Paris Nice 2021 – Stage 8 preview

By David Hunter

Le Plan-Du-Var > Levens 93km

After having to change the final stage due to COVID restrictions this is what the organisers have come up with. It is significantly easier than the original stage, but it could be a good one to watch.

We have two full laps of a circuit that features two climbs. First up is the cat 2 climb, Côte de Duranus, which is 4km at 5%. It’s not that hard, but it is narrow. A short descent follows before a climb of roughly 5km at 3% which takes the riders up to the finishing line. The above image stops just before the finish, which is flat. The gradients rarely get above 5% during the whole stage, which means we’re unlikely to see gaps on GC, but it will hopefully lead to a very attacking race.

Weather

Lovely and sunny. The wind will be around 15km/h and should be a cross/tailwind for both climbs.

Breakaway Hopes

If the right group of riders get away in the first 20km, it will be very hard to bring them back. But what does the right group look like? Astana riders and no one who is under 2 minutes behind Roglič.

Tactics

This type of stage is a new one for me, it’s more like a junior race. Just 92km in length means it will be full gas for the whole stage, which will make it tough to control for Jumbo-Visma. The good news for them is that only five riders are within 2 minutes of Roglič, he has a firm grip of the yellow jersey.

This is a perfect opportunity for a rider who is sitting between 6th and 15th to make a big move and go for the stage win. If the start is crazy, and it should be, the break will be big and very difficult to bring back. As long as it doesn’t have a real GC threat, it has a good chance of going all the way. The team that most want a stage win has to be Astana. They have Izagirre and Vlasov sitting high on GC, but they are too close to Roglič to get a free pass to join the break. That means they will try to get Lutsenko, Fraile or Sánchez up the road and see what happens.

DS Cycling Mole

After my success today, I’m back in charge of Jumbo-Visma.

Right boys put the champagne down, we’ve still got one stage to go. This is a short one, but it’s going to be full gas. The start will be crazy, we just need to make sure we watch those Astana boys closely. Jose, make sure you have a big breakfast as you’ll have lots of work to do in the first hour. We need to stop anyone who is within 2 minutes of Primož getting in the break. Once that happens we sit back and get the cigars out. Prima Donna, any chance of letting someone else win a stage?

Contenders

Primož Roglič – he wins when he wants. It would be pretty special, even for Roglič, if he wins a fourth stage. I would say it is unlikely given the stage and race situation.

Tiesj Benoot – this is a good stage for Tiesj. He sits in 5th place, 1:34 behind Roglič. I don’t think Jumbo-Visma will be happy if he makes the break, but he’s the type of rider who could attack from the bunch and bridge over in the closing stages.

Max Schachmann – he’s another rider who’ll like this stage, but Roglič will be watching him very closely. That means it’s going to be almost impossible for the German to take the win.

Luis León Sánchez – the Spanish champion has looked very good this week, and now he’s out of GC contention he should be looking to go for the break. Astana won the final stage last year; it suits their attacking style. If he gets in the move, Sánchez will be hard to beat.

Dylan van Baarle – exactly the type of rider who should be going for the break. He’s 15th on GC, 2:41 behind Roglič. The Dutchman is climbing very well and with Ineos looking to get a stage win he looks their best option.

Sprinters – it all depends on how hard the stage is raced. Matthews and Laporte will be confident of surviving in the peloton, but I wonder how riders like Bennett, Bol, Pedersen, Démare and Nizzolo will go. If the break is relatively small, and the day is controlled, it could finish in a fairly big sprint. I’m hoping it doesn’t.

Prediction Time

Astana to win from the break with Luis León Sánchez, and Roglič to win yellow.

David Hunter

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