Paris-Nice Stage 6 Preview

A big day for the breakaway and a collection of climbs all with their steep sections. The big challenge could be the wind, it’s forecast to howl today. Update 11.00am – the route has been changed, skipping the first 115km.

Update 1.00pm – the stage is cancelled because of the high winds which among other things have caused road blocks with fallen trees etc.

Kooij uncaged: Jonas Gregaard (Uno-X), him again, took off to get more mountains points and then backed off, leaving Rhone local Sandy Dujardin out by himself all day. A headwind kept a lid on the action and we got the promised sprint finish. With Mads Pedersen launching early, Olav Kooij came past to get his first World Tour win. There wasn’t much else to report from the stage although David Gaudu grabbed the six second time bonus mid-stage after a textbook leadout from Arnaud Démare who then mopped up the four second bonus to keep Tadej Pogačar away. Kooij’s win was the last chance for the sprinters and it means Jumbo-Visma have two stage wins so far, justifying their selection of flatlanders.

It’s Kooij’s second World Tour win after a stage in the Tour de Pologne last year and the 21 year old sprinter is a rising talent, we’ll see if he becomes a pure sprinter or aims for the classics as well. He started out speed-skating at the age of six, then on a racing bike when he was 12 according to his local newspaper, copying both from his father who was a skater who rode his bike when the canals weren’t frozen.

The Route: update 11.00am – because of the high winds, the start is being moved, between the two climbs of Callian and Cabris on the profile above. The climb to Cabris is more steady, 5km at close to 6%.

It’s unclear if they will just ride to the finish or add an extra lap around the finish. Or if this will be possible as the high winds at the start (an often windy area) could also be blowing at around the finish too (which isn’t usually as windy).

With 40km to go it’s onto the finishing circuit and this crosses the finish line with 30.5km to go. There’s a left turn and road rears up on a backroad, it’s not just steep but narrow and twisting. Even once the slope levels out it’s still on this small road across to the intermediate sprint. From here it’s the main road, there’s 20km to go but it goes by quickly on the descent, it’ll be hard to chase.

The Finish: a twisting downhill on the main road into town and once in La Colle, the final kilometre is uphill, there are a couple of bends but they’re not sharp, it’s just they block sight of the finish line until the final 200 metres.

The Contenders: the breakaway stage. Saturday’s summit finish is likely to be reserved for the GC contenders and likewise for Sunday’s racing although there’s room then for those in and around the top-10 to ride off with the stage win. For everyone else it’s today or nothing but the prime contenders for today’s stage aren’t that far down on GC so they might not get much room; or they’re on team duty, a rider like Tim Wellens (UAE) is the archetype for today but is he allowed to race for himself? David de la Cruz (Astana) fits the bill, he’s infrequent winner but has two Paris-Nice stages. Simon Geschke (Cofidis) and Omar Fraile (Ineos) come to mind too but need a spin of the wheel of fortune to get away, let alone win. Magnus Cort (EF Education-Easypost) will like the finish if he can make it over the climbs, he’s in great shape though.

Tadej Pogačar (UAE) is the sweeper pick, if the breakaway can’t stick and it’s all back together then can win the reduced bunch sprint.

Magnus Cort, Tadej Pogačar
Wellens, Powless, De La Cruz, Geschke, Fraile

Weather: sunny but windy. 19°C but the stat today is the 40km/h NW wind which could gust to 90km/h. The wind will drop during the stage but the gusts could persist across the course.

If the forecast holds, it’s potential crosswind carnage. But assuming the racing goes ahead, these kind of gusts can be too much, you and your bike can be scooped off the road, it’s bizarre feeling as there’s little you can do. So there could be a meeting to discuss things and revise the stage. But the wind model is one thing, the conditions on the ground another and if the gusts aren’t too persistent things can go ahead as planned, look for news later this morning.

TV: the stage start is 11.40am CET, TV coverage is for 3.00pm and the finish is forecast for 4.40pm CET.

45 thoughts on “Paris-Nice Stage 6 Preview”

    • Doubt they’ll be going on holiday together but yesterday’s team work was perfectly done.

      Gaudu’s online chat (on Discord) was something that could be copy-pasted by users for all to see but it’s not uncommon to have team mates who clash, either in terms of personality or ambition. But here if the pair don’t get on this gap is widened because they both want to do the Tour de France and want support to achieve their goals there and resources, like team mates, for one can deprive the other. But that’s what management is for, it’s on them to fix these things.

  1. Good day for Jumbo in France & Italy – nice block by Demare too on Pogacar for bonus seconds.
    See that Schachmann has gone down with the sniffles, DNS today. Thought that stage 6 would be interesting and a windy trip today could shake things up – Jumbo’s team selection to pay off?

  2. A strong wind along the Mediterranean coast of the SoF. Who would have thought!!
    I rode in that area for many years, often battling the many strong winds found there. I was never blown off. There is a clear reason to worry about rider safety but as has been said elsewhere, the line becomes ever softer. Can anyone imagine Hinault or Merckx taking the present day riders attitude. Health and Safety has a place, but it’s liberal application is also in danger of removing some of the very aspects that make bike racing so popular. I’ll get my hat.

