Paris-Nice Stage 7 Preview

The summit finish stage… but with a last minute change of summit. If you plan to watch, don’t miss the early finish time.

Danish pasting: if sport is an exercise in hierarchy and a stage race is an iterative process where the contenders emerge and an order takes shape… well Paris-Nice is different. This week’s expected duel between Primož Roglič and Remco Evenepoel isn’t happening and the race is all the better for it as moves fly and teams take risks with tactics. Brandon McNulty is the new leader, the challenge will be to stay there.

This time Roglič did attack and forced a selection in the finale but he was countered by Matteo Jorgenson and this proved to be the stage-winning move. By now Evenepoel was out of team mates to bring things back and so up ahead Mattias Skjelmose was able to take the stage and Brandon McNulty the race lead and Jorgenson is up to second place. Bora-hansgrohe and Soudal-Quickstep can’t control the race and so this is creating opportunities for others. We’ll see if this holds today because the stage is more predictable, a dash to the foot of a long steady climb. While some enjoyed ladders, it was snakes for others with a mechanical for Santiago Buitrago as he fell out of the top-10.

The Route: just 104km but with 2,4000m of vertical gain which is a lot for a short distance. The first 89km are planned and if there is only a second category climb early on there one third of the stage’s vertical gain in the first 25km and often on twisting, awkward roads for the bunch. Anyone at the back will get the whiplash/accordion effect of having to try and keep up going out of all the bends, especially as it’s wet.

Then comes the turn for the climb to the Madonne d’Utelle. It’s uphill from the start but nothing hard, it’ll be difficult for a move to ride away.

The Finish: don’t confuse this with the Col de la Madone, that’s a different place. This climb is 15.3km at 5.7%. The profile says plenty but those steep black sections are hard to find out on the road, the kick at the end is only 11% if you stick to the inside of the long bend before the line. There’s a full Roads to Ride look at the climb but for today this climb’s principal difficulty is its length. If it’s not steep then teams can get to work early on and set a fierce pace to shell out riders, it’s a climb where teamwork and sitting on the right wheel for as long as possible counts as opposed to everyone locked on their own power to weight gravity battle. There’s a breather as they ride through Utelle where the slope eases but once they leave the town the road gets more irregular and rougher in surface as it climbs up. The road rises almost to the line before flattening out for the final 40 metres.

The Contenders: could it be Remco Evenepoel’s day? He came for the overall win and it’s still possible but a stage win would mark a decent week. The stage profile suits but he and his team will have it hard to keep things under control so he can have a clear run at the finish line.

Mattias Skjelmose attributed his win yesterday to great form but also said he probably had room to move because he was down on GC, he’ll be more marked but is still finishing fast as we saw on Mont Brouilly. Talking of which Santiago Buitrago is now in the same position, over two minutes down on GC. However the Brouilly winner will find this climb isn’t as easy, it can pay to sit on the wheels rather than strike out alone and if there’s a finish he might be outmuscled.

Evenepoel, Buitrago
Skjelmose, Roglič, Bilbao, Jorgenson

Weather: cold and wet, 9°C at the start and 5°C at the finish as storms and weather alerts are issued for south-eastern France. It’ll be rideable but cold.

TV: the stage starts at midday, TV coverage begins around 1.30pm and the finish is forecast for 3.00pm CET.

Postcard from Isola: normally KM 154, or 18km to go, should have seen the race go through the village of Isola but with snow forecast that’s been scrapped. In cycling Isola is better known for the 1970s ski resort of Isola 2000 which as the name suggests is up above at 2,000m and a place that has seen some racing and plenty of training. The Tour de France had a summit finish here in 1993 and in 2008 the Tour crossed back into France via the Col de la Lombarde which sits above the ski resort at 2,350m. Today marks the pass marks the border between France and Italy, but only since 1947 and the Treaty of Paris when Italy was punished for the war and forced to surrender some territory and the border was redrawn.

Italians can take pride in more recent events, the last time a pro race came here was the Giro d’Italia in 2016. The previous day Steven Kruijswijk hit that snow wall and lost the race lead to Esteban Chaves. Here on the penultimate stage, Michele Scarponi took his last pull on the front in the Giro to launch Vincenzo Nibali and his race winning attack in Isola 2000, dropping maglia rosa Esteban Chaves to take a solo stage win and the race lead in nearby Sant’Anna di Vinadio.

Many Nice/Monaco-based riders will know every bend in the road because it’s the closest location for altitude training, they stay up here sometimes. One of the features of the climb is the way it’s been engineered to make car access easier, famously to allow people go from the beach in Nice to the ski slopes in 90 minutes so some of the Alpine charm has been lost, it’s more highway than byway. Isola is run by the Alpes-Maritimes local government, as is Auron, the planned location for today’s finish. If Paris-Nice can’t make it to the ski station today then the authorities will hardly be worried as spreading the message that Auron and Isola are blanketed under abundant snowfall is probably just the publicity they want.

9 thoughts on “Paris-Nice Stage 7 Preview”

    • Jorgenson was saying on TV he was pleased the race picked this climb and how much he liked the views.

      Worth a visit if anyone is in the area, many visitors might try the nearby Madone or the Poggio which is not far away but famous and not much of a ride.. But this is a good choice too.

  1. »While some enjoyed ladders, it was snakes for others with a mechanical for Santiago Buitrago as he fell out of the top-10.«

    It wasn’t a mechanical, but a rider error as his pedal touched the road as he took a fast bend on the false-flat descent between the KOM and the intermediate sprint and crashed.

  2. The winning rider is not allowed a flag (and rightly so), but there’s an entire team named Israel. “Keep politics out of sport” we always hear.

    • Sportwashing is just that…no matter who is bankrolling it. Is there ANY sport out there not a victim of it, no matter what they try to do?

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