Paris-Nice Stage 3 Preview

A team time trial with a tricky, hilly first half to trouble the big rouleurs when their leaders need for the run back to the finish.

A long march: Mother Nature didn’t help, supplying only mild sunshine and the gentlest of headwinds. Jonas Rutsch and Mathieu Burgaudeau went up the road again with Rutsch taking more points for the mountains competition. They were brought back but sprinted later for the second and final climb of the day where double points were on offer and Burgaudeau won to take the mountains jersey. Pascal Eenkhoorn tried a move that was it for the action and without a move up the road the bunch trundled across the Beauce landscape to the finish in Montargis, the average speed with 50km to go was 35km/h, then things picked up for the intermediate sprint won by Danny van Poppel for Roglič, with Mads Pedersen and Mathias Skjelmose next for the time bonuses.

The sprint win came for Arvid De Kleijn, seemingly cast in the same mould of bulldog sprinters as compatriots Groenewegen and Jakobsen, and so far this season, faster. He’s no up and comer though, aged 29 he’s bounced around smaller teams, think Team Baby Dump. It was also Tudor Pro Cycling’s first World Tour win and with it, increased chances of invitations to more races. We know they’re doing the Giro but De Kleijn said he’s not on the list… for now. Thanks to his second place 21 year old Laurence Pithie took the yellow jersey which he’ll surely hand over to someone else today but he’s having a solid start to the season.

The Route: 26.9km and a malicious touch with two climbs in the first half which will put the heavyset rouleurs in the red. Coming after just 5km, the first unmarked climb is pretty much as the profile shows 4-5% as it climbs up through apple orchards and then comes a big fast descent down the old Roman road. The next climb is longer and has some 6-7% sections. Then it’s on a Route Nationale back to Auxerre, it is more up and down than the profile shows before the race snakes into Auxerre for an uphill finish that climbs into the town centre.

The Rules: a team time trial but the winning time is taken on the first rider to cross the line and each rider gets credited with the time they then cross the line with. This means two things:

  • a team is no longer as fast as its fourth or fifth rider, it doesn’t have to finish as a group. If one rider sprints solo to the line and sets the fastest time, their team wins the stage
  • pacing tactics can involve the whole team, they can burn up six riders before launching their best rider into the final climb but teams with multiple GC options will want to stick together.

Artifice, a gimmick? So is a team time trial based on the time of the fourth rider. It’s not a big deal but makes for a nice talking point on Tuesday in March as we get to see team tactics at work. Paris-Nice actually has a long history of innovation and rule changes, some like air transfers, prologues and the one/three kilometre rule all originated in this race and have become features of the sport.

The Contenders: the archetypal winning team would have seven Evenepoels, if it was a solo TT he’d be expected to win because he can take time on the flat and the climbs as well. Here our imaginary team would be intact after the two climbs and spinning 58T chainrings on the road back to town. Now this can’t happen so it’ll be interesting to see how teams manage their efforts, a test of cohesion and particularly for squads with more than one GC leader as they can’t launch a rider up the finishing straight in Auxerre, they’ll want to go together.

Ineos have a strong team and plenty of experience in team time trials and with Josh Tarling and Ben Turner, two solid engines who can also do well on shorter climbs.

UAE have lots of star names but can they all work together? The power is there and they should be close, plus it’ll be fascinating to see how they ride up the final ramp into Auxerre.

Visma-LAB won this stage last year but they had a stronger team on paper, this time they ought to be contenders but aren’t such an easy pick for the stage win. Look out for their oversized helmets.

Next there’s Lidl-Trek, Bora-hansgrohe and Soudal-Quickstep, all with solid teams but a win would be surprising, even if Evenepoel can tow his team mates good luck to them because he’s got a slippery aero profile, there’s just not much shelter behind. Bahrain could be in the mix too.

Ineos, UAE
Soudan-QS, Visma-LAB
Bora-hansgrohe, Lidl-Trek

Weather: cloudy and cool, just 8°C. A 15km/h wind from the SE means a headwind for the first third and a tricky crosswind across the climbs before a tailwind to the finish.

TV: the first team is off at 2.40pm and the last team is due in around 4.35pm CET.

