Paris – Nice:
There are some big names in the race this year and with the Tirreno Adriatico also starting this week and running concurrently there are plenty of big names out there trying to get fit and picked for the Giro and upcoming races.
Cycling can be cruel, and what a terrible first day for Richie Porte from Ineos Grenadiers, a first stage crash and he is out of the race. Apparently, he has suffered no broken bones and could be back on a bike soon, but is just “a little beat up”! And day 4 heralded more bad news for The Grenadiers with Tao Geoghegan Hart crashing on a descent with 19km’s remaining. He banged his head and has abrasions on his wrist and knee, he continued for a few km but quickly abandoned, with a trip to the hospital after. Now the Ineos Grenadiers have no GC contender.
There was a stunning win for Swiss rider Stefan Bissegger (EF Education-Nippo) on stage 3. A thrilling 14.4km individual time trial on the banks of the Loire. This 22yr old is one to watch in the future and finished runner up to world champion Filippo Ganna in the recent UAE Tour. The time trial specialist rode at over 49kmh to edge out Remi Cavagna by literally a hundredth of a second.
Wednesday’s racing would see Primoz Roglic show his strength on the climbs. The Slovenian moved ahead on the final climb. He finished powerfully on stage 4 in the Beaujolais region to take the win by 12 seconds.
Thursday saw the riders taken on the 200km stage 5, from Vienne to Bollene. After a slow start to the stage, there was no lack of drama. We saw the fun side of cycling when a group took off and created a break-away at kilometre 128. All of them Belgians, from lots of different teams. Apparently, this was organised by Oliver Naesen (Ag2R – Citroen) who “WhatsApp” the other 11 riders the night before telling them to be ready to launch with 70km’s to go. They all decided this could be good fun and happily obliged. This “sortie” did not last too long and the peloton was all back together with 54km to go.
And a little further down the road, the not so fun side. One of my favourite riders, Mr Tony Martin hit a roadside obstacle and went down hard leading to a team pile-up involving race leader Roglic. Roglic was able to continue but sadly Tony was not and is out of the rest of the race. Apparently, he has a fracture in his elbow area and will be out for a few weeks missing several races on his calendar. Get well soon Tony. The stage finished with a win for Sam Bennet. The man is in superb form and genuinely a contender for any sprint he is in this year. He has now won two sprint stages. This latest win on stage 5 was classic sprinting.
After 5 stages there is interesting news that the Mayor of Nice (Christian Estrosi) has announced that he wants the race moved to open up the seafront for 3 hrs to reward local residents for their help in reducing the number of Covid cases. With Saturday’s and Sunday’s stages meant to start in Nice, this could make an interesting last two days and a big reorganising. I’m sure the organisers, ASO will step up. Let’s wait and see what they come up with. There is also the possibility of poor weather with a cold snap with potential snow returning to the French Alps.
This year’s Paris – Nice is surely a pedalled on win for Primoz Roglic with more mountains and climbs ahead?? But Max Schachmann is sitting in second place and could he finally step up and make a name for himself. . . . ?
Tirreno – Adriatico :
If you thought some big names were in Paris – Nice then think again. . This years 56th edition of the Tirreno – Adriatico has pulled some big punches and huge names. Simon Yates, Egan Bernal, G Thomas, T Pinot, Wout Van Aert, Julian Alaphilippe, Mathiieu Van Der Poel, Tadej Pogacar, Greg Van Avermaet, Caleb Ewan, Mikel Landa, Vincenzo Nibali, Romain Bardet, Nairo Quintana, and many more…
After quite a bit of time off at the end of 2020 and some cycle cross events, Wout Van Aert is back and hungrier than ever. He won the first stage ahead of Caleb Ewan in a perfect sprint.
Stage 2 on Thursday was won brilliantly by Julian Alaphilippe. Egan Bernal showed his presence by pushing on the climbs and hanging around the front and even appearing on a breakaway with 17 km to go. Along with Simon Yates also attacking on the last climbs.
With two stages to go this looks like a fascinating race to watch and with all the big names for climbing, sprinting and GC, this sets a precedent for the early season and possibly the Grand Tour events.
There is plenty of road racing coming up with various “Classics” in Belgium and northern France, plus Milano – San Remo on the 20th March.
And are The Ineos Grenadiers going to race differently this year? According to sources they are going to be more dynamic and exciting and less robotic! Maybe.
TAGRiders to watch this year are :
Mathieu Van der Poel ( Team Alpecin-Fenix )
Wout van Aert ( Team Jumbo Visma )
Tom Pidcock ( Team Ineos Grenadiers )
Joao Almeida ( Team Deceunninck – quick – step )
Arnaud Demare ( Groupama-FDJ )
Stefan Bissegger ( EF Education-Nippo )
Finally, good news coming out of France today.
France has relaxed travel rules for the UK and 6 other non-EU countries. Australia and New Zealand included.