When deciding on the route for this year’s Paris-Nice, the organisers went a wee walk down the local park. One of them brought the carry oot (alcohol), another some weed, and they even managed to find some magic mushrooms along the way. After a very long night, they decided on a 32km TTT, but the team’s time is taken on the first rider across the line, and each individual rider gets their own time on crossing the line. Far out man! This stage will hopefully see some whacky tactics, some could get it very wrong, at least that’s what I hope. The rest of the route is typically Paris-Nice.
After Pogačar announced his change of schedule, everyone’s been excited about seeing him and Vingegaard go toe-to-toe. Last year’s Tour was a race for the ages, a remarkable spectacle for us watching fans. Pogačar’s move could be seen as an attempt to get in Vingegaard’s head, but the Dane is made of strong stuff, the move could even backfire on Pogačar. He’s going to lose time in the TTT, we’ll have to see if he can make it back up in the three mountain stages. Whatever happens, it’s going to be fun to watch.
The first stage is on the outskirts of Paris and features a lap circuit. There’s a wall climb with 20km to go, but this should still be a day for the sprinters.
Scenario – sprint, but not all the fast men will make it.
The first of the potential crosswind stages. At this point, the forecasters are saying the wind will be 15km/h, it needs to be stronger to see major splits.
Scenario – bunch sprint.
The dreaded time trail stage, expect to see some huge gaps.
Scenario – big gaps on GC, but most teams will stick to the usual approach.
The next potential crosswind stage, but the wind doesn’t look like being strong enough. The stage finishes at La Loge des Gardes, which is a new climb for the race. It’s a punchy effort of 6.5km at 7.1%, but the climb is harder than the numbers suggest.
Scenario – Pogačar v Vingegaard, round 1.
The long stage, there’s always one. The breakaway hunters will be interested in this one, thanks to the climbs at the start of the stage, but it looks like a sprint to me.
Scenario – bunch sprint.
A tricky looking stage as the bunch head towards Monaco. There’s enough climbing to put off some of the sprinters, but a few of them will fancy their chances of surviving. There’s a cheeky 2km at 9.4% with 30km to go, and the final 500m averages close to 7%.
Scenario – reduced sprint.
The Col de la Couillole is 15.2km at 7.3%, it’s a proper mountain at this time of the year.
Scenario – Pogačar v Vingegaard, round 2.
The final stage is the same as was used last year, which means we get a very steep section on the way up Col d’Èze. The GC should still be all to play for, and this is a stage that never disappoints.
Scenario – Pogačar to go thermonuclear.
Jonas Vingegaard – the TTT is going to be very important for him, Jumbo-Visma will be keen on having a sizeable lead heading into the mountains. The squad are full of TT experts, and the management will have spent a long time considering the best strategy for the new rules, this is a discipline they normally excel in. In the hilly stages the team have Foss and Kruijswijk as the main climbing support, this is good, but they are lacking a Wout Van Aert, a rider who was crucial last year in helping Roglič take the win. If Vingegaard has around 1 minute of an advantage in the TTT, he should be able to win the yellow jersey, but he’ll need a huge ride in the Nice stage, that’s the one day he could be exposed.
Tadej Pogačar – from a TT perspective, his team are weak. They are the team I hope try something different. No doubt, Pogačar is their strongest option, I wonder when he’ll go solo. Whatever happens, he’ll lose time to Vingegaard in that stage, but can he make it up in the mountains? I don’t see huge gaps on Col de la Couillole, it’s a steady Eddie of a climb, but the Nice stage is where it can explode. Vingegaard has good support, but he doesn’t have a super domestique like Roglič had last year. I expect Pogačar to start the final stage between 30 and 60 seconds down, then he’ll try and launch some bombs, we’ll have to wait and see what happens.
Surprise – back in 2014, all eyes were on Contador and Froome as they matched up at the Dauphiné. The two big stars of the sport were meant to go head-to-head in an epic battle, but it didn’t work out that way. While they looked at each other, Andrew Talansky won the title. Surprises do happen, but they are rare.
The Battle for 3rd
You need a good TT, and the ability to climb with the best in the mountains. In what is likely to be a battle between Yates, Gaudu, Martínez, I’ll take the Colombian to finish on the podium.
The watts per kilogram experts on social media will tell you they already know who’ll win this race, based on their “estimations” from Andalucía and Camiño, you should ignore them. I base my opinions on looking at the performances of each rider, and who they were up against in the races. At this point of the season, I would say that Pogačar is stronger than Vingegaard, and even though the TT is going to have a huge impact, the final stage is perfect for a long-range attack.
I’ll take a win for Tadej Pogačar.