The longest stage of the race and a probable sprint finish.
The Loges des Gardes unlodges Vingegaard: the day’s breakaway was reeled in by the UAE team but still allowed Jonas Gregaard to extend his lead in the mountains competition, he won’t keep it until Nice but his team is deserving its invitation.
The Loge des Gardes climb is a new climb but has few secrets, the 8% slope at the start thinned out the field and saw many dropped. Clément Champoussin supplied the first attack but it was a boomerang move, he flew out of the group, he flew back soon after. Jonas Vingegaard was the next to attack, perhaps thinking attack was the best form of defence because he was out of team mates. Only Tadej Pogačar could follow as the two quickly opened up a gap. Pogačar sat on the Dane’s wheel, at one point smiling to the camera. The pair cancelled each other out and were reeled in. David Gaudu attacked and got a decent gap. Then Pogačar went after the Frenchman and Vingegaard tried to respond but couldn’t get across. He began to flounder, his head shaking in the agony and this tell signalled trouble and one-by-one riders came past him. While Pogačar was celebrating the stage win ahead of Gaudu, Vingegaard was on his way to sixth place, 43 seconds down on the stage.
Pogačar’s in yellow and good luck to anyone trying to take the jersey off him. Vingegaard can try but surely won’t want to try anything spectacular for fear of it rebounding, better to recover and then try something more cautious. Gaudu would sign this morning for second place in Nice. Simon Yates might bide his time, he almost won the race on the last stage, we’ll see. The much promised duel isn’t over but we’ve got a good idea who is the stronger right now.
The Route: the start in St. Symphorien means crossing the Monts du Lyonnais. It’s over the hills to help a breakaway form with some hard terrain from the start. There are 13 points for the taking if a rider can clear the three climbs first but Uno-X’s Jonas Gregaard leads the competition with 14 points so any move going clear is after the stage win.
Then comes a dash down the Rhone valley. There are two late climbs, the first isn’t hard but it is exposed to the wind but it doesn’t look like the wind will be too strong. The second of which to Aleyrac was a 2nd category climb when tackled in 2015 on a day when a few heavyset sprinters were dropped. It should be a sprint finish in St.Paul.
The Finish: flat run to the finish with some street furniture in the final 5km, some central dividers and then a roundabout just after the flamme rouge which can be taken on both sides but the right looks faster, just. With 300m to go another roundabout but this time it’s closed off, passage to the right only, but it makes for a crucial chicane.
The Contenders: a likely sprint finish as if a break goes early there’s plenty of time to get the measure of them and bring them back later on. It’s down to the breakaway being loaded with rouleurs to make this hard but several teams will be playing their sprint cards today and so willing to chase as once today’s done, that’s it for the flat stages.
Tim Merlier (Soudal-Quickstep) was the pick for Fontainebleau only to get stuck by the wild finish and lack of lead-out trains but he’s still an obvious pick. Jumbo-Visma have the team to work all day for Olav Kooij and get a second stage win so far this week. As said in the preview for the opening stage there are many good sprinters here but not the bankers who win again and again. Sam Bennett (Bora-hansgrohe), Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ) and Alexander Kristoff (Uno-X) could be in the mix. Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) has a stage win already and doesn’t win sprint after sprint but looks in excellent form.
|Tim Merlier, Olav Kooij|
|Pedersen, Bennett, De Lie|
Weather: a top temperature of 20°C with some sunshine. There’s no Mistral wind down the Rhone valley, instead a southerly breeze meaning a headwind for much of the stage but it’ll be about 10km/h most of the day but it could gust to 30km/h later on, so a slender chance of crosswind action.
TV: the stage starts at 11.20am CET, TV coverage starts soon after 3.00pm and the finish is for 4.40pm.
