Châtel-Guyon and Brioude are the stage towns and we’ll be heading south once more on 6th March, Wednesday. Similar to Stage 2, the pelaton will loop around Brioude before passing the finish line but this time, they’ll be facing a 2nd category climb within the circuit.
The stage is very suitable for a breakaway group to succeed. Tom Boonen of Omega-Pharma-Quickstep lost more time in the GC, probably deliberately, so it won’t be a suprise to see him in an escape group. I don’t think the pelaton would let Thomas Voeckler or Simon Gerrans to escape unless it is quite a large one, which is very unlikely.
If the breakaway get caught before the Cote de Mauvaganat, it’ll most likely be a group sprint and amongst the sprinters; Jose Joaquin Rojas and Sylvain Chavanel have the best chance of staying with the bunch in the climb. I don’t think the stage will have a big impact with the GC but Elia Viviani will lost his yellow jersey for sure.
No proper sprint train managed to control the pelaton due to strong headwind and it was Alessandro Petacchi of Lampre who started a very long sprint with more than 500 meters to go but it was Argos Shimano’s german sprinter Marcel Kittel‘s last 200 meters late sprint that shaped the podium. Elia Viviani from Cannondale finished second while Leigh Howard of Orica-Greenedge finished third.
Stage 1 winner Nacer Bouhanni, slipped on a turn and crashed out of the stage and is forced to abandon. Kevin Seeldraeyers couldn’t start today’s stage due to the incident he was involved in yesterday. And besides Bouhanni, Jacob Rathe and Alexandre Pichot abandoned the race as well.
Viviani is now leading not only GC but also youg rider and the points classifications. Borut Bozic of Astana will wear the green jersey whereas Wilco Kilderman from Blanco will wear the white jersey.
1. Marcel Kittel (Ger) Team Argos-Shimano 5:42:18
2. Elia Viviani (Ita) Cannondale
3. Leigh Howard (Aus) Orica GreenEdge
Quite similar to the first stage, Stage 2 starting on 5th March, Tuesday is a flat course that favors sprinters for more than anyone else. Nacer Bouhanni, Elia Viviani, Alessandro Petacchi and Jens Debusschere showed that they are in form. Marcel Kittel missed the sprint in Stage 1; pelaton split into two and the group he got stuck with couldn’t catch up. He won the first sprint stage of Tour of Oman in front of pretty much the same sprinters that were in the field today; so this time, I don’t think Argos-Shimano will make the same mistake again and got stuck behind. Orica Greenedge managed to do a very good job with their sprint train, it was a pity Leigh Howard failed to respond in time, this time they’ll be more careful with the positioning and maybe with Michael Matthews instead.
The stage will start in Vimory, a small village near Montargis and after 200.5 kms of pedaling straight to the south, we’ll end up in an another small village Cérilly in Allier. The intermediate sprints are interesting, one very close to the start and the other just before the actual sprint. Sprint teams can show some interest this time both for the green jersey points and time bonuses.
Both the green and yellow jerseys can change hands after the stage. It is a slightly uphill finish but don’t think it’ll be steep enough for anyone other than the pure sprinters to have a chance in here.
Orica Greenedge worked very hard in the final kilometers for their Australian sprinter Leigh Howard but it was FDJ’s Nacer Bouhanni outsprinting Alessandro Petacchi of Lampre and Elia Viviani from Cannondale. Bouhanni was “less than” 10 seconds slower than Gaudin in the prologue and with the 10 second time bonus, he is now the proud owner of the yellow jersey.
Sylvain Chavanel failed to finish the bunch sprint with a podium spot, but still got 9 points for the sprinters qualification. With so much sprinters in good form, he may as well say goodbye to the green jersey tuesday evening. Bertjan Lindeman of Vacansoleil was in the escape group today and also the first to cross both the intermediate sprints and the single mountain gate. He wears the mountains jersey and is guaranteed to keep it tomorrow as well since there is not a single categorized climb.
Movistar’s GC contender Rui Costa failed to finish the stage after crashing and possibly breaking his wrist, alongside Jure Kocjan of Euskatel and Pierrick Fedrigo of FDJ due to illness. Also during the final kilometers, due to cross-wind, minor accidents and increasing pace, the pelation is split into two, resulted Marcel Kittel to miss the sprint and Tom Boonen to lose very valuable time.
1. Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) FDJ 4:47:24
2. Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Lampre-Merida
3. Elia Viviani (Ita) Cannondale Pro Cycling
The first “real” stage of Paris Nice starts from Saint-Germain-en-Laye and ends in Nemours on March 4, Monday; traveling along the outskirts of Paris.