    • Météo France is forecasting a 35 kph Northerly wind with gusts of up to 70 kph at Tourves. Is there any official guidance as to what speed the wind changes from being a factor that can enliven a stage to being dangerous? As I recall the 2016 Ventoux stage was shortened due to 100 kph gusts. As I listen to the tiles moving on the roof here in the Vaucluse it is certainly strengthening.

      • 35 kph with gusts well over 50 kph (often 70-80 kph) was not uncommon in Lanzarote when I had to ride there, I’d even say it’s pretty typical, and while surely uncomfortable for the cyclist, it wouldn’t justify cancelling a race (as a footnote, happy to see lots of people out there riding the last time I was there a couple of weeks ago, and several small pelotons, too, more than ever I’d even say). I guess that eventually the winds in France were even stronger than forecast. OTOH, in Lanzarote surely there aren’t many trees which can fall on the road 😛

        • Riders can be as hard as they like today but the race route was blocked in places because of fallen trees.

          40, 50, 60km/h gusts and it’s “Flandrien time”. The infamous Gent-Wevelgem of 2015 was reportedly gusting at 70-80km/h. 90km/h gusts today means trees are coming down.

          • If trees are down then THAT is the reason, not high winds alone. And that’s fine. But NOT just because of wind.
            Epic conditions make for epic events.
            This is when it becomes the riders, together, against the road.

        • I go to Lanzarote every winter and have experienced those winds and more (it’s worse there as the landscape is so exposed). I have had many, to use Alex Ferguson’s phrase, squeaky bum times when the bike goes in a direction I didn’t steer it. Pretty windy here in Mallorca today too.

    • WTF? The Race to the Sun features a course designed to break up the field in cross winds and when they (finally) start blowing, the course is changed? (And now T-A is following suit?)
      I’m wondering how long before we start getting an F1 style “safety car” out there on the course? Perhaps they need to drag out some old-time steel bikes with small diameter tubes and low profile aluminum wheels to deal with the wind…you know, the kind Merckx and Hinault used to race on?

    • As someone who tends not to ride if the wind is gusting above 50kmh I’m perhaps not best placed to comment, but I’m quite happy to see the riders allowed to skip the day if the weather is as bad as forecast. There must be considerable potential for a massive crash caused by just one or two riders being suddenly blown off line.

  3. Riders will do the départ fictif at Tourves and get on the bus. Still TBC about an extra lap. Somehow, with gusts up to 100km around Draguignan, you have to doubt they’ll do more than one lap. And it’s a good job the riders aren’t in Nice yet as the coast is getting gusts of 130km. There was a proper tornado in Creuse yesterday.
    Racing starts 14h30 CET. Hope they stay safe.

  4. I’ve no idea how strong the winds are there so I can’t comment. But I think the reason some are sceptical is because they do seem to cancel stages due to the weather much more than they did, say, 10 years ago. Was it so unsafe back then?

        • Good point. And let me add that as for much of the above “we” or ay least “some of us”, and, even more important, “those who should have acted”, had known for a long time with loads of data that not only was all that s**t unsafe – it was directly and often deliberately harmful. But huge interests prevented change and even public knowledge. Still happening to a certain extent and in several countries, by the way, which makes the above comparison slightly disturbing, even.

          If we feel the neéd to compare all the same, well I’d also be more than happy to weigh and compare the finantial leverage of “those” who supposedly kept us in the dark about the equally supposed impressive health-threatening figures related to riding under inclement weather.

          Not that I don’t recall sad episodes when the weather played a part, Ocaña among others, but I’m not at all sure that a correlation between serious accidents and racing in poor conditions could be really established – people *react* to circumstances which often shifts completely the risk balance against the most obvious expectations of a general observer.

          However, if the gust are above 80 km/h, as they perhaps were today, I’d perfectly understand refraining from racing. My point was simply that the forecast of 35 kph with 70 kph gusts reported by KevinG above didn’t *in itself* justify special worries, checked against personal experience, with of course every difference depending on different contexts, as I also underlined, though tongue in cheek, speaking of Lanzarote above.
          So often the question is about the difference between forecast and reality (with all the margin in terms of time to organise a range of options), in one sense or the other. They probably did it fine in France today, exploring possibilities and just cancelling the race when things actually appeared dangerous. But I also recall shameful episodes in recent years when races were cancelled or brutally shortened without any solid reason. Vegni involved more often than not ^___^

          • Tirreno–Adriatico the year Van Avermaet won it: stage cancelled due to non-existent snow, based on one weather forecast, while many forecasts disagreed. Was cancelled the day before, to my recollection.
            That stage in the Giro in the last couple of years that was shortened because it was raining. Although that year they couldn’t get pictures in the rain anyway so maybe they were trying to hide this embarrassment.
            Those are two off the top of my head.
            As you say, Vegni…

    • Well, awareness and attention to rider safety are much higher now. Which, on the whole, is a good thing. Even if it means we’ll never again see epic races like LBL 1980, MSR 1910 (ok that one’s before my time…), or even Gavia Pass 1988.