Sausages: today’s start is in St. Symphorien – St. Sym for locals – which styles itself as the “world capital of saucisson“. Obviously a cured French sausage is bound to have its capital in France but anyway, it’s said a quarter of France’s saucisson production comes from here. This includes the Cochonou brand, the riders will pass the factory on their way out of town. The brand’s a staple of the caravane publicitaire at the Tour de France where close to half a million sample sachets are lobbed to the waiting public, one packet for seven metres of the entire route. With its iconic Citroën 2CV cars in red Vichy table cloth livery, it’s so French… or is it? Yes, but the company is part of the French Aoste Groupe which is owned by Spain’s Campofrio which belongs to Mexico’s Sigma Alimentos, itself a subsidiary of Mexican conglomerate Alfa. Salchichón?
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Nice to see you giving Kooij a couple of chain rings at last.
He’s been getting close and Jumbo have a strong team for today.
In case anyone wonders, the chainrings are subjective ratings for who will win the race, not place or be in the mix. And if names are on the same rating, then the first name is seen as a better chance than the next. But of course it’s all just a guessing game for fun.
I get a feeling that with the obvious exception the A teams are in Italy this week. Tadej Pogacer was impressive yesterday he hardly seemed to break sweat, I believe he is down for Milan Sam Remo. If so he will be difficult to beat. There is a question about peaking in March rather than July but with him not sure it is relevant. Davide Gaudu did well, interesting to see how Arnaud Demare does today, a long way from July but do FDJ go all in with Davide Gaudu? Everyone else was very ordinary. Are Ineos really going to the Tour with Dani Martinez as leader? Not sure what other options they have, Egan Bernal, TGH?
Martinez crossed the line yesterday and was coughing on his way to the team bus, that can happen with the cold air and a sharp effort but maybe he’s got something as well. But he’s better suited to longer, steadier climbs, the Couillole on Saturday is more to his liking, relatively of course as it’s hard to imagine him overhauling Pogačar.
I wondered if Ineos’s poor performance in the TTT was due to illness. Neither Martinez or Sivakov look to be at their normal level.
Jumbo have said they have some Covid cases, so it’s possible some bug is going around. Thomas is still off sick too so Ineos must be really hoping Bernal gets better fast.
Good to see Gaudu give it a go and if he and Mas can keep up the good form in July then it’ll liven things up. Chapeau to Matthews too for grabbing the 6 second bonus with a bike throw – timed to perfection!
Who can beat Pogacar in his current form? Not someone at Paris-Nice it appears, except for Pogacar himself. It’ll be interesting to see what happens during the Spring.
There is huge amount of Covid going around in Europe now. Nobody is really serious about testing (and the current variety is a lot less deadly) so we don’t hear about it much, but it can easily be an important factor decreasing athletic performance. I have likely caught it about three weeks ago, did not get very ill (just switched to 100% work from home for two weeks), but I’m still coughing and feeling I am a bit weaker and slower when walking up a hill (and I’m not even attempting any running).
I must have had Covid my whole cycling life then.
Is Matthews going to UAE next year? He seems to be working hard for Pogačar .
Tovarishch, same seemed to be true of Bettiol last year, but he stayed where he was.
I still wonder if Powless has forgiven Bettiol. Whether intentionally or not, Bettiol charged through some of those pavé sections of last year’s TdF with Pogacar (and others) in his wheel, all while his team mate Powless was up front with a chance of taking the yellow jersey – to my recollection, Powless failed to take it by only a few seconds.
Pidcock – he has already said that it is a target of his and the route looks to suit him.
Is it downhill on gravel then?
He was dropped a couple of times today before WVA dropped him for good.
Aye, and that’s after giving 37 seconds away to roglic on the time trial
It’s only MARCH. Racing-for-real doesn’t start until the 18th IMHO with The Cadaver and Co probably retreating to an isolated altitude training camp somewhere while Pogacar and Co RACE.
Will that cost the Slovenian in July? I don’t really care as I expect him to make a race out of LeTour one way or another while trying to win some other big races along the way vs the one-trick Dane.
Nice to see you back and full of enthusiasm! But please drop the Cadaver-silliness! Or at least refrain until someone else starts to use a stupid nickname of his own invention about some other rider.
