Paris-Nice 2013 Preview – Stage 5

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The 5th stage of Paris-Nice, Châteauneuf-du-Pape / La Montagne de Lure etappe on 8th March, Friday is the queen stage of the race. To win Paris-Nice, you have to shine on Sunday’s time-trial but you can very well lose it here. The final climb is a grueling 13.8 kilometre-long climb at 6.6%, which should actually be categorized as HC in grand tour standards.

The stage is almost identical to 2009′s Stage 6, which was won by Alberto Contador over Frank Schleck by 58 seconds. There are 8 riders now who are less than 10 seconds behind race leader Andrew Talansky, and with the time bonuses, the winner of this stage will most probably also wear the yellow jersey. It’ll be a though day for Talansky, with so many riders so close in the GC, he’ll need to retaliate a constant wave of attacks within an elite group, and a passive defending mindset may mean the end of his yellow jersey dream.

The Final Climb

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Albasini won Stage 4, Talansky still in yellow

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Last 2 years’ stage 4 winners, Thomas Voeckler and Gianni Meersman were on the break today, but they couldn’t succeed and consumed by the peloton with 14 kms and the final categorized climb to go. Johann Tschopp of IAM Cycling was the first to pass the first five mountain gates and collected 29 points, which put him on top of the mountains jersey classification.

With the final climb, an elite group formed in the front and similar to Stage 3, lots of riders including Sylvain ChavanelNicolas Roche and Robert Gesink tried to escape from the groupetto that formed after the descent. But all those break attempts only increased the pace, and positioning mattered. It was Orica-GreenEdge’s Michael Albasini who clinched his first victory of the season with a very long sprint in the final 500 meters. Maxim Iglinskiy from Astana came second while Peter Velits came third.

24-year-old Andrew Talansky defended his yellow jersey in this tricky stage, but the GC race is now even more tight. And we’ll be heading a mountain-top finish on Friday and an up-hill time-trial on Sunday, which will be quite a challenge for the young American. Even if Talansky doesn’t lose time in the mountain stages, he is no better time-trialist than neither Andriy Grivko nor Lieuwe Westra.

GC after Stage 4

1. Andrew Talansky (USA) Garmin Sharp 19:35:17
2. Andriy Grivko (Ukr) Astana Pro Team 3″
3. Peter Velits (Svk) Omega Pharma-Quick-Step Cycling Team 4″
4. Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Omega Pharma-Quick-Step Cycling Team
5. Gorka Izaguirre Insausti (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 5″
6. Lieuwe Westra (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team 6″
7. Richie Porte (Aus) Sky Procycling 7″
8. Maxim Iglinskiy (Kaz) Astana Pro Team 13″
9. Jean-Christophe Peraud (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
10. Bart De Clercq (Bel) Lotto Belisol 15″

Stage 4 Results

1. Michael Albasini (Swi) Orica GreenEdge 4:55:41
2. Maxim Iglinskiy (Kaz) Astana Pro Team
3. Peter Velits (Svk) Omega Pharma-Quick-Step Cycling Team
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Paris-Nice 2013 Preview – Stage 4

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The Race to the Sun continues south to the Mediterranean on 7th March, Thursday. Brioude and Saint-Vallier are the stage towns and we’re going to have 7 categorized climbs on the way. It is a bit longer version of last two years’ stage 4 parcours. 2 years ago, it was Thomas Voeckler‘s solo breakaway in the rain; last year, bunch sprint won by Gianni Meersman within a select group of 50 riders. Sylvain Chavanel still looks confident and lustful for a stage win and he showed on wednesday that he can stay with the elite group in the climbs so look for him if it comes to a bunch sprint.

The climbs won’t be hard enough to make much change in the GC competition but will be the second shake-up for the overall standings. For the GC to settle, we’ll have to wait for the queen-stage on Friday.

Andrew Talansky in Yellow

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American rider Andrew Talansky of Garmin Sharp won the third stage of Paris-Nice and is now leading the general classification with 3 seconds ahead of Astana’s Andriy Grivko. “This is really important for me because Garmin-Sharp sent a whole team here to help me for the overall. So to win a stage here and take the jersey is a big step in my career,” said the young American after the stage, showing his intentions to keep the yellow jersey till Sunday. Davide Malacarne of Team Europcar came second while Gorka Izaguirre Insausti from Euskaltel-Euskadi came third.

