• Rúben Silva

Paris - Nice Stage 4 Preview

In another stressful and crash-marred stage of Paris Nice we got a strong win, most of the stage was raced at very slow pace and then the final section was raced very hard, and in the uphill drag to the line that was marked by a crash taking between others Sam Bennett and Caleb Ewan, it was Ivan Cortina who emerged with a dominant sprint, taking the win in front of Peter Sagan and Andrea Pasqualon.

Positive: Cortina finding freedom and taking the most out of it, Pasqualon with a strong result confirming his good form. Schachmann and Teuns won some seconds in the drag to the line.

Negative: Hofstetter and Bennet taking a nasty crash in the end, Ewan involved, Ackermann and Walscheid also missed the sprint in the echelons. Michael Woods lost his GC ambitions in the wind too.

The Route

Stage 4 is the race's ITT and it is quite a difficult one. Being a funky loop around Julian Alaphillipe's home town of Saint-Amand-Montrond there is immediately a name to pop out (that is if he shows some good form). It is in fact a time-trial suited to that type of rider, following the trend of hilly and technical time-trials, here is no exception and on this stage the 15 kilometers of racing will feature some climbing, will feature some very fast descending before a small flat section to the line, a combination between the pure time-trialists and the GC contenders.

As you can see, the climbs aren't ultra-steep, one is quite explosive and the other is more contained, and the descents are really fast both of them.

The Weather

Some wind, not very strong but will be felt, southwest will mean a tailwind in both climbs, and a headwind for the majority of the final part of the route.

The Favourites

It's not a time-trial for pure time-trialists. But actually, things are so balanced that the strongest specialists are strong climbers, when in short climbs like these at least they should be much of a bother, but it's a time-trial very open to surprises, several puncheurs can really time-trial brilliantly and they can overpower the specialists here.

In the pure specialists field are perhaps the most favourites to take the win tomorrow. Victor Campenaerts and Stefan Kung, both riders look in very good form, have plenty of power for the two climbs and will for sure take great advantage of the fast sections. Soren Kragh Andersen is another proper name to consider, not a pure time-trialist but he is a powerhouse and can perfectly excel on such terrain.

On the puncheur side there's also some big names, the Deceuninck riders are the first to be called as there are several riders who can have a top result. Julian Alaphillipe is not looking at his complete best but he is strong enough to be in contention, and it suits him very well, Yves Lampaert is the most specialist in here whilst Kasper Asgreen and Bob Jungels can really take advantage of the climbing and hold on to it on the flat sections. Bessèges TT winner Alberto Bettiol is another big name to consider, also hasn't shown much of himself but if the legs are there he can repeat the feat in France, teammate Lawson Craddock and Jan Tratnik are two riders with strong records at this effort who can also do something big tomorrow, and always a wildcard should be mentioned Thomas de Gendt, suits him perfectly here.

On the field of the GC contenders there are further names with big favouritism, Max Schachmann for a start who's been turning onto an absolute machine for the last few years and the time-trial is one of his weapons, specially in hilly routes such as this. Dylan Teuns recently won a very similar TT in Andalucia, can't possibly be discarded for the stage win and I'd even rate today's winner Cortina high aswell, the Israel duo Nils Pollit and Mads Wurtz will also love the route but I think their bikes and background work will be the main thing preventing them.

Prediction Time

Campenaerts, Kung, Schachmann Bettiol, SK.Andersen, Asgreen Alaphillipe, Jungels, Pollit, Teuns, Craddock, de Gendt

I mean look at those handlebars! He hasn't yet raced a TT this year, but Victor Campenaerts looked super sharp in UAE Tour and definetely had a very agressive position on the bike, I have no doubt he's done a lot of work over the winter and the BMC is known for it's TT speed. He will win, if he shaves his beard that is!

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