2023 Paris-Nice Stage 5 Preview

Saint-Symphorien-sur-Coise > Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux 212.2km

After today’s GC fun, it’s another day to interest the sprinters, in all likelihood it’s their final shot at glory in this race. They’ll grovel round this weekend, or head home for a beer and Dominos, or is that my weekend?

Weather

There could be a little bit of rain around and there’s going to be a nagging headwind for the whole day.

Final Climb

5.9km at 4.3% isn’t much, but if some teams want to push the pace on, it could put a few sprinters into difficulty. The crest comes with 30km to go.

Finale

The final 7.5km doesn’t contain a single corner, this seems to be the fashion these days. What we do have is two roundabouts, one under the flamme rouge, the other with just 300m to go, I have no idea why the finish is where it is. The one at the flamme rouge has both sides open, the left-hand side is the faster way round. 

The final roundabout just has the right-hand side open; the winner will be in the first three or four positions at this point. It’s one of those roundabouts where you can bunny hop over the centre of it, rather than staying on the tarmac. 

Tactics

It’s the longest stage of the race, which always complicated things, and that’s not the only thing which will worry the sprint teams, there are three categorised climbs in the opening 35km. Can a strong break form and disappoint the fast men? It will be interesting to see if teams like Soudal – Quick Step, Bora, Lotto, and Trek look to put men in the break with the objective to disrupt it, which I would recommend given the start.

Breakaway riders will take one look at the start and think, yes please. The problem is how long of the stage is left once the climbs are done, and the nagging headwind for the whole stage. If the break is going to win, it’s going to have to contain more than six riders. 

Cycling fans look at these stages and think it has to be a break but put yourself in the shoes of a DS from a sprint team. If you have a fast sprinter, you have a much better chance of winning the stage from the sprint compared to the break. However, by getting a rider in the break, it forces others into chasing, leaving them reduced for the sprint finish. I would say this stage is in the balance, it depends on the approach of the big sprint teams.

The final climb also has to be considered. If it is going to end in a sprint, expect to see Trek-Segafredo and maybe Jayco make it as hard as possible for the likes of Merlier. It doesn’t look hard enough to drop top riders, but you just never know.

Contenders

Tim Merlier – got one win, would love another. Soudal – QuickStep have a decision to make, will they go all in for Merlier? One thing is for certain, he’s their best chance of taking a win in this stage. Given their sprint train, the two roundabouts in the final kilometre should be music to their ears.

Sam Bennett – no win yet, Bora should be riding for a sprint. The sprint train hasn’t worked great yet this week, this is their final chance to make it happen.

Arnaud De Lie – there’s a lot of talk about him potentially winning Sanremo, we’ll see how he copes with the distance in this stage. The problem he’s had this week is a lack of support in the closing stages, and I don’t see that changing in this stage.

Olav Kooij – another impressive youngster who has a real chance of winning this stage. The problem is the length of his sprint train, the absence of Laporte leaves a big hole that can’t be filled. 

Mads Pedersen – with one stage win in the bag, the pressure is off, but he wants another. What I love about Trek-Segafredo is when they commit to Pedersen, they really commit. This looks a good stage for the Dane, especially if it’s a tough day in the saddle. In particular, the distance should mean he is closer in speed to the likes of Merlier. 

Fred Wright – breakaway option number 1. Could this be the day for his first win?

Kell O’Brien – breakaway option number 2. He’s a rider I like, and not just because he’s in my fantasy team!

Nils Politt – breakaway option number 3. Will Bora let him chase some personal glory?

Stefan Küng – breakaway option number 4. Might have to work for Démare.

Magnus Cort – breakaway option number 5. Will he risk it all and go for the break?

Kasper Asgreen – breakaway option number 6. Just in case it’s not all for Merlier.

Prediction Time

It all depends on the size, composition, and work ethic of the breakaway, which is impossible to predict before the actual event.

Embed from Getty Images

I’ll go for a sprint finish and a win for Tim Merlier.

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