Paris-Nice Stage 3 Preview
2 for 2 for Dylan Gronewegen and 2 for 2 for our predictions, a very good start for our predictions. The day once again was completely marked by the heavy winds, the crosswinds were very present in the fields of Central France where the riders were in today, and the winner of the day put one of the biggest rides of his career to grab an iconic win.
Echelons all over, the race is completely being bombed by the wind and it is making the biggest of differences leaving the race shattered as it is rarely seen. Today after only 30Km of racing the race had already been blown apart in groups, with Gronewegen, Quintana, Bardet, Uran and the Sky duo making it to the front once again, amongst some others.
The crashes were the negative side of the day. The echelons may cause some of the most amazing sites in cycling but it also causes the most negative sides which are the crashes and today was a very harsh day for the peloton. Warren Barguil, Gorka Izaguirre and Rigoberto Uran all had to abandon after hard crashes, separately. Louis Meintjes and Mark Cavendish also abandoned as high profile names, with Maxime Bouet another casualty of the brutality of a seemingly easy in profile stage. Michal Kwiatkowski had a mechanical and was a major loss for Sky in the front group as a result of Uran's crash as he stepped back to the chasing group.
With 10Km to go the junction between the front group and the main chasing group was made in a headwind section inside the final circuit. A major relief for several GC contenders, but the relaxation period wouldn't last long as when the crosswinds hit again, Jumbo-Visma and Sky, again, hit the front and caused again major splits in the group.
And this was the stage-defining moment. Laporte and Gallopin resisted the first surge but were left behind later, and the front group was left with Bernal, Kwiatkowski and Rowe (Sky), Gronewegen and Jansen (Jumbo), Trentin (Mitchelton), Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana), Cortina (Bahrain) and Gilbert (Deceuninck). This was eventually the group that fought for the stage.
The collaboration was well-made, and Sky lead-out the group into the final where in a very contested sprint Gronewegen took his second win in a row, beating Cortina and Gilbert in a painful sprint.
We analyzed these two riders yesterday and it seemed a perfect fit to do so once again. Both these riders battled the front group for most day in the wind, and raced the same strategy with similar results pretty much. Amazingly, for a longer period of time, both riders averaged 310 watts and over which is an absolute mental power output for a road stage. And from Greipel's view we can easily see how the gaps were made very early in the stage and it took a very long time to settle.
Third stage in a row where we will see a very identical route. The race this year bet strongly on convincing the top sprinters to show up and this stage is the one the last one where we will likely see a rider like the current leader to win.
The profile is pan-flat, not even a single mountain point on stake tomorrow, with just a couple of intermediate sprints convincing the breakaway riders to challenge each other, or possibly again the GC riders to grab some more seconds.
Fortunately for many, tomorrow's stage will have been the end of an echelon possibility in these opening days, tomorrow's stage will face a solid headwind for pretty much the whole stage, a strong one, it should also make the breakaway's job very hard. The peloton in the meantime may face an easier day after the chaos in the opening days, the wind may come a bit from the side but generally from the front. Unlike today's stage that featured a 51.5Km/h average, tomorrow should come back to the 42Km/h line approximately.
First full bunch sprint?
If tomorrow's stage will indeed be a more compact it will surely open things a lot more. Not only those who can handle the crosswinds will be in front and a mass sprint is to be expected.
Today's effort from Gronewegen may have a big impact on tomorrow's stage. The equality in final speed we saw on the final day may be repeated and, riders like Ewan and Sam Bennett had a much easier day in the saddle saving their legs for tomorrow so they set out with just as many odds as the yellow jersey.
As a third sprint stage in a row we shouldn't see any surprises in the favourites, the same riders will have yet another chance and there will be a major pressure to perform tomorrow.
Kittel looked good today riding in front most of the day so he is showing good legs for tomorrow, whilst the other outsiders are the same names as the days before.
⭐ Greipel, Trentin, Degenkolb, Démare, Laporte
The prediction for tomorrow is for Sam Bennett to take the win. Gronewegen's fatigue will show and Bennett will benefit from an easier day, he is almost as fast and has a very strong leadout that can set him for victory.
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