Preview: Paris – Nice 2016

Preview: Paris – Nice 2016

ROAD CYCLING: Col d’Èze, Promenade des Anglais, Madone d’Utelle and Mont Ventoux. An entertaining course for this season’s first world tour race on the northern hemisphere. We give you an update on the stages, some fun facts and predictions.

PN

Prologue: Conflans-Sainte-Honorine 6,1 km:

Course:

As usual in the Paris – Nice, the short prologue will take place in the outskirts of Paris. Yet again, the spectators are robbed of an attraction-filled opener on the Boulevards of the French metropole. Naturally, that doesn’t impact the riders’ performance. Only 6,1 km means full throttle.

Fun fact:

Nicholas Roche was born in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine back in 1984. Some sort of a tribute to him perhaps? It would almost an insult if Roche doesn’t start this year’s race to the sun.

Prediction:

Michal Kwiatkowski won the prologue last year, and will be one of the favourites again. Rohan Dennis, with his massively impressive prologue win in last year’s Tour de France, and his second place in last years Paris – Nice prologue, is another hot candidate. The sprinters have been far off in the prologues in previous editions of the race. Both Degenkolb and Matthews came in top 10 in 2015, ten and twelve seconds behind Kwiato. Needless to say, there will be many a surprised face to see in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine if one of the sprinters steps up to take the victory.

KWIATKOWSKI: The polish phenomenon won the prologue in 2015. Will he win it again this year?
KWIATKOWSKI: The polish phenomenon won the prologue in 2015. Will he win it again this year?

Stage 1: Condé-sur-Vesgre to Vendôme 195 km (flat)

Course:

The peloton doesn’t have to travel many kilometers south to find the start of the first stage. From the southwestern suburbs of Paris the riders will attack relatively flat terrain for 195 kilometres. The finish line is placed in Vendôme, a beautiful city at the Loire river. The organizers have been kind enough to ad some kilometers of dirt roads towards the end of the stage, giving the riders a premature and probably unwelcome Paris-Roubaix-feeling.

Fun fact:

French footballers Hatem Ben-Arfa and Mathieu Flamini both celebrate their birthday on march 7th. Will one of the French sprinters take the winner in honour of their fellow athletes?

Prediction:

Alexander Kristoff won the first bunch sprint in  last year’s edition. Nacer Bouhanni came in second, ahead of Bryan Coquard. Adding Danish Michael Mørkøv to his aleady strong lead out, Kristoff can’t be any less of a favourite for the 2016 edition. Kristoff has announced that he will use the Paris – Nice as preparation for the upcoming classics. With probable crosswinds, echelons and even dirt roads, Kristoff stands out as the man to beat on the first stage.

Stage 2: Contres to Commentry 214 km (flat)

Course:

Contres is not much further south than Vendôme, and the riders are yet again lucky with a short transfer between the stages. 214 km is on the menu for the peloton on what looks like another flat stage. Many of the riders will be familiar with the flat roads between Paris and Tours. On this stage, however, the peloton turns its nose slightly eastward, as it approaches the finish line in Commentry. The riders enter the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, where the terrain changes a little.

Fun fact:

The Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region used to be two separate regions (a merger of Auvergne and Rhône Alpes). The merger, having already caused trouble for local wine producers affiliated with only one of the regions, came into effect on 1 January 2016.

Prediction:

Kristoff is likely to grab the first stage, but not the second. Hungry French sprinters, like Bouhanni, Demarè and Coquard will challenge the Norwegian for this one. The potential presence of Marcel Kittel, however, would make it hard for the Frenchmen to clinch the victory. As Andrè Greipel broke one of his ribs in Algarve, he is unlikely to be fit enough to compete in the bunch sprints already at the beginning of March.

Stage 3: Cusset to Mont Brouilly  166,5 km (hilly)

Course:

The riders leave the countryside and enter the Massif Central. A hilly eastbound day, heading in the direction of the Saone valley. The peloton will be shaken up, and the course will force the overall candidates to test their shape. At the end of the stage, the riders meet a loop they will do twice, with a climb to the finish line. Located only 50 kilometers from Lyon, the final climb should be packed with spectators.

Fun fact:

The departure city of Cusset lies in the same metropolitan area as Vichy, known for being the capital of the French, Nazi-friendly regime in the years between 1940 and 1944 during World War 2.

GALLOPIN: Won a stage, and wore the yellow jersey in last years edition. Should be able to make his mark on the stage to Mont Brouilly.
GALLOPIN: Won a stage, and wore the yellow jersey in last years edition. Should be able to make his mark on the stage to Mont Brouilly.

Prediction:

The favorites really have to put on a show of strength in the final loop. 3 km with an average gradient of 7,7 % should really test the puncheurs. Tony Gallopin is a good tip, and so is his countryman Alexis Vuillermoz. The Australian BMC duo Richie Porte and Rohan Dennis should also be able to compete for the win, especially considering their probable yellow-jersey ambitions.

Stage 4: Juliènas to Romans-sur-Isére  193,5 km(flat)

Course:

Juliènas, a small town close to Macon, will be hosting the departure of stage 5. From Juliénas, the peloton stays in the valley of the Saone river. They head south towards the area around Valence, and ultimately the finish line in Romans-sur-Isére. The organizers have characterized the stage as “hilly”. It will be interesting to see where they can find small climbs along the route.

