Paris-Nice Stage 5 Preview
Magnus Cort Nielsen emerged victor from today's hilly stage. We predicted a breakaway win with Colbrelli as a backup and it proved a correct bid, the day was very hard for the chasing teams as none seemed to have the energy to reel in the quartet that went clear of a 13-rider break.
Early on the breakaway seemed a sure bet, with Bernard and Ciccione (Trek), Cort Nielsen (Astana), De Marchi (CCC), de Gendt (Lotto-Soudal), Pfingsten (Bora), Le Gac (FDJ), Reza (Vital Concept), Le Turnier (Cofidis), Siskevicius and Gorsu (Delko), Gesbert (Arkea) and Gaudin (Direct Energie). With a big group of rouleurs and several riders that can climb well, when the gap topped at 6 minutes the win coming from one of these riders was never questioned.
The work in the peloton came in the form of several teams. Sky set the chase but it was Mitchelton and Bahrain that did the bulk of the chase in the final kilometers. But there wasn't enough firepower to bring the leaders back.
Finally we assisted Nielsen's attack. A moment of opportunity where the 3 slower riders looked at who was taking his wheel. It was a perfect moment of catching the opportunity and he capitalized the best way possible, sprinting to make the gap and then mantaining it to the end.
Thomas de Gendt's day
Such was the quality of the Belgian's ride today it was decided to show some of it in numbers.
With a daily average of 305 watts, de Gendt's first 48 minutes of the stage had an average of 360 watts, trying to get in the break and establishing it alongside the big group.
The pace was high all day obviously, and once the race entered the final 60 kilometers the break really pushed on, where the Belgian averaged 350 watts for over hour and a half.
But perhaps the most amazing is what we can't see. de Gendt's final 800 meters in pursuit of Magnus Cort Nielsen averaged 533 watts and, despite a brutal surge of over 1100 watts he wasn't able to keep up with the Dane and only got to the line 7 seconds after. We can only imagine how much power Nielsen put out to distance his rivals.
A 25Km Time-trial in a week-long race as we all know is absolutely critical, sometimes the place where the biggest gaps are set. Everyone must bring their A-game tomorrow and hope to win as much time as possible/minimize the damage, variating on what rider's perspective we look at it.
A big day for the GC riders. The time-trialists in contention for the stage win should be some of the men we will be seeing the following days in the mountains, so we might not see the stage win being THE absolute goal of any rider.
The time-trial does an almost round loop around Barbentane so the wind shouldn't be a factor, as it will affect the riders in every direction, so it won't benefit anyone in scpecific.
A GC fight or an actual stage win fight?
Both is the shot. With pretty much all top time-trialists in competition in Tirreno-Adriatico there isn't much to choose from.
Michal Kwiatkowski and Bob Jungels must be considered the two favourite's for the individual test, both seem in great form and have a great track record in the discipline.
Nils Pollit is a good bet also for tomorrow as a major rouleur, Ion Izaguirre would normally be also considered a top favourite but his form and motivation may be shaken by the fail in the overall contention.
Most other outsiders are climbers or riders that are in GC contention, with van Garderen, Kelderman, Grossschartner and Marc Soler seen as the best of the rest. But none can be counted on truly with the mad race it's been so far. Bernal is also a rider to watch.
The important to take away from the day more than the stage win are the time gaps, they will be vital and in such a day it can reshape the format of the next few days completely.
⭐ Houle, I.Izaguirre, Soler, van Garderen, Bernal, Pollit, Démare, EB.Hagen
Bob Jungels ends up being the bet for tomorrow. He seems to have been somewhat hiding in these first few days and I think tomorrow he'll be less fatigued than Kwiatkowski which will eventually be a decisive factor. He is fast and the route suits him, Deceuninck will want to equal Astana with the 6 victories this season.
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