Paris-Nice 2017 – Stage 4 Preview

By David Hunter

Beaujeu – Mont Brouilly 14.5km ITT

A huge day in the fight for the yellow jersey.

The TT can be split into two parts: the flat opening 11.4km and then the climb of Mont Broully. Riders can’t go too fast on the flat, or they risk blowing on the climb.

3km at 7.7%, but it also has a couple of kilometres at 1% before the official climb actually begins. It’s one of those horrible climbs that gets harder and harder and harder! There are a number of hairpin bends, where the gradient gets very steep, most riders will choose to get out of the saddle and sprint out of the corners. There is no way of settling into a rhythm.

Weather

Could be some rain early in the day, maybe even for some of the early starters. The wind is coming from the south, making it an even tougher TT. The wind might just ease a little for the late starters.

Contenders

Richie Porte – losing so much time will have damaged the morale of the Aussie. He would have been the massive favourite for this stage, before the race started. After a damaging couple of stages, the others will sense an opportunity. Porte is capable of incredible TT performances, it won’t be easy to beat him, but they will try! He will start much earlier than the GC contenders, giving them a chance to analyse his split times.

Alberto Contador – loves a tough TT. In 2016 he won the climbing prologue in the Dauphine and the demanding TT in Pais Vasco. As soon as it becomes a battle of climbing ability, Contador rises to the top. His 3rd place in the recent, Ruta del Sud TT was a good indication of current form against the clock. He had a tough time on stage 1, I expect him to bounce back here.

Steven Kruijswijk – the Giro sensation! His 2nd place in the Giro mountain TT was a example of what the Dutchman can do against the clock. He’s been looking forward to this stage, but a crash on the opening stage cost him dear. He’s still in the fight for the overall top 10, but needs a big TT.

Ilnur Zakarin – such a strong, consistent rider. The Russian looks ready to step up into the elite group of riders and I expect him to challenge for this stage. His 2nd place in Abu Dhabi was a great start to the year and he’ll be hoping to make up some of the time he lost in stage 1.

Julian Alaphilippe – the pocket rocket is all set to move into the yellow jersey. He is a good rider against the clock and has a 13 second advantage over Tony Gallopin and 17 seconds over Sergio Henao. He won’t win the stage, but should end the day in the yellow jersey.

Tony Gallopin – after his TT win in Besseges, he’ll be gunning for the yellow jersey. He starts 13 seconds behind Alaphilippe and I think he might run him close. Gallopin is a tremendous rider and seems to have great form just now. Will hope for a top 5 performance on the day.

Sergio Henao – fresh from winning the Colombian RR title, the Sky rider is sitting in a great overall position. He is capable of a good TT, he finished 3rd in the 2016 Pais Vasco TT. He will hope to remain close to Gallopin and Alaphilippe, if he’s on a very good day, he might even end up in yellow.

Michael Matthews – the surprise name on my list! Last time we were here, back in 2014, he survived with a small group of favourites up the climb. In the time that has passed, he has improved his climbing and TT ability. Matthews won the prologue in 2016 and I think he could be the dark horse for the stage.

Ion Izagirre – should be a good stage for him, as long as he’s fully recovered from his crash in Ruta del Sol. He made the front group on stage 1, but bad luck caused him to drop back into group 2. He should be aiming for the podium.

Tony Martin – has looked strong this week, but the climb is too hard for him.

Prediction Time

I think the hammering that Porte took on Monday, will have hurt him. I don’t see him taking the win. Instead, I look towards Alberto Contador. He loves days like these!

*Overall preview

David Hunter

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