Fun fact:

One of Romans-sur-Isére’s sister cities is Italian Varese. Varese is where Alessandro Ballan won the world championship back in 2008. Many famous riders have also been living in Varese, such as Oscar Freire, Ivan Basso, Stefano Garzelli, Alfredo Binda, Michael Rogers, and of course our friend Nicholas Roche. This can’t be a coincidence.

Prediction:

As the course is rumoured to be hilly, the Australian Michael Matthews has to be one of the favourites. The Orica Greenedge-rider won the green jersey last year, and is dependent on stages like this to win it again. You should also keep an eye out for Fabio Felline, and the Moviestar riders Lobato and Rojas.

Stage 5: Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteux to Salon-de-Provence 198 km (mountains)

Course:

It’s time to enter Vaucluse. Many of the riders is perfectly aware that Vaucluse means Mont Ventoux. This time around, the peloton will only climb the first part, from Bedoin and up to the ski resort Chalet-Reynard at 1435 m, the highest point of this year’s race. From here, the riders have Ca 115 kilometers left until they reach the finish line in Salon-de-Provence. Three more second category climbs will make the sprinters suffer as they head towards the warm weather in Provence.

CHALET-REYNARD 1435m: the riders will suffer through the worst part of the climb from Bedoin to Mont Ventoux. 9,5 km with an average gradient of 9,3 %.
CHALET-REYNARD 1435m: the riders will suffer through the worst part of the climb from Bedoin to Mont Ventoux. 9,5 km with an average gradient of 9,3 %.

Fun fact:

The Chalet-Reynard ski resort has two lifts, with six accompanying slopes. There is also a track that goes all the way to the top of Ventoux for cross-country skiers. If there is enough snow, the ski resort is open every Wednesday, and on weekends.

Prediction:

The climb up to Chalet-Reynard would have been decisive, had it been placed a little bit closer to the finish. Moreover, the following second categories aren’t that tough either. A very diverse stage like this will probably see the breakaway go all the way to the line. If not, riders like Kwiatkowski, Gilbert and Gallopin could be up for it in the sprint.

 

Stage 6: Nice to Madone d’Utelle 177 km (mountains)

Course:

After the Ventoux-stage, the peloton will transfer all the way to Nice (200 km), where they finally will get more than one night at the same hotel. Stage 6 is the queen stage, with the finish line at the summit of Madone d’Utelle at 1165 m. 15,3 km with an average gradient of 5,7 % is likely to have a huge impact on the overall standing. The small and twisted road leading to the catholic sanctuary at the top will most definitely be decisive for the outcome of the overall competition.

Fun fact:

Sean Kelly is the rider with the most wins in the Paris – Nice. He won 7 times between 1982 and 1988. That’s two more than Jaques Anquetil, who has got five under his belt. Richie Porte could claim his third victory in 2016, the same number that the cannibal Eddy Merckx has.

THE MAN TO BEAT: If Froome comes to the start, the other riders will have to prepare for his attack towards Madone d’Utelle.
THE MAN TO BEAT: If Froome comes to the start, the other riders will have to prepare for his attack towards Madone d’Utelle.

Prediction:

There is no way around mentioning Chris Froome and Alberto Contador as the main favourites for this stage. Obviously, it depends on who chooses to start the race. Former Froome-teammate Richie Porte will also be among the favorites, as he has won the race twice before. Look out for an in-form Romain Bardet as well, who will be eager to show his climbing capacity.

 

Stage 7: Nice to Nice 141 km (hilly)

Course:

The final stage takes place in the hills around the city of Nice. Six categorized climbs should see many riders suffer on the final day. After ending the race with a time trial up Col d’Èze in previous editions, the organizers are back to the traditional course, with a finish at the Promenade des Anglais along the beach.

Fun fact:

The last 15 editions of the Paris – Nice have only seen three time trials up the Col d’Èze. The fun fact here is that Team Sky has won all three of them (two for Richie Porte, one for Sir Bradley Wiggins). The last ITT up Col d’Èze before the Team sky dominance was back in 2000, when Andreas Klöden grabbed the victory.

Prediction:

The last two editions of this stage have seen Arthur Vichot and Thomas Voeckler come out as winners. Both are hot candidates for this year’s edition as well. The profile is yet again a bit too bulky for the sprinters. The overall favorites will probably attack on the last summit, but they will have a hard time gaining seconds on the final 15 kilometres. Anyhow, my money is on Nicholas Roche for this one. Just seems appropriate.

GET IN THERE NICKY: The road to the sun is paved in Roche's name this year. Is it written in the stars that the 31-yer-old Irishman will grab a stage victory?
GET IN THERE NICKY: The road to the sun is paved in Roche’s name this year. Is it written in the stars that the 31-yer-old Irishman will grab a stage victory?

About The Author

Erik Markussen studiert Jura in Oslo. Als Fahrrad-Verrückter hat er in der Vergangenheit schon für verschiedene Norwegische Zeitungen gearbeitet. Er ist außerdem passionierter Langläufer und selbsternannter Kevin Réza-Fan.

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