Featuring six categorized climbs, and ending atop the first-category l’Ospedale summit, Criterium Internatinal’s third and final stage will be the decider of this year’s winner.
Last year, on the same stage, it was Cadel Evans defending his yellow jersey after his Stage 2 TT victory, and in 2011 when it was the opening stage of Criterium International, Frank Schleck won it with a 20 seconds margin.
Team Sky’s Richie Porte and Chris Froome, BMC’s Cadel Evans and Tejay Van Garderen, Garmin-Sharp’s Andrew Talansky and AG2R’s Jean-Christophe Peraud will be the main riders to watch on the l’Ospedale climb.
GC Before Stage 3
1. Richie Porte (Aus) Sky Procycling 2:11:53
2. Manuele Boaro (Ita) Team Saxo-Tinkoff 1″
3. Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team
4. Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling 2″
5. Andrew Talansky (USA) Garmin-Sharp 7″
6. Jean-Christophe Peraud (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
7. Bob Jungels (Lux) RadioShack Leopard
8. Andreas Klöden (Ger) RadioShack Leopard 9″
9. Jerome Coppel (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits 11″
10. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Blanco Pro Cycling Team
Col de l’Ospedale Profile
Richie Porte of Team SKY retained his yellow jersey on the up-hill time-trial in Col d’Eze. Porte was 32 seconds ahead of his closest rival, American Andrew Talansky, and extended his lead to 55 seconds at the end of the day. Talansky, finished the stage second and grabbed the second place on the podium and kept the young rider’s classification jersey. AG2R’s Jean-Christophe Peraud finished the stage at fourth place, but the time difference was enough to bring him to the last podium spot.
Stage six winner Sylvain Chavanel finished seventh, good enough to finish Paris-Nice leading the points classification and Johann Tschopp of IAM Cycling already had the mountain classification lead.
“I can’t believe it. It’s just an honor to have my name up there with Bradley Wiggins, Tony Martin, all the big champions,” said Porte. “I’m still doing my apprenticeship, and I’m still learning off Bradley and Chris. I don’t expect to go to the Tour and ride for general classification. I’m in a good place at the moment and I don’t want to change anything. I’m going to take it as it comes. Whatever happens we’re gonna have a hell of a team for the Tour de France.”
Richie Porte finished the stage in 19′ 16″, 1 minute 40 seconds faster compared to his last year’s performance where he was working as a domestic for Bradley Wiggins, only 6 seconds slower than Wiggins’ last year performance. This simply proves how mental time-trialling is, if you have too much to lose, you simply do astonishing things.
Final General Classification
1. Richie Porte (Aus) Sky Procycling 29:59:47
2. Andrew Talansky (USA) Garmin-Sharp 55″
3. Jean-Christophe Peraud (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 1′ 21″
4. Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team 1′ 44″
5. Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Omega Pharma-Quick Step 1′ 47″
6. Simon Spilak (Slo) Katusha 1′ 48″
7. Diego Ulissi (Ita) Lampre-Merida 1′ 54″
8. Lieuwe Westra (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team 2′ 17″
9. Andreas Klöden (Ger) RadioShack Leopard 2′ 22″
10. Peter Velits (Svk) Omega Pharma-Quick Step 2′ 28″
Stage 7 Results
1. Richie Porte (Aus) Sky Procycling 0:19:16
2. Andrew Talansky (USA) Garmin-Sharp 0′ 23″
3. Nairo Alexander Quintana Rojas (Col) Movistar Team 0′ 27″
With Richie Porte just 32 seconds clear of Andrew Talansky and a bunch of other riders, Sunday’s conclusive stage on 10th March will be simply breathtaking. Last year, it was Bradley Wiggins defending his 2 seconds lead over Lieuwe Westra, extending it to 6 at the end of the day and starting a sensational season which brought TdF and Olympic gold and eventually made him the athlete of the year in Britain.
Now, an another rider from SKY, Tasmanian Richie Porte will be riding on the uphill Col d’Eze time-trial where many riders will again opt in to use regular road bikes with clip-on bars installed instead of TT bikes. Richie Porte was also riding in 2012′s Paris-Nice, as a domestic to Bradley Wiggins, and finished the last stage in 20′ 56″. Which was 1′ 42″ slower than last year’s runner-up Liuewe Westra, who now stands in 4th place, 42 seconds behind Porte in GC. Jean-Christophe Peraud, who is now fifth in GC standing 49 seconds behind, finished 3rd last year, which was 1′ 11″ faster than Porte. Sylvain Chavanel finished last year’s stage in 17th place, still 18 seconds ahead of Porte, and he is in top form.
GC before Stage 8
1. Richie Porte (Aus) Sky Procycling 29:40:31
2. Andrew Talansky (USA) Garmin-Sharp 32″
3. Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Omega Pharma-Quick Step 42″
4. Lieuwe Westra (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team
5. Jean-Christophe Peraud (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 49″
6. Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team 52″
7. Peter Velits (Svk) Omega Pharma-Quick Step 53″
8. Simon Spilak (Slo) Katusha
9. Diego Ulissi (Ita) Lampre-Merida 54″
10. Andriy Grivko (Ukr) Astana Pro Team 1′ 08″
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.