Postcard from Auxerre: today’s start is outside the Abbé Deschamps stadium which, along with Auxerre the city itself, rhymes with Guy Roux. 85 years old, he’s famous in France as the long time coach of football club AJ Auxerre. Long time… as in he was in post for a record 36 years between 1961 and 2005, notable in a sport where even a short losing streak is sufficient to see a manager fired. Roux enjoyed duration and triumph alike, there was plenty of silverware along the way and he “discovered” several champions. He’s become a cult figure for longevity in France, and also for parsimony. His style wasn’t about recruiting superstars but taking on players for low wages and personally investing in them, ringing their doorbell at dawn to get them out of bed; driving past their apartment at night to check the lights were off to be sure they were going to bed early. There’s a story where he even padlocked Basile Boli’s scooter to stop him going out partying which is apocryphal but just adds to the legend.

Roux is also big cycling fan who’s almost as happy on the sofa watching a race as he is beside the training pitch. His longevity is interesting for pro cycling too. Hilaire Van der Schueren retired last year after decades as a team manager. There are no team managers on the race today who have been in charge for 36 years but the likes of Vincent Lavenu, Marc Madiot, Jean-René Bernaudeau and Patrick Lefevere are not far off, and surely closer to retirement than the start of their managerial careers to put it politely. Yvon Madiot, younger brother of Marc has just retired. There’s succession planning at work to handover the teams and we’ll see what they do in the coming years.

39 thoughts on “Paris-Nice Stage 3 Preview”

    • I don’t ever want to see those helmets again. I don’t know the brands well which suggests the advertising is not working but the spaceballs helmet, the helmet with the stupid neck sock have all been trumped by the worst helmet of all. People bag the UCI for all the rules but this needs a rule limiting the distance from the head or something.
      When the helmets are so embarrassing that nobody will train on them let alone ride them in normal riding circumstances what’s the point. Nobody will by them even compared to the old TT helmets. I doubt even most amateur TT specialists or triathlete would ride them in an event. It must be hard to ride your best when your so equipment is so crazy.

      • The helmets meet the rules for road races so what chance they get used in a sprint or downhill?

        As touched on in last week’s “Shorts” piece here, if riders are hidden under big helmets and behind dark visors it’s hard to recognise them and also to see the effort they are making. I can see the UCI at least regulating what kind of helmets can be used in road races.

        • The UCI should stop the arms race and just get rid of not only the helmets, but all the TT only stuff. It adds a lot of costs for smaller teams, especially at the proconti and conti level, where teams have to buy their bikes, making the difference between the haves and havenots bigger. I understand the smaller bike manufacturers don’t like it either (someone at Ridley appears to have said something to that effect), because the massive r&d costs are hard to recoup given the very limited sales. And I think it is bad for the image of the sport: no longer can you just on your second hand race bike and pretend to be your idol, because your idol rides on the bike equivalent of a F1 car in a ridiculous helmet where you can’t see his face. Compare that to that picture of Hinault looking badass in his aviators.

      • Amateur time trialists, in England at least, have absolutely no shame. These will definitely be appearing in open time trials before the end of this season.

        • I’m hoping the ridiculousness of the helmets reaches such a point that the UCI finally gets rid of all TT equipment, including the bikes.

          And, as Richard S says, there is no level of ludicrousness that people won’t stoop to if that’s what fashion or the supposed best thing dictates.

          • Hear, hear. My excitement for cycling gets a pushback every time I hear about or see any new tech “innovation” or gadget in the peloton. In conclusion replacing former doctors and sleazy soigneurs with engineers and tech heads has probably on net been positive, but these latest developments has me reaching for 1980 youtube clips of the cycling of yesterday.

          • I’ll back you on ths one.
            This double-up on everything is a costly affair for all involved. Add to this, this latest abomination (but effective nonetheless) and you have the final nail for the TT-eqp. coffin.
            Anyway, despite UCI approving these, I think the UCI is rethinking the regulations for some of the equipment. Most likely, we will see changes to the regulations com 2025 if not before.

