Paris - Nice Stage 1 Preview
The race starts off with quite a interesting stage. Despite being majorily flat the stage is more suited to the puncheurs, with some peaks here and there throughout the stage to be felt on the road and then a small hill to summit with a mere 4.5Km to go, that climb has cobblestones in it's final section and antecedes a mostly downhill run-up to the line which will mean there is a chance to see a solo or small group finish to line.
The gradients will bite as you can see, it is an ideal place for puncheurs to attack, it's a dangerous dangerous climb.
And after the summit the route is down most of the way, on slight inclines, if there is someone ahead of the race it'll depend on how quickly the peloton can get organized, and also depend on who's in front, a solo rider will struggle as there is no place to recover, but a duo or bigger group can definetely make it. Having GC rider in front could bring everything back though, so it will depend on who moves in the climb.
A moderate southwestern wind with strong strong gusts throughout the whole day. This will be specially important in the end as the final climb, but most importantly the run-up to the line will have a tailwind. This will make attacks much more likely to succeed.
No doubt this will be a very trecherous stage, but also a very interesting one for sure, the GC favourites will all be on their guard with the risk of crosswinds, the sprinter teams will do the same, but most importantly the stage battle will be a very tight one between the sprinters and the puncheurs, and the powerhouse riders aswell have a big saying, I am personally very excited for tomorrow.
By any case, well actually by the bookie's opinion it is no doubt to be a stage for the sprinters. Although it doesn't look like it at all, there are some that do have quite good legs, taking by instance Peter Sagan who should really fancy a finish like this, and adding to that there is Michael Matthews. Both are very punchy and can with no doubt get over the climbs in front, but they will be hoping to have no-one solo off the front as if they want to take the sprint obviously they can't pull the groups. Pascal Ackermann isn't bad but Bora have too many cards to play, with two GC contenders and also Max Schachmann as a possible card to play, the German will likely save his legs for the next few days. There is Caleb Ewan, not an expert but he can cope with a short climb like this quite well I reckon, probably with not as much ease but if he can hang on and strike luck then chances are he will be the fastest rider for the sprint. As for Sam Bennett and Elia Viviani, they can both do it I have no doubt, but it may be a bit too long, and they may not be strong enough to take the attacks that will with no doubt come. Giacomo Nizzolo and Ryan Gibbons will also be on the lookout for a win but they can only pray to get over the climb first, and perhaps tomorrow could be a day to remember Bryan Coquard, he hasn't had the attention of past years but he has certainly left a mark in 2019 with 8 wins and several very strong results in hilly stages like this. Le Samyn winner Hugo Hofstetter is another very interesting name to consider, alongside Nils Pollit they definetely have the skillset to take a win here.
As for the attackers side this is where it gets interesting, because the stage can be very hard due to the wind, and the climb isn't that hard to give anyone specific advantage, it's not steep enough to discard some powerful riders and cobbled classics specialists. Julian Alaphillipe must in any acount though be taken as the first name, if he will have great legs we don't know but this surely looks like his type of thing, I would seriously consider Kasper Asgreen and Zdenek Stybar more though, one is sharp enough to create a gap uphill, the other has the engine to hold off everyone if he finds the opportunity to go solo. On the same situation is AG2R where Cosnefroy definetely will look to the climb and Oli Naesen to the aproach to the line, the Belgian also has a strong sprint so he is to consider for the win, Phillipe Gilbert, Tiesj Benoot, Aimé de Gendt and who knows even Dylan Teuns are riders who may want to have a dig uphill, whilst riders like Soren Kragh Andersen, Ivan Garcia Cortina, Victor Campenaerts should also be able to get over the climbs and pose a big threat if they attack over the climb.
At time of posting, EF/FDJ have not confirmed their squads. Hence I will not consider them for tomorrow.
My call for tomorrow is for an attack to go over the climb and succeed. My eyes were wide open in Alberto Bettiol but no-one knows if he's actually racing, there are several riders who can do it but it has Asgreen written all over, not only in the case of an attack but also in a small group sprint as he definetely has the power.
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