A four-men break got reeled on the slopes of the cat 2 climb with 19 kms to go, but Martijn Keizer of Vacansoleil already had enough points from the previous climbs to steal the polka-dot jersey from his team-mate Bertjan Lindeman. It was SKY who took control of the pelaton on the ascent and by doing so, they managed to get 2 riders, one being Richie Porte, in the breakaway that formed during the descent. Philippe GilbertSylvain Chavanel and Rein Taaramae were stuck in the chasing group and although they worked hard to close the gap, the 20-rider groupetto failed to show enough coordination to close the gap with the breakaway in the final kilometers.

The day’s losers were Robert Gesink, Denis Menchov and Ivan Basso who are all now more than a minute away from Talansky in the GC. Cannondale is now at the bottom of the team’s classification, no sprint stage left for Elia Viviani and no hopes left to bounce back at the yellow jersey race. Viviani still wearing the green jersey is their sole consolidation. Talansky is now also leading the young riders classification and it’ll be an another American, Tejay van Garderen of BMC wearing the white jersey.

GC after Stage 3

1. Andrew Talansky (USA) Garmin Sharp 14:39:36
2. Andriy Grivko (Ukr) Astana Pro Team 3″
3. Davide Malacarne (Ita) Team Europcar
4. Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Omega Pharma-Quick-Step Cycling Team 4″
5. Gorka Izaguirre Insausti (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 5″
6. Lieuwe Westra (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team 6″
7. Richie Porte (Aus) Sky Procycling 7″
8. Peter Velits (Svk) Omega Pharma-Quick-Step Cycling Team 8″
9. David Lopez Garcia (Spa) Sky Procycling 9″
10. Jonathan Hivert (Fra) Sojasun 12″

Stage Results

1. Andrew Talansky (USA) Garmin Sharp 4:06:15
2. Davide Malacarne (Ita) Team Europcar
3. Gorka Izaguirre Insausti (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi
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Tirreno-Adriatico Jersey Colors

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Tirreno-Adriatico has an interesting choice of jersey colors, which is quite different than what you are usually used to.

The general classification leader is wearing the “blue jersey” – “Maglia Azzurra“; very understandable, the race is between the two seas after all. The points classification jersey is “red” whereas mountains classification one is interestingly “green“. The young riders’ general classification jersey is “white” as usual.

Tirreno-Adriatico 2013 Preview – Stage 2

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The second stage of Tirreno-Adriatico starts on 7th March, Thursday from San Vincenzo, the stage town of the team-time-trial, from the west coast and heads inland to the east all the way to Indicatore. It is a pretty long stage with 232 km to go, but still nothing more than a bunch sprint should be expected. It will be the first clash of the season between Mark Cavendish and Andre Greipel of Lotto Bellisol and considering they are both in form, it’ll be pretty hard for the other sprinters in the field to catch the two.

There are two categorized climbs early in the stage, so expect one of the riders from the breakaway to wear the mountains classification jersey, which will be “green” at the end of the day.

Check out jersey colors in Tirreno-Adriatico.

OPQ wins TTT – Cavendish became the first leader

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Omega Pharma Quick-Step was the fastest team in the Tirreno-Adriatico opener and they put Mark Cavendish into the overall lead. They were down to 5 riders for the final kilometers, but thanks to German powerhouse Tony Martin, OPQ finished 11 seconds ahead of Movistar and 16″ away from BMC.

Amongst the pre-race favorites, Cadel Evans has now 4 seconds margin over last year’s winner Vincenzo Nibali, 9″ over Chris Froome and 13″ over Alberto Contador. “The differences are important, we lost 16 seconds with BMC and also lost time to Astana and Sky, who are direct rivals, but we cannot think that this is definitive. It is true that these races are won or lost by a few seconds, but well, this is just beginning,” told Contador after the stage.

Results

1. Omega Pharma-Quick Step 19′ 24″
2. Movistar Team 11″
3. BMC Racing Team 16″
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Paris-Nice 2013 Preview – Stage 3

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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.

Kittel Sprints to Victory in Paris-Nice Stage 2

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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.

Results:

1. Marcel Kittel (Ger) Team Argos-Shimano 5:42:18
2. Elia Viviani (Ita) Cannondale
3. Leigh Howard (Aus) Orica GreenEdge
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Paris-Nice 2013 Preview – Stage 2

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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.