Paris-Nice Preview

This year’s “race to the sun” promises to be illuminating with the duel between Primož Roglič and Remco Evenepoel as the headline contest, entertaining in itself, informative about future contests like the Tour de France. Don’t call this a mini-Tour, there’s no solo time trial and there are no long summit finishes, do call it a rehearsal for July for several contenders and their teams.

Route reminder
Paris to Nice, like a sandwich it’s what’s between that counts. There’s a full look at the route from December but if you want a quick summary:

  • It starts on Sunday with an opening stage with potential trapdoors to fall down.
  • Monday’s stage is for the sprinters but is exposed if the wind gets up, the latest forecast says it could be stormy in the coming days but Monday afternoon is calm.
  • Tuesday is the team time trial, with the “new” rules introduced last year where riders get the time they cross the line with rather than it being dependent on a team’s fourth rider and while this might be the talking point, the course has climbing in the first half that’ll make things tricky for the rouleur engines that the GC contenders count on.

  • Wednesday is an intriguing stage, it looks hard already on paper and the tricky Mont Brouilly finish grabs attention but there’s a difficult approach, it’s arguably the hardest stage of the race; the mountain stages to come are more predictable
  • Thursday is a likely sprint stage to Sisteron but with over 2,000m of climbing
  • Friday’s stage reaches the hills behind Nice with more climbing along the way and a tough hill towards the finish to suit the breakaway or punchy GC contenders.

  • Saturday is the big set piece mountain stage with the climb of La Colmiane before the ski station summit finish in Auron
  • The race concludes on Sunday with the now classic finale. Just 109km, it’s into the hills via Peille and Saint-Pancrace then the Col d’Eze and the Col des Quatres Chemins with the stinging Chemin du Vinaigrier, a kilometre at 13% as the last climb before the descent into Nice
  • There are time bonuses of 10-6-4 seconds on the finish line and 6-4-2 seconds at the intermediate sprint.

The Contenders

Primož Roglič has a mixed relationship with Paris-Nice. A win in 2022 built on the back of his famous ability to sprint for the line uphill, and also with big help from Wout van Aert; but a loss in 2021 when he was crashed on the last day wearing yellow. On paper the race is made for him, the week-long format, the uphill finishes where he can take stage wins and time bonuses. While his season is all about the Tour de France, we’ll see how he and his team get along and a second win here probably mean more than the first, a way of settling into Bora-hansgrohe after a career spent at Jumbo. This is where team mate Aleksandr Vlasov is a potential second card to play and useful on a course like this too. The whole team looks good for the time trial and the likes of Danny van Poppel and Marco Haller are probably here as bodyguards more than sprinters.

Now in his sixth season as a pro already, Remco Evenepoel is about to do his first road race in France as he takes aim at the Tour de France. He’ll find it’s a lot like all the others he’s done. The coming week is another test for his team, first because of the TTT stage but crucially if he takes the race lead along the way can he and the squad defend it? Sans Mikel Landa he could be vulnerable but frankly by himself he can handle plenty too. His sprinting has improved a lot so he can challenge Roglič for the time bonuses, the obvious scenario is a repeat of Catalunya last year where he and Roglič were clear of the rest and duelling for the win. There’s always the special weapon where he goes solo and whole teams struggle to bring him back. This race is very much in his grasp, the one big question ahead of his Tour bid is how he copes with repeat, long Alpine climbs and for that we’ll have to wait for the Dauphiné in June.

These two seem to be a level above the rest. It’s hard to pick between them, Evenepoel in the ascendency with Roglič as the master of one week stage races but can he stay on this perch. As they watch each other there are many more contenders…

UAE bring a roster that’s part team, part box of fireworks. It’ll give us an insight of what to expect from the Tour de France team which will be even stronger, with Tadej Pogačar of course, Adam Yates and hopefully Pavel Sivakov’s if his knee is alright. You look at the roster and there’s Nils Politt for the flat and so likes of Felix Großschartner and Marc Soler might be fetching bottles on hilly days, then remember Austrian has been top-10 here and Soler’s a past winner of Paris-Nice. Stage 4 to Mont Brouilly could be interesting to see if they are willing to gamble. João Almeida leads the team with Brandon McNulty and Jay Vine as other options.

Ineos bring Carlos Rodriguez and Egan Bernal. Both rode the O Gran Camiño race last week aka the “Arctic Race of Galicia” and came away with mixed results, Bernal on the podium again for the first time since his Giro win, and Rodriguez a little off the pace but he might just have been frozen. They both face a bigger test, they’d probably sign today for a podium finish and it’ll be interesting to see how they race. If Bernal gaining confidence then reminder that he’s a formidable racer who can exploit all kinds of terrain. As the cliché goes they come with a strong team, with Tarling, De Plus and Turner they’ll fancy their chances for the team time trial and this sets things up for more.

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In the absence of Jonas Vingegaard, Danish hopes rest on Mattias Skjelmose (Lidl-Trek) and he’s gradually improving year by year. His big goal this year is not the Tour but the Vuelta and his form in last weekend’s Boucles Drôme-Ardèche was good but not sizzling. It’s hard to see him winning but he can place well on GC.

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A similar story for Felix Gall, another rider who had a great 2023, is on the rise and has just had a good weekend too but how to win here? Decatlon-Ag2r La Mondiale are off to a flying start but the team time trial stage is perilous for them.

Visma-Lease a bike bring a strong team but here’s a stage race that might slip through their grasp. Wilco Kelderman is reliable but not spectacular and new signing Matteo Jorgenson will be interesting to watch, eighth overall in Nice last year, second in Romandie but how to get ahead of the rest? He’s said he’s “secretly aiming for a top-five”.

Second overall last year, David Gaudu doesn’t look in as good form now. His ride in the O Gran Camiño was spoilt by a crash on the opening day but his trainer has also said that Gaudu’s goals are in April, in the Ardennes and Basque Country. Plus Groupama-FDJ haven’t brought Swiss guard Stefan Küng for the TTT. Having written all this he can surprise on the upside, he is also now a resident of Menton so the final three days feature his training roads and he’s great on 10-20 minute climbs.

Among other names Pello Bilbao, Santiago Buitrago and Jack Haig bring climbing power for Bahrain but it’s hard to see an outright win, but easy to imagine Bilbao taking the final stage in Nice.

Luke Plapp (Jayco) felt the rash at the Tour Down Under and is working on becoming a GC rider, the timing might not suit as he’s off his early season peak and the big goal is the Giro but look to see how he climb with the bigger names.

Evenepoel, Roglič
Vlasov, Bilbao, Jorgenson
Rodriguez, McNulty, Vine, Skjelmose, Gall

6 thoughts on “Paris-Nice Preview”

  1. The other big names all seem to have gotten off to a strong start this year so it will be interesting to see how Roglic shapes up.

  2. I enjoy reading as always!
    In the paragraph about Roglic I think you missed “see” or other verb after we’ll:
    While his season is all about the Tour de France, we’ll how he and his team get along and a second win here probably mean more than the first, a way of settling into Bora-hansgrohe after a career spent at Jumbo.

  3. Interesting analysis. I’m keen to see how Bernal goes: things are looking more “normal” for him so far this season. Incidentally, the two sentences talking about Ineos look a bit mangled; a bit of editing would help!

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