      • It is notable that Visma-LAB didn’t really perform on T-A. I really don’t understand the logic behind the helmet. Both EF and Ineos have different helmets for different riders as their aerodynamic profiles vary, I can’t see how one-size-fits-all works.
        On a separate note Chris Boardman tweeted that the Secret Squirrel club tried a similar design many years ago but rejected it on both technical and aesthetic grounds.

        • It was claimed that the Visma-LB helmets are tailored to the riders, but I suspect that these are mere tweaks, so I see your point. Maybe they have worked on having a more unfirm riding position across the team? Just a guess…

      • The helmets are certainly striking, and new to the pro road peloton, but they’re not new to cycling. To my eyes they’re extremely evocative of the type used by people such as Eric Barone to set downhill speed records on snow. Perhaps we can’t seriously compare the two disciplines but they are both extremely interested in airflow…

        • Those wacky things were the first thing I thought of when we ran the replay last night! JFC, how long before the silly things become just a huge cone attached to the rider’s head that makes him like a missile? Are calf and upper arm fairings next? Will they bring back those cone-shaped things behind the rider attached to the saddle too?
          ALL of this chrono-specific stuff needs to go IMHO. Ride the same bike used in the rest of the stages. Before the race starts the UCI should mark every bike a team intends to use and these should be thoroughly inspected/weighed/etc. pre-race, not just by walking around the start with a laptop. ANY bike found anywhere with a team that is not marked or has a marking that has been tampered with should DQ the team.
          These mono-boob things need to go as well before they end up being some sort of flexible structure stuck inside the clothing in the chest area. Would seem fairly easy to ban anything attached to the rider that in any way improves aerodynamics over a naked rider with a traditional road helmet on his/her head.

          • They banned the stuff down jerseys last year didn’t they? And fairings have long been banned I think. They need to do something about these daft helmets though. A re thinking of the size rules, for both TTs and road. Road helmets should have a length limit and a minimum amount of air holes. Quite a few look like TT helmets now. The UCI or race organisers should also have the option of disqualifying one rider, such as Ben Healy at Strade Bianche, who in their opinion has brought shame on themselves and their sport by their choice of equipment. Wearing a longsleave skinsuit and ugly helmet in a hilly road race largely on gravel, with an average speed barely over 25mph, should result in a 12 month removal of his race licence. In my opinion.

          • There seemed to be more than one “mono-boob” on display on the T-A chrono replay I watched last night. Perhaps you were distracted by the Manta-ray crash hats? All that stuff may be banned now, but if they’re gonna let ’em go crazy with these helmets, where’s the limit? Remember the old 3-1 ratio on bike frame design? Where did that go? Whose efforts were involved in getting rid of it?

          • Playing devil’s advocate – or something like that anyway – maybe we can make space in a grand tour for a pure prototype TT. British style course on a dual carriage way/motorway with nothing to hit, all the fairings and coverings they like, disc wheels. The lot. Like a best human effort type record. Why not allow recumbents. All in for speed.

            Later in the race you can have a TT on a road bike, twisty course, narrow roads, ‘normal’ kit.

          • JV – why not save all the trouble and just put ’em on ergometers to pedal for an hour. Best watts/kg wins? It’s getting too damn close to that already for my liking! Noticed today that Chris Froome’s at T-A…I noticed when I saw him on the ground and then cruising in 4 minutes adrift of the winner after losing a minute in yesterdays chrono. Will he even make the team for LeTour?
            Meanwhile it seems the latest “trout-head” crash-hats aren’t doing so much for Visma?

  1. It seems hard to be a sprinter these days. Virtually no team is willing to invest an entire race team just for a sprinter so the sprints are so disorganised its a lottery. Only the one or 2 full sprinter teams (normally lower ranked teams) can consistently end up near the right spot.
    We have stronger GC and climber fields but less quality sprint trains.

  2. Always baffles me when sprinter-types help their GC leader to pick up bonus seconds and then end up ballsing it up by crossing the line before them as happened with Mads Pedersen and Mathias Skjelmose yesterday. Surely, it’s not that complicated?

  3. It is so great to be able to go to your site daily and read a preview of a meaningful bikerace again. Thank you INRNG for your coverage.