      • Not as easy a question as it looks, as I tried to suggest in a couple of comments here. Note that in many racing situations, although *not always* (say, Gavia), an athlete can simply decide to stop racing and the risk immediately (or very fast) goes zero, even more so in modern conditions (highly urbanised territories, heavy motorised support, technical equipment, abundant support staff on the route, and so on).
        Plus, without reaching the case of such an extreme while not uncommon individual decision (easier in one-day racing, of course), it must be said that the bunch is more than capable to turn itself in a herd of sort, which also is often more than enough to drop risk to minimal levels.

        • A peleton is much more dangerous than a strong wind. At least that’s how I view it. Of course strong winds get much more dangerous if you’re riding shoulder to shoulder with 100 people but they are perfectly capable of crashing a lot of people into injury without any wind or rain.

        • AKA the riders, together against the road.
          If it’s dangerous go slower.
          We always say the riders make the race.
          They can Un-make the race also.

      • “Well, awareness and attention to rider safety are much higher now.” Maybe, but one thing’s for sure, there’s a LOT more covering of various people’s a__s when it comes to liability. Riding slab-sided plastic bikes with slab-sided plastic wheels in any sort of wind argues against paying attention to safely IMHO. Sadly, the sport LOVES to look back at epic exploits like you listed from back-in-the-day but they seem very, very careful to make sure no new ones are created 🙁

  5. What has been the best stage of Tirreno-Adriatico so far?

    I haven’t been keeping up on thar race, but maybe I’ll watch a stage in place P-N today.

    • The last couple of stages were good, yesterday was quite eventful and a tight finale, although it was better live, because part of the entertainment was trying to guess who’d resist and watch how rider after rider cracked as the bunch went lapping the circuit, plus trying to understand team tactics and the actual shape of different riders. Alaphilippe tried a long shot, then had a good uphill rush (behind Roglic). Ah, find Ciccone’s video, the post-race interview. Wednesday albeit a bunch sprint had several technical highlights each of them well worth watching, namely Jumbo’s crosswinds, Ganna’s reaction cutting through the bunch as a hot knife in butter and then pulling alone full closing the gap against the serious rouleurs in black and yellow, MvdP’s monstre leadout for Philipsen and surely a couple of other things I can’t recall right now.

  6. One of the very worst elements in cycling fandom has to be the armchair critics complaining that riders nowadays are soft and they should just ride thru extreme weather “like Merckx would have done”.

    I’ve spent many years riding in traffic every day in a city notorious for its wind, first as a courier and then as year round commuter/enthusiast. It can be terrifying when it gets strong enough. The idea of doing it in a pelaton with gusts up to 60+ mph is insane.

    This is a sport where people not uncommonly suffer major injuries, and even death. It blows my mind to see people complaining that the athletes should worry LESS about their safety.

    • I would imagine that is also a lot more infrastructure around the race nowadays than there will have been in the Merckx era. The barriers, banners and buildings around stage finishes don’t look like they would stand up to strong wind very well.

    • Worrying about safety, in cycling and dare I say beyond or outside cycling, too, doesn’t necessarily mean to worry about – well – *whatever*, irrespective of its actual impact as a risk factor. Perception or personal intuition can draw a different picture when compared to figures and stats. Risk zero is an interesting horizon and sometimes even the right attitude, but we should be very careful when excessive action against *certain* risks shows no proportion with 1) the risk itself 2) the sheer lack of research and accurate estimation of the risk itself 3) the attitude towards other risk factors.
      Weather “protocols”, as vague as they are, can be used on the one hand to give the impression of increasing attention to rider safety when actually *nothing* is done to change rider safety where it matters the most, i.e. training on open roads (don’t tell me “it doesn’t depend on the sport”, the sport could and should lobby, communicate, visibilise…). On the other hand, said protocols have been used repeatedly to distort the sporting aspect of the competition when no actual safety risk was present, not even remotely.
      That said, the situation today in Pa-Ni has been probably managed well. But so much depends on the real facts and context. I’d surely approve not riding with 60 mph = 96 kph gusts, I’d have more doubts if the gusts stay below 50 mph = 80 kph – but, again, it depends on the context, indeed (trees, mountain slopes, type of roofs etc.).

  7. OT, but Silicon Valley Bank, one of the title sponsors of the EF women’s team, was just closed by US regulators. I don’t know if their sponsorship money was already paid ahead of the season, but if not it could spell trouble.

    Slightly less OT, but it looks like Tireno-Adriatico is the better race this year. Despite the superstar lineup, this Paris-Nice is turning out to be kind of a damp squib.

    • Interesting to compare Saturday’s stages in France & Italy with Mr Ring’s recent post about “more of the same”. Tireno-Adriatico’s stage seems more interesting to watch on TV.
      Hope EF ladies get their sponsor money but it seems unlikely.

    • Sponsors typically pay in quarterly instalments, doesn’t mean always but if so then it’s a chunk of the budget for the year that’s presumably gone missing, it’s particularly acute as a team can lose a sponsor for next year and adjust but mid-season means there are all the wage commitments, travel etc.

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