Paris-Nice Preview: McLay for sprints, Rolland for climbs

    The 76th edition of Paris-Nice promises to be an attacking affair designed to keep the general classification open until the race’s scenic conclusion in sunny Côte d’Azure. The eight-day “Race to the Sun” offers an unpredictable course with something for every type of rider.

    “Paris-Nice has all the technical elements of a Tour de France condensed into one week of racing,” said sport director Charly Wegelius. “It isn’t by chance that often winners of Paris-Nice go on to perform well in July. Over the week, all the key skills of riders are tested, often in challenging weather.”

    EF Education First – Drapac p/b Cannondale has assembled a core group of classics riders in Mitch Docker, Matti Breschel, Sebastian Langeveld and Tom Scully to support Dan McLay in the sprint stages. Lawson Craddock and Pierre Rolland will have free reign in the hillier stages that come in the second half of the race.

    “The whole group has made a solid start to the season, and we have always been active,” said Wegelius. “We will continue on this line. Dan McLay has good shape, although it’s important to note that many of the sprint stages are far from straightforward. Lawson and Pierre have made a solid start to the season and will have the space to show themselves.”

    Paris-Nice opens on Île des Impressionnistes with a stage that should see a breakaway forge clear and a selection contest the finale. Two likely sprint stages follow, but nasty weather conditions could see a deviation from projections.

    The fourth stage is an 18.5-kilometer time trial with a technical finish. The first general classification gaps are expected to open here.

    Stage five stage is a transitional stage as the race moves away from flatter ground and heads toward the mountains. Both stages six and seven feature uphill finishes. The race concludes with its traditional finish into Nice.

    “It’s a very difficult race and one of the toughest stage races in the spring,” said Breschel. “The first couple of stages can be crucial for the overall results. Just south of Paris, it’s very open and there can be a lot of crosswinds, so staying together in the front is very important. The whole bunch is always very nervous at Paris-Nice, so we have to be awake at all times. When we get to the mountains later, we’ll make sure to protect our climbers and help them we everything we have. The time trial is pure pain. Paris-Nice has everything!

    “Personally, I’m looking forward to the first couple stages,” Breschel continued. “I like when the racing is rough, you know, when I can use my elbows a bit. The mountains will be survival for me, but of course, I’ll help my teammates whenever I can.”

    “I think all the stages will be interesting this year,” Rolland added. “With a sprinter this year, we have opportunities every day. Personally, I’m going to look to do something after the time trial.”

    Newly launched POC Sports Ventral in use at Paris-Nice

    #PinkArgyle debut the all-new POC Sports Ventral at Paris-Nice on Sunday. Developed with input from EF Education First – Drapac p/b Cannondale riders and POC Sports’ experience and award-winning technology, the Ventral is the fastest, most aerodynamic, ventilated, lightweight and safest helmet POC has ever developed. It promises to make every race and ride faster and safer.

    “Technology advances quickly, and we are always looking to give riders the best tools to do the job,” said Wegelius. “Luckily our partners are always working hard to bring us new, faster products. The riders had contact with POC over the winter to ensure that they understand the advantages gained from the Ventral and how best to use it.”

    “There is nothing better than new equipment,” said Breschel. “New bike, new shades, new saddle, new helmet, you name it. It actually gives a great boost of morale when you debut something new like we’re doing here at Paris-Nice.”

    “We’re always looking forward to testing new material in race settings,” said Rolland. “The new helmet combines every aspect you can expect a helmet to address: comfort, lightness, aerodynamics and, of course, safety.”