    A recommendation: Listen to the podcast “Ghost in the Machine” about motordoping. It is really wellmade and quite funny in places as well. Worth a listen.

    I’ve been listening to it while also following “The Roadman Podcast” who talked to Lemond about his own motordoping suspicions. He mentions Froome. I know Lemond seems a bit whiny, and he will always put himself and his Vo2max at the top. But he does say some things that make you think.
    What stands out to me, is the “high cadence climbing” we’ve seen Armstrong and Froome do in two different ways. We know Armstrong raised his oxygen ceiling by using blood doping, and he pushed 450-500w on climbs with a high cadence which looks weird now.
    When I go back and look at Froome in his prime attacking seated on climbs while spinning at 110 rpm, I just can’t help thinking he might be on a motor. There is something about the way you ride when assisted by a motor that is just different. When I see Froome ride now, he looks like he is spinning his gears at a normal rpm. All things aside: Have you ever seen a rider fundamentally change the way he pushes his pedals like that?

    • “I know Lemond seems a bit whiny, and he will always put himself and his Vo2max at the top”
      I wouldn’t say he’s “whiny” but he’s certainly a guy who got f__ked-over by BigTex, Trek and even his own father along the way, not to mention that uncle or whatever that pervert was. I’ve spoken with him live, in-person and sat-in on a few live interviews over the years and found the guy to (to his detriment at times ) to have no real filter between his heart and his mouth. The guy seems almost pathologically unable to not tell the truth and to expound on it at length. More than once in those interviews someone else had to come along and drag him away, otherwise he might have stayed there talking with/to us all afternoon/evening!

    • I droned though the Ghost in the Machine and at the end didn’t think there was much more there than here:
      CBS took less than 15 minutes to pretty much tell the story that took how many podcast episodes to go through? Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz. I’ll wait for news the guy has some actual evidence before I waste any more time on him, thought I applaud his efforts in investigating it. Makes me wonder (maybe on a smaller scale) if the UCI has their head-in-the-sand in the same way Mr. Mars and the Mad Hatter did back-in-the-day with BigTex and his doping?

      • There are some hilarious interviews with Femke Van den Driessche and her entourage. And it does go deeper than this article.
        But kudos to your speedy skills of listening to podcasts.

        • The entire Femke thing was a “People Magazine” waste of time IMHO. OTOH the guy did talk to Cookson and the UCI czar he hired to come up with the protocol to detect the motors. And he did make a reasonable case (that CBS didn’t much bother with at the time) that UCI might be thinking motorized bikes are like BigTex’ doping under Verbruggen/McQuaid…they did some half-assed measures and called it good, despite actually (probably?) knowing that was far from the case. The current guys know what happened when Tex’ huge fraud was finally uncovered and how much egg the UCI had on their face as a result…so they don’t want motorized bikes to cause another huge scandal on that scale?
          But I still had to wade through hours and hours to get what CBS could have done in 30 minutes. Do these people get paid by the minute or word? I hope the guy can make it all worthwhile by actually getting someone to talk on-the-record or come up with some real proof motors are being used post-Femke. Jerome Pinot seems to think so. The UCI needs to do more to find out. But what little they’ve done so far makes me think it’s more they don’t wanna know rather than they do!

  4. For me this is yet another ‘paint drying’ day for Paris-Nice.
    I will be watching the Italian version which may provide a little more stimulation and excitement!

  5. Just looking at the bunch photo – DSMs new kit has a bit of a Coop-Hoonved vibe to it, least from a distance. (That was a classy jersey actually 😉 ).

  6. Thanks for the Guy Roux bit ; he was also friend with the people in Auxerre’s highway toll driving to Paris, who called him when one of his players was going to party in the capital (I think the story was told by Djibril Cissé)… Now with automatic toll it would be more complicated. He was all about formation of very young players, like we can see now in cycling.
    Parts of the french movie Coup de tête were filmed in the Abbé-Deschamps stadium, and are certainly suggestive of the life of a small club arriving in first division in those years (the 80’s).

  7. Is it possible for a very good individual tine trialist to complete a time trial faster than a team with a variety of TT abilities? Wondering if Evenepoel would be faster if he did the entire thing on his own…

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