The final stage of Paris-Nice and often a great day’s sport. Tadej Pogačar leads the race by 12 seconds ahead of David Gaudu but there’s a queue of riders further behind who can unlock the race with some long range moves.
Stage 7 Review: a big breakaway finally went clear and it included some unlikely members. Take Nils Politt and his huge carcass, no chance for the win but he got a big workout ahead of the classics. The bunch was led by UAE, Jumbo-Visma, and Ineos as if they have some innate muscle memory to tow the bunch on the way to a big summit finish. Kobe Goosens and Javier Romo were able to attack the start of the Col de la Couillole but their lead was melting faster than the roadside patches of snow in the sunshine.
It’s a long steady climb and Tobias Foss got to work and started to asphyxiate riders one by one, it felt as every minute a rider would be cracked. One Foss could work no more Chris Harper was the first to attack but a boomerang move that saw him reeled in and spat out and quickly a trio formed of Tadej Pogačar, David Gaudu and Jonas Vingegaard. The latter was hanging by a thread, at times dropped then pacing himself back while Gaudu looked nervous, asking Pogačar to share the work. The trio were marking each other to the point that their rivals behind were only a few seconds behind led by Simon Yates. Getting ready for the sprint Gaudu reached behind, perhaps to tuck a gel wrapper into his pocket, and this was the moment Vingegaard jumped but he was soon swamped and again Pogačar got the better of Gaudu for the stage win.
Overall the marking between the lead trio meant the others didn’t lose as much time as they might have on such a long climb, Pogačar and company kept the others at bay to ensure they could sprint for the stage win but didn’t pull out a big lead for the overall so the rest of the top-10 might fancy their chances today, especially if they can link up.
The Route: identical to last year’s final stage, it’s 118km and into the hills behind Nice. They leave for a neutral procession up the Var valley, a handy warm-up and then there’s hardly bit of flat road all stage. It’s all on the typical snaking roads of the region which constantly twist and turn their way up valleys and gorges and just the terrain where it’s hard for a team to control.
With 55km to go, the race climbs out of the Paillon valley for the climb to Peille – the Col de St Pancrace to locals – and this is the hardest climb of the day. It’s listed as 6.6km at 6.8%, so worthy of a small Alpine pass on these stats alone but it’s the irregularity that makes it hard work with early sections of 9% and even 12% as it winds up a narrow road with so many bends that a rider need only get 50 metres’ lead to be out of sight. It levels out further up and once over the top comes a twisting descent to La Turbie and Eze with the short rise to the Col and then it’s down the Moyenne Corniche to the coast before climbing the Col d’Eze.
Just like last year it takes the shortcut. This road is shorter, steeper and narrower. It’s much more of a wall-like climb, the Chemin du Vinaigrier will sting with over a kilometre at 13% before picking up the main road to the Col d’Eze and then dropping down the corniche cliff road back to Nice.
The Finish: the small rise around the 1km to go point, then a flat finish on the Promenade des Anglais.
The Contenders: Tadej Pogačar (UAE) is the obvious pick, he doesn’t need to win today but if he has to follow the moves on the road up to Peille then he can mark his rivals and we know he can take the sprint from a group of riders. He’ll need his team today for help but they weren’t around for long yesterday. His win though is far from certain, the more other teams scrap for the win, the harder he’ll have it and with only four teams having a stage win everyone else has plenty to aim for.
There’s a club of riders who are in decent form and if they can’t rival Pogačar in a direct contest, can ride clear of the field earlier and hope to build up a lead so they can race each other for the stage win. Ion Izagirre (Cofidis) has won this stage before in 2019. Neilson Powless (EF Education-Easypost) is arguably better on the shorter climbs and isn’t an immediate threat to close down on GC. Quietly Aurélien Paret-Peintre (Ag2r Citroën) has been having a good Paris-Nice, even if he managed to crash going up the final climb yesterday but that’s just the sort of thing to poke him into action.
While the final stage is often contested among the GC contenders, others can get a look-in from time to time. So Magnus Cort (EF Education-Easypost) has a chance here too.
|Powless, Cort, Fraile, Yates, Izagirre|
Weather: sunny, 18°C and a light sea breeze.
TV: the stage starts at 11.35am CET, TV coverage begins around 1.30pm on France 3 and Eurosport/GCN just in time for the climb to Peille and the finish is forecast for 2.50pm CET. Channel hoppers will find the last stage of Tirreno-Adriatico and a likely sprint finish around 4.30pm.