It will be a typical sprint day, where a breakaway group kept carefully at distance by sprint teams and got eventually caught within the last 20 kilometers, where a bunch sprint then is unavoidable. Marcel Kittel of Argos-Shimano, Mark Renshaw of Blanco and Nacer Bouhanni of FDJ are the best sprinters in the pelaton and don’t think a last-5 km break from Chavanel or a sprint effort from Boonen could make things different.
There will be time bonuses both in the intermediate sprints and at the stage finish, so expect one of the sprinters to wear the yellow jersey at the end of the stage.
The ex-track cyclist from Europcar surprised everyone on Sunday with his win over the 2.9 km very technical prologue in Paris-Nice. As a road cyclicts, Gaudin’s most important success was coming second in 2011 Tour of Luxemburg prologue. Damien Gaudin finished the circuit in 3′ 37″, Sylvain Chavanel of Omega Pharma-Quick Step finished in second place and last year’s runner-up Lieuwe Westra of Vacansoleil-DCM came third and showed that he is in form for this year’s GC race.
1. Damien Gaudin (Fra) Team Europcar 0:03:37
2. Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Omega Pharma-Quick-Step Cycling Team 01″
3. Lieuwe Westra (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team
The race starts on March 3, Sunday with a pretty short (2.9 k in total), flat but a winding route. The mid section is especially interesting and will most likely be the decider in this very technical prologue .
Last year, after a 9.4 km time-trial, Gustav Larsson took the first yellow jersey thanks to the heavy rain which hampered the late starters; Bradley Wiggins, Cadel Evans and Tony Martin to name a few. Larsson, the Swedish national time trial champion now riding for IAM Cycling, looks more of a favorite this time with most of the elite time-trialists picking Tirreno-Adriatico instead. Still, there are quite some riders that can perform well and with a bit of luck, can clinch a prestigious win in here; Anders Kloden of Radio Shack, Sylvain Chavanel of Omega-Pharma and Brent Bookwalter of BMC, Simon Spilak of Katusha to name a few. Even pure sprinters like Mark Renshaw or Marcel Kittel can score very interesting times if the weather happens to be on their side.
The race will be broadcasted live on Eurosport 2 starting from 15:30 CET and also in a wide range of tv channels across Europe around the same times.
Besides the now “19″ pro tour teams, 4 teams are invited with wildcards: Cofidis, IAM Cycling, Sojasun and Team Europcar.
Bradley Wiggins will not be racing to defend his title, and looks like SKY will be aiming for stage wins with the likes of Richie Porte and Jonathan Tiernan-Locke instead of a solid GC attempt. With the big names of the pelaton missing, by the looks of it it’ll be an open race for the yellow jersey.
Last year’s runner up Luewa Westra is back, but lacking last year’s form so far. Thomas De Gendt will also be riding for Vacansoleil though not sure he is in good shape, which can be said also for Blanco’s Robert Gesink. TJ van Garderen from BMC, Rui Costa of Movistar and FDJ’s Jean-Christophe Peraud should be taken very seriously for the overall classification. Watch for Nacer Bouhanni and Marcel Kittel for the sprints and with 2 stages particularly suitable for breakaway groups, we can expect a stage win from the likes of Simon Gerrans, Tom Boonen, Philippe Gilbert and even the grueling Thomas Voeckler if he has the legs for it.
Paris-Nice, the “race to the sun” will be held between March 3 and 10 this year. It is mostly regarded as the actual start of the cycling season in Europe.
This year’s edition will start from Houilles with a short prolog, an outer suburb of Paris before the pelaton moves south all the way to the Mediterranean. The final stage, a time-trial on a 9.6 km long category-1 climb means that the race for the yellow jersey won’t be settled until the last second.
Despite failing to draw enough attention this year from the TdF contenders (most of them will be in Tirreno-Adriatico instead), Paris-Nice, a 2.HC race in UCI Wold Tour is always considered as a stepping stone before the TdF. “‘If I can win Paris-Nice, I can win the Tour de France’”, said Bradley Wiggins to the media in 2012, after defending his yellow jersey in the uphill time-trial event in Col d’Èze. The same stage will as well be the final stage of this year’s race.
Paris-Nice past winners include Sean Kelly (7), Jacques Anquetil (5), Eddy Merckx (3) and Laurent Jalabert (3). Most recently Alexandre Vinokourov (2), Alberto Contador (2) and Tony Martin claimed the yellow jersey in this season-opener dating back to 1933.