Paris-Nice Stage 2 Preview
A correct prediction to start off the week, Dylan Gronewegen conquered the sprint after a stage that was blown apart by the crosswinds, Jumbo-Visna were in the front in almost all the moves and in the end had the power to deliver the Dutchman to an outstanding sprint.
This is probably the picture of the day though. Today was one of those full of tension all day long stages, and the crosswinds ripped appart the peloton several times. In the end we can't say there was a clear winner from it, although Team Sky capitalized from the intermediate sprints (which is something we should take into consideration later in the week).
Instead there were clear loosers from the day. Astana manly, Miguel Angel Lopez lost 1 minute and Ion Izaguirre 2:42 minutes, strange strategy by the team as they left 3 riders in front including Hugo Houle who would be a valuable member to help either of them. Konrad and Soler lost a whole minute aswell, leaving the lead inside Movistar now decided, Domenico Pozzovivo also lost 2:42 minutes and winner two years ago Sergio Henao lost 4:30 minutes. Sunweb was the other big looser of the day, although Kelderman retained his chances of fighting for the overall both Michael Matthews and Martijn Tusveld crashed out of the race, this is another hard blow for a team that hasn't yet won this season.
Team Sky and Jumbo-Visna were the two teams that really sparked up the race, we've had great responses from visibly Bob Jungels and Nairo Quintana, but perhaps gaps between them will have to wait another day.
This is where Strava becomes a great tool to understand what happens out of the screens. Naesen is a 71Kg rider and for the whole lenght of the day he averaged a brutal 300 watts. Naesen is well-known and has today been aswell in the role of protection of Romain Bardet, his wattage is amazing eyeing he's not a massive heavyweight and shows how important it is for a lightweight climber to have a Naesen-like rider in front, if we had access to Luke Rowe's files today we'd surely be looking at similar numbers. To note that even after all this work Naesen finished 12th in the stage.
Greipel on the other hand finished 14th, far from the winning battle but well in the group, and what we see from his hearth rate is a race that was from very early on affected by the wind and there were several long high-intensity periods. There were lots of them including near the final, whereas a sprinter´s hearth rate in such a stage usually has the --/ format, here we've clearly seen how everyone had been pushed close to the limit several times throughout the day, which surprisingly didn't show in many of the sprinter's legs, Greipel may have been the exception though as his top power was far from the 1750 watts he's known to be able to produce.
Second stage and we will be seeing something very similar to today, tomorrow's stage is gonna be an even flatter affair and we should once again see the sprinters fighting for a prestigious win, and great news in that we will likely have part 2 of today's echelon saga.
Oh yes as I've mentioned there will be a part 2 in the echelons saga. Western/Nothwestern wind throughout the whole day will mean lots of crosswind mixed with tailwind, but this time it won't have many resting periods in the middle as it's a very straightforward stage. But there's more.
Even better news because unlike today's stage it seems like the road will be much more open, much more exposed to the wind, which will likely be an even bigger motivation for some big moves.
The finishing circuit though may not be such a good terrain for it as there is a bit of everything, the sprinters should all stay out of trouble until they enter the circuit if they want to be able to fight for the win.
What can we expect?
More echelons. There isn't much more to think of whilst looking at such evidence that tomorrow has everything to be even more shaken.
That said I think we should a continuation of today, the teams that tried to light up the race today - Sky, Jumbo-Visna and EF - will surely do it again tomorrow. But we didn't mention Deceuninck, it was a general surprise that they never seemed to be in the head of affairs, although Jungels and Gilbert appeared very strong in the finale we expect the Belgian team to make moves tomorrow aswell.
We should see a sprint similar to today's, with some top sprinters present but in a reduced and shattered group, the ones that were in front today are the ones to expect tomorrow, whilst Kittel, Cavendish et al. will likely be left behind if the race is pushed as today.
⭐ Trentin, Démare, Colbrelli, Degenkolb, Greipel
Gronewegen and his team gave every evidence they needed today, a massive ride causing splits, a leadout and the win in the pocket, the Dutch sets out tomorrow again as the big favourite, a heavy rider, he should deal the splits better than Ewan - a lightweight sprinter -
and hence I don't believe Ewan will resist, or if he does he won't have the legs in the end.
Other than those, I predict a very similar outcome to today's stage, the favourites all remain the same.
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