2022 Paris-Nice Stage 1 Preview

Mantes-la-Ville > Mantes-la-Ville 159.7km

Very much a classical opening stage of Paris-Nice. We have a chance of echelons, some punchy climbs, a chance for the puncheurs and hope for the sprinters. As I said, a classic opening stage of Paris-Nice.

Weather

Cold and sunny with a wind of 15-20km/h coming from the north-east. There is a lovely crosswind section inside the final 70km, which lasts for around 20km, but then there is a lot of headwind as the bunch head back towards the finish. There is a chance the race splits and comes back together.

Key Points

The first of the climbs comes with 31km to go, it has a sprint point at the top. The climb is 1km at 6.5%, and the sprint point means someone will attack. 

With 25km to go comes the cat 3 climb, 1.3km at 6.7%, before the bunch head across the finishing line and enter the final lap. Once they cross the line the road starts to rise, we’re talking about 1km at 5% with another sprint point at the top, we now have 15km to go.

The bunch then loop round for the final ascent of the cat 3 climb, the crest comes with 5km to go. A fast descent follows before the road gently rises to the finishing line. Both climbs are done on narrow roads, this is a tricky finish for the pure sprinters.

Finale

The descent is fast, but there is a nasty central reservation in the middle of the road, which will split the bunch in two. The final turn comes with 400m to go, and the road rises to finish. This is a sprint where leaving it late will pay dividends. 

Tactics

The early stages will be nervous as there is a real chance of echelons, but I think it will likely come back together. The finale is brilliant, the sprinters will back themselves to survive the series of climbs as they’re all short, but they won’t all make it.

Positioning in the circuit is incredibly important, take the final climb for example. If a sprint team can boss the approach, they can fan across the narrow road and ensure the climb is done at tempo. With 5km to go from the top, their sprinter can afford to slip down the bunch and not go too deep on the climb, then move back up on the descent. The approach to the climb includes a big corner where the bunch almost do a 180, the battle for control will be fierce.

The appearance of bonus seconds is also going to be important. Placed at the top of climbs will tease out attacks from some of the GC riders. The race is unlikely to be won by a handful of seconds, but any time collected will mean a better starting position in the TT.

If a puncheur team controls the climb, we’ll see a fast pace and attacks, which will be bad news for the pure sprinters. With just 5km to go from the top, there is hope for those who don’t want a sprint. This is why the stage is so good, it gives different types of riders a chance of winning. Solo attack, reduced sprint, full sprint. You decide!

Contenders

Wout Van Aert – starts as the favourite to win the stage, because he can win in three ways. Van Aert is quick enough to win from a big sprint, he’ll comfortably win a reduced sprint and he can even go solo from the final climb. As Jumbo-Visma also have Laporte, it could free Wout up to attack, or maybe Laporte will be the one to make the final climb hard. 

Sonny Colbrelli – he would benefit from a fast final 30km. Colbrelli was impressive in Omloop, especially the way he bridged to the front group on the Berendries. He ended the season as one of the best in the world, it looks like he’s ready to kick on in 2022. He won’t win a full sprint, so Bahrain needs to make it a hard stage if the Italian is to take the win. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him attack the final climb, if he’s in a good position. 

Bryan Coquard – he’s enjoyed a fine start to the season, and this is a good stage for him. He’ll hope that the pure sprinters don’t survive the climbs, that will give him a good chance of finishing on the podium.

Fabio Jakobsen – his chances of survival depend on how the race is ridden. If we have a full gas day with echelons and a furious chase, followed by a high pace on the climbs, he won’t make the cut. If the day is gentler and QuickStep can control the final climb, he’ll be right there looking to take another win. I’d say his chances are 50/50.

Jasper Philipsen – he’s a better climber than Jakobsen, the Belgian will be confident of making the finish. After a brilliant UAE Tour, his confidence will be sky high, and he’ll see this stage as a big chance. He’s got a good sprint train with him, most of whom can climb a bit, they’ll be very important in the final 5km. 

Mads Pedersen – not raced since Bessèges, he had to alter his plans due to COVID. Current shape is unknown. If he’s not 100%, the team will turn to Stuyven.

Sam Bennett – he’s in a very similar position to Jakobsen, it all depends on how hard the day is. With the UAE Tour in the legs, he’ll be up to speed and looking for a stage win in this race.

Matteo Trentin – needs to attack on the final climb, given his current form, he’s got a chance of winning solo.

Cees Bol – loves Paris-Nice, it’s a race that seems to get the best out of the big Dutchman. DSM haven’t enjoyed a great start to the season, but all it takes is one win to get them going. They’ve got a strong team to support Bol in a stage like this, the likes of Kragh, Degenkolb and Eekhoff are going to be very important in the final 10km.

Pierre Latour – of course he’s going to attack in the finale, nothing is more certain in life. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely to succeed.

Prediction Time

The narrow streets, the punchy climbs, the battle for position, I think we’ll see the pure sprinters disappointed at the end of this stage. I’ll take a win for Wout Van Aert.

Share: