With no time trials in this year’s Paris-Nice, the dynamic of the race changes drastically with the last three winners, Martin, Wiggins and Porte all using the time trial to help stamp their dominance on the race. With some rolling stages and some tough climbs, this year’s race will likely be decided by the most alert rider, who handles the conditions of the French spring and then picks his attacks smartly.
Below is a list of the riders who could do just that.
While also a strong time-trialist, one suspects the ‘Shark from Messina’ will be looking at this route and thinking he can win the race. Good spring form is nothing new for Nibali and he has won the last two editions of Tirreno-Adriatico. He also won the Giro in winter conditions so history suggests that he will not be affected by the potential bad weather.
Nibali is keen to add French success to his palmares and Paris-Nice represents a great opportunity to do so as well as building confidence for a duel with Froome this July.
Costa (image) is World Champion, has back to back Tour de Suisse wins and took two stages in last year’s Tour de France. He achieved all this while often playing second or third fiddle in the Movistar team to Alejandro Valverde and Nairo Quintana. At Lampre, Costa is now the main man and the route of this year’s Paris-Nice would appear to suit the Portuguese.
Anybody who witnessed the World Championships in Florence would endorse Costa’s ability to perform in all weather conditions. He’s a proven performer in short stage races and you’d expect nothing less than a stage win and a good overall placing would satisfy the man in the rainbow stripes.
If Intxausti is given the Movistar leadership for Paris-Nice, he has the potential to cause an upset. A string of top 5 placings in short stage races such as the Tour of the Basque Country and the Tour of Romandie, not to mention top ten placings and stage wins in the Vuelta and Giro prove that Intxausti has the pedigree to win a prestigious race in the presence of top riders. Last year’s overall victory at the Tour of Beijing will further his belief that a big European race win is on the horizon.
One would assume that the other favourites will not be giving the Basque rider too much breathing room but on his day he has the potential to slip away and there might be no way of bringing him back….
Climbers beware- Sylvain Chavanel is back at Paris-Nice. While strongest in the classics, Chavanel is something of an all rounder and has always been a consistent performer in the ‘Race to the Sun’.
He has won numerous stages as well as making the podium in 2009. It took a big effort from Alberto Contador that year to finally take the yellow jersey from the plucky Frenchman.
Chavanel will no doubt look to gain time in the early stages and try and stick with the best on the climbs. He has both the enthusiasm and the cycling brain to surprise the favourites and if he gets into the leader’s jersey you can be sure he won’t be giving it up easily.