprint. It’s often 4-5% but there are steeper parts in the second half. The descent down to the valley floor is twisty but on a much wider road.

The Finish: after dropping down to the Eyrieux valley floor, the road is flat into town.

The Contenders: a breakaway or a GC day? Thanks to the crosswinds and time trial plenty of riders are no threat to the overall and can get a ticket to ride away today. David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) was last yesterday, saving himself? Brandon McNulty (UAE) won the Ardèche Classic on similar roads a couple of weeks ago but is well down on GC now, team mate João Almeida is only four minutes adrift. Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) will like the course but he’s only three minutes down. Wout Poels (Bahrain) could go for it and will Ethan Hayter or Omar Fraile (Ineos) be allowed in the break. There’s a lottery element but the winner will have to cope with the tough climbing in the finish.

Among the GC contenders we’ll see how Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) fares. The Col de la Mure is hard for him but he and his team will be setting the pace so he’s in with a chance and if he’s still there for the finish he’ll obviously clean up in a sprint. Simon Yates (BikeExchange-Jayco) will be heavily marked, Jumbo-Visma won’t want to let him get a gap and the time bonuses but his speciality is clipping away over the top of a climb to take a solo win and easier said than done to stop this. Ineos have cards to play with Adam Yates and Dani Martinez.

Wout van Aert, Simon Yates
Roglič, McNulty, Gaudu, Poels, Martinez, Mollema

Weather: sunshine and clouds, a top temperature of 12°C. A southerly breeze of 15km/h means a headwind for much of the stage, except the Col de la Mure.

TV: coverage starts around 2.15pm, hopefully in time to get the St. Romain climb and probably Toulaud. The finish is forecast for 4.00pm CET. It’s on France TV and Eurosport/GCN.

Col de la Mure: a footnote as this was the climb used in 2011 and Tony Martin was hanging with the best on here and went onto win the race overall thanks to a win in the time trial stage. His team mate Matthew Goss had enjoyed a great start and would win Milan-Sanremo days later but on this day Martin went from promising time triallist to “could he win the Tour de France one day?” status. Obviously not with hindsight and he’d go on to establish himself as the dominant TT rider for the coming years but his ride on this one climb did make people wonder if he could go beyond this for a moment. There’s probably a lesson in extrapolating too much from from one climb and one race, but also in the relative value of being the best in one niche – here time trials – versus being an outside Tour de France contender.

12 thoughts on “Paris-Nice Stage 5 Preview”

  1. Interesting that Inr Rng has got van Aert on two chainrings.
    Also mention of Kwiatkowski, who was a sort of the Belgian’s all-rounder equivalent for Team Sky, particularly in the service of Froome and other GC contenders.
    Certainly the Pole was asked, and tasked, to sacrifice any personal goals for his team in these big stage races.
    I’m therefore interested to see how Jumbo-Visma deal with van Aert.
    He himself stated yesterday that it was the clear goal to get Roglic the overall win.
    What’s the value of van Aert wringing himself inside out to keep the leader’s jersey today when it will most likely end up on his team mate’s back soon in any case?
    Or is today a kind of a dress rehearsal for a multi-goal TdF for Jumbo-Visma (van Aert for Green, Roglic for Yellow)?
    Are the two aims compatible or does it risk blunting the entire attack in the manner of Movistar’s terrible trident?
    Van Aert has got other fish to fry soon in any case, what’s the point in getting bust up by a Simon Yates attack or such like?

    • Van Aert’s a safe pick, if the GC group comes in for the win and it hasn’t gone wild, he’s got a good chance but today should be very open.

      It feels like Van Aert can win Paris-Nice… but does he want to, pushing too hard now can mean problems later, Paris-Roubaix is still over five weeks away… but of course the “I’ve got bigger goals later on” line is one thing, it’s another when you see him riding away solo for the Omloop.

  2. It’s a sign of the times that De Gendt doesn’t merit a chainring these days.

    I’d love to see an old school break with him, LL Sanchez and an Izagirre brother. Forza old guys 🤙🏼

  3. I – and Laurent Jalabert – expected Yates to finish strongly after his astonishing split time, but he faded, relatively, on the final climb. Did he just pace – again relatively – badly?

    Even outside P-N a large number of riders seem to be suffering from intestinal problems. Stewart has not yet started his season, Pidcock withdrew from a series of races… Is there a common explanation?

    • The start yesterday was probably more hilly than people thought so Yates could have set the best time at the intermediate checkpoint because he was quick on the first climbs as well… but otherwise yes, you’d expect him to have been more like Roglič and fly up the last climb. Be interesting to see how he rides now, if he can get a gap he’ll be hard to bring back.

      Stewart’s problem sounds like a chronic one, for others like Pidcock and Bardet it’s just a quick illness it seems.

  4. Great write-up! Thanks. One thing: I don’t understand why that last climb isn’t categorized. I understand that the race organizers don’t want to mark every little climb in that manner, but surely a climb of that length and steepness warrants categorization.

    • There are formulas used to calculate the categories but they’re to help rather than strict. It’s always down to the organiser and how they want to shape the race, here they’re using intermediate sprints instead with their 3-2-1 second time bonuses. As you say the final climb was a real ascent, a hard one even but no KoM points.

    • In all local media and team communications he stated multiple times that he did not want to go as deep as last year in T-A, clearly stating he would easily let go of the leaders jersey. In post race interviews he stated that he sat up when the legs started to hurt, instead of pushing on.

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