Another tough edition of Paris-Nice came to a close on Sunday. Marc Soler (Movistar) snatched the overall victory from Simon Yates (Mitchelton-SCOTT) with a long-range attack, ultimately winning the yellow jersey on bonus seconds captured on the finish line.
The second half of the eight-day stage race saw #PinkArgyle feature in the escape and in the finals. A fierce general classification battle negated the opportunity for some of the creative racing sport director Charly Wegelius hoped to employ. EF Education First – Drapac p/b Cannondale wholeheartedly consider the 76th edition of Paris-Nice a success — the kind of success that results won’t necessarily reflect.
“All of the classics riders are healthy and showing signs of very good form,” said Wegelius, following the final stage in Nice. “Pierre [Rolland] has gone much better here than in the past in weather conditions that really aren’t his cup of tea, and Lawson [Craddock] has laid the first building blocks of getting back to his old self.”
Paris-Nice Stage 5
Two riders survived from the early breakaway to challenge for the Paris-Nice stage five win with Jerome Cousin (Direct Energie) edging out Nils Politt (Katusha-Alpecin) to the line. Matti Breschel stayed attentive in the final to contest the reduced bunch sprint. He came in for seventh from the group, ninth on the stage.
“The plan was to put a rider in the breakaway if it was a bigger group,” said Breschel. “We didn’t really believe in the changes of a smaller group staying away, which they did. If a small group went, the plan was I should try to stay in the front and do the sprint. That’s more or less what I did.
“The last 20 kilometers were super fast. QuickStep was doing a great effort to pull back the guys out front and also Astana and Lotto. Different teams were helping, so it seemed under control. It wasn’t up to use to close the gap. I had only Mitch Docker up there helping me over the last couple rises on the last circuit there before the finish.
“I actually thought the guys from the breakaway had been caught. I was so focused on getting one of the big sprinter’s wheels, so I didn’t know we hadn’t picked them up. The race was all over the road. There was a crash not far before the finish line, so I lost a few positions there. It was pretty hectic all-around.”
We lost Dan McLay mid-stage due to some on-going GI issues that seemed to be going around the peloton and started stage six with only six riders.
Paris-Nice Stage 6
Tom Scully was in part of 12-rider move that formed early on in Paris-Nice stage six. The group repeatedly fractured and came together over the various categorized climbs on the stage six route. Scully was always on the right end of any split and was one of the last men standing, swept up with 23km remaining.
Pierre Rolland was top #PinkArgyle in 20th place at 44″, coming home with the second group to reach the finish. Rudy Molard (Groupama-FDJ) took the win, soloing to victory following an attack under the flamme rouge.
“It was difficult to get into the move today,” said Scully. “We were all really motivated for it. We all took turns, and any of us could have gotten into the move that stuck. I was in a little group before. At my second proper crack, I gave it a good go and went quite hard for a long time. One guy from Direct Energie came with us then two more, three more came across. We grew from there. The peloton kept us really close. It was a big group so it wasn’t a surprise.”
“Looking back on the opening weekend in Belgium, after a big block of training, it was a tough weekend, it was a reality check. I really needed this race, to have a good ride here, to get ready for the Classics to come,” Scully added. “Even the first few days here, I was shaky and suffering, but as we’re getting deeper in the race, I feel that I’m on upward trajectory. It’s perfect timing coming into the Classics.”
As for Rolland: “I arrived to the final categorized climb with bad position. I went past a lot of riders on and after the climb, but there were already breaks. I’m a little disappointed because the legs seemed good to me.”
Paris-Nice Stage 7
The queen stage of Paris-Nice proved more of a race of attrition than an attacking affair — although it was an attack by Simon Yates (MTS), with slightly more than a kilometer remaining, that earned him the stage win and overall lead. Rolland was best #PinkArgyle, crossing the finish line in 16th place at 2’01.
“It was a really tough race with the cold, wet weather and road going uphill without any straight line,” said Rolland. “I fought with weather conditions I hate.”
Paris-Nice Stage 8
Paris-Nice came to a close in a rain-soaked Nice on Sunday – so much for the “Race to the Sun”, huh? By stage end, nearly half the field had abandoned the race. Pierre Rolland and Sebastian Langeveld were the only two EF Education First – Drapac p/b Cannondale riders to complete the full 110km final stage with Pierre best-placed in 21st at 3’44. David de la Cruz (SKY) won a three-up sprint to take out the stage while Marc Soler (MOV) won the overall by four seconds.
“The weather was a big element today, especially in the context of the technical descents,” said Wegelius. “Once the riders were out of contention, in situations like today, our priority is their health and recuperation towards their next races, which come very quickly at this time of the year.”
Tom Scully: “I found the Ventral to be a great helmet for all conditions. The large venting in the front keeps my head cool, and the helmet just feels fast.”
Matti Breschel: “The Ventral? It’s all good. I like it a lot. I used it only before the race but have used it every day here, and I’m probably not going to take it off. Ever. It works for all kinds of races and conditions. It’s versatile. It’s fast, but you’re still able to get some air in there. It’s not too hot inside. And it’s good-looking as well, which, you know, is important.”
Mitch Docker: “It wasn’t that long ago that we weren’t required to wear helmets during a race. Today it’s inconceivable to even consider not having a helmet. I had a very scary crash at Paris-Roubaix a couple years ago that made it abundantly clear that we cannot understate the importance of looking after our heads and our brains. Since helmets have become compulsory, they’ve evolved from bulky pieces of forced regulation to pieces of engineered beauty that can make us not only faster but safer. The Ventral gets high marks from me on both fronts.”