PS Vingegaard knows more than one trick! It’s not everyone who has a seemingly endless number of cards, scarfs, pigeons and lighted cigars up his sleeve like Pogacar does!
PPS Winning a GT requires – even today – more than to have the best W/kg numbers in the show and a team of super domestiques…
Time will tell if the guy is more than a one-trick Dane but the guy DOES look like he should be laid out on a slab IMHO. OTOH he reminds me of The Joker too. Perhaps I’ll call him that from now on if The Cadaver rubs so many the wrong way?
Giving people nicknames based upon what they in your opinion look like is, well. something we’ve all engaged in but hopefully outgrown it – and it doesn’t in most people’s opinion bring anything to road cycling that we wouldn’t do better without,
But we are all adults. If you vehemently disagree and you think it’s an accepted part of cycling culture and that everyone in Italy appreciates the wit involved or if you simply can’t help yourself, go ahead – you know you don’t need my permission.
I’ve said what I think about it.
Nicknames have been around as long as cycling has…check the list for how many were based on what the racer looked like. I didn’t make ANY of them up.
Larry, I’m no great fan of the (until now) one-trick Dane, but you perhaps should admit, just by checking the list you yourself posted, that very very few authentic cycling nickname are as unpleasant as the one you’re trying to suggest. Besides, it sorts of clashes with the guy’s riding style, he looks far from dead. Joker might have more chances but it clashes with the man’s apparent character or attitude. If you really want to stress his physical appearance, you could go with the Pale Rider or something like that. Speaking of movies, even the Revenant might have more future than the Cadaver. I’d also say that a cycling nickname, to be actually such, should be relatively common-use in the cycling world, not a single-user deal…
How ’bout fish-monger? I guess it’s just me but the guy doesn’t display much personality or panache, especially when compared to Pogacar, whether it’s on the bike or in interviews.
Combining that with his deathlike pallor = my nickname, one that I’m surprised so many find so offensive but I’ll stop using it here since it seems to wind so many up so much.
I thought I read earlier this year where FDJ was going all in for Gaudu and Demare is not so pleased.
Can anyone explain why the organisers refer to Jonas Gregaard as Gregaard Jonas but Vingegaard is Jonas Vingegaard.
It’s usually down to the central database of riders at the UCI, where it’s Gregaard Jonas Wisly for one and Jonas Vingegaard for the other. Once it’s written in one way, and not corrected, then everyone takes their cue from that, like the timing services that do the results and whose output makes the captions on TV etc. It’s why we had Pierre Roger Latour for years but this was eventually fixed, Simon Philip Yates etc.
Bennett so often does not have what it takes to get himself into a decent position, even with a lead-out man (unless it’s Morkov). Like Caleb Ewan, he lets himself get crowded out on many occasions.
For example, would anyone label today’s Pa-Ni stage as anything else but a pure sprint stage? Yes, there’s that couple of roughly 5%-4 km “climbs” respectively 30 and 50 kms to the line but you couldn’t have any selection or pressure there. If that sort of climbs so far from the line is an obstacle of sort for any pure sprinter to come back (with team support) and then sprint with 100% legs, he’s probably not quite apt for road racing, track might be an option. Or Langkawi and Chinese races à la Quaranta, Guardini or Mareczko (slightly unfair to the “ghepardo”, I know). Note that even all these “very pure” sprinters I named here could still perform after facing some good climbing, if it was far enough from the finish line, or, better said, close enough to the start.
Kittel himself, one of the worst climbing legs I remember among pure sprinters, could do with a bump or two granted he had one hour or so to come back and recover – but, if I have to be honest, I wouldn’t miss much “Kittel’s stages” from a GT, even less so in a shorter stage race. We’re speaking of such a reduced field of being an “especially specialised specialist” that I don’t feel it needs much reward.
This Pa-Ni, with the excuse of possible crosswinds (which shouldn’t necessarily be much of a problem for a pure sprinter, should they?), at the end of the day offered 3 pure bunch sprint stages out of 8. Not bad.