When do you know cycling season has kicked into gear when the words Paris Nice come off the lips. The race to the sun sees riders cross france from its capital down to the southern getaway city of its rich and famous. Usually this will have a time trial or two and one testing climb.
Houilles – Houilles 2.9 km (TT)
Saint-Germain-en-Laye – Nemours 195 km
Vimory – Cérilly 200.5 km
Châtel-Guyon – Brioude 170.5 km
Brioude – Saint-Vallier 199.5 km
Châteauneuf-du-Pape – La Montagne de Lure 176 km
Manosque – Nice 220 km
Nice – Col d’Èze 9.6 km (MTT)
This year we have a very short prologue and a very testing last day time trial up the Col D’eze, the stage with key moutain finish is up La Montagne de Lure, with about 900 metres of climbing on the final climb to 1,600m. The final climbing tt is an average climb of about 5%. So the race will be made up of a prolgue, 4 flat stages, 1 medium stage, 1 hard stage, and the moutain time trial.
Last years winner Bradley Wiggins wont defend. Tony Martin managed to win this in 2011 despite not being the best climber. France has not had a winner of this race in along time going back to the 80s and has just 3 podiums since 1999. Bar 2008 when Rebellin won the winner has always been a very solid time trialist that’s key but also must hang in on the big mountain day and limit any losses. The final tt was riden last year with Westra running Wiggins very close.
Tejay Van Garderen (4.5) Came out of his masters shadow in last years tour, and the steady moutain finish may prove suiting his style, one of best time trialists around too but how will he fare in an uphill one as he did not look totally at home last year in it. Tejay has yet to take out a stage race and a huge factor has been not putting away winning positions. He was a 5th here last year after coming a very poor 14th on the mountain time trial setting him back. Tejay has shown again how he keeps his shape all year round and was 2nd in argentina his only racing this year.
Gesink (5.5) Winner in California in May last year his form can come and go as can his time trial skills. He also comes in off a full off season after last years leg break affected his season build up. And he took longer to find his shape as a result. But in 2011 he came out in tip top shape winning Oman and coming 2nd in tirreno. His best season was 2010, and he was 5th In Tirreno that year. Its interesting that he now switches to Paris Nice. Hes had solid start season including a 4th in Murcia
Westra (6.5) Pushed Wiggins very close last year just losing out in the end after going down 6sec in the final uphill time trial. Lost by 8 sec but was over minute clear of Valverde in 3rd. Was 3rd in Algarve unable to match tony martin but having solid enough time trial. Last year he didnt even finish Algarve so thats no issue coming into Paris nice this time round. He can let himself down sometimes but theirs no doubting his ability.
Porte (13) Won in Portugal last year before support Wiggins here last year but failed to defend his title as sky did not turn up, so not sure he is in the same shape this time round. 28th on the Moutain tt he struggled at the end of Paris nice coming in well down. Unable to assert in Oman I am not sure he is now with a much stronger field.
Quintana (15) A very good climber as with all columbians and also accomplished in uphill time trials in the past. This time last year Quintana was ridding to a win in Murcia including taking the mountain stage, the terrain should suit and he has a strong team in support and the wildcard of rui costa to play also. Quintana had some strong results in 2012 so building on it in 2013 would be good.
Talansky (15) The Garmin man came to our attention last year as a strong rider who pushed wiggins in Romandie last season. Talansky has not had much racing in lead up to this showing up for just 4 days racing, 11th in a time trial with Roche ahead of him. He was 8th fresh into Algarve last season but he may find it too much on a much testing climbing stage.
Peraud (21) A 3rd last year but a gear behind Wiggins and Westra on the final time trial and mistakes on other stages stopped him having a good overall finish. Peraud after a mixed 2012 were he focused somewhat on mountain biking has started 2012 well. with a 2nd overall in the tour of med, and managed a stage win, potential to get in the mix this year if avoiding been dropped before the final key stages.
Rui Costa (26) Has a good time trial, but the mountain top finish will test his legs, last year winning Suisse, he needed every bit of help from Valverde to hang on and this might just sap him to breaking point. Has the option of Quintana in support, will likely lose out on the big mountain day if pace is high but may hold his own in the final time trial. 5th in Algarve showing decent shape but still a bit to over turn Westra.
Menchov (34) Just ahead of Rui Costa in Portugal coming in 4th, rare early season form from a mostly out of form Menchov over past seasons. 2012 was one of his weakest season so already 2013 is looking stronger. he was twice 2nd in Murcia this time of year in 2011 and 2010 and he won that in 2009. It would be no shock if he could make himself felt here.
De Gendt (81) Known for his good attack that nearly broke up last years giro and ended up giving him a podium spot. Has shown time and time again of being good against the clock. Westra will be the teams main option, but De Gendt won a stage here and with a focus on the tour it woudl be no harm to show something here. But he was only 29th overall despite that and he can have a bad day.
Other notables is Spilak (51) who was strong here last year, he came in 4th and looked decent and again is the teams focus here. Hes kicked off well in 2013, 4th in Ruta del sol, Navarro leads cofidis so should be watched, and chavanel has done well before in this type of racing.Westra’s strong time trialling can pay off
.3pts Westra 11/2 ladbrokes
.25pts QUintana 14/1 skybet, paddypower
.2pt Menchov 33/1 various
.1pt Spilak 50/1 betvictor
.1pt Peraud 20/1 betvictor
Highlighted Matchbets:Roche has started 2013 well
7pts Westra to beat Porte 17/20 bet365, ladbrokes
Westra is a strong choice in betting he ran this very close last season just being kept off by Wiggins its very hard for Porte to go and match him if Westra shows up in his best.
6pts Menchov to beat Kloden 8/11 ladbrokes
Menchov is good in march, Kloden has not being a climber for a long time and his overall riding has declined as well.
8pts Roche to beat Taaramae 4/6 betvictor
Roche leads his saxo team and has been in decent shape showing improved time trial skills since moving. Taaramae has been quoted as saying hes not right and will not lead the team.
2pts Spilak to beat De Clercq 3/5 Sportingbet
2.5pts Peraud to beat Porte 6/5 sportingbet
1pt Roche to beat P.Velits 3/4 sportingbet
1pt Gesink to beat Van Garderen 9/10 sportingbet
2pts Jeannesson to beat Nieve 3/4 bet365
2pts Rui Costa to beat Fugslang 7/10 bet365
2pts Peraud to beat Talansky 6/5 bet365
3pts De Gendt to beat Voeckler 4/6 ladbrokes
3pts Westra to beat Talansky 3/4 betvictor
1pt Chavanel to beat Vocekler 20/21 betvictor
1pt Jeannesson to beat Coppel 20/21 betvictor
3pts QUintana to beat Navarro 1.73 pinnacle
2pts Menchov to beat Coppel 1.97 pinnacle
1pt Roche to beat Tschoop 1.78 pinnacle
1pt Ullissi to beat Lofvkist 2.49 pinnacle
2pts Izagirrre to beat Hivert 1.98 pinnacle