Paris-Nice may be called “The Race to the Sun”, but the peloton has yet to see the sunshine during the opening half of the eight day race. Nasty weather inspired a hectic start to Paris-Nice. Four stages in, we review the first half of Paris-Nice.
It was not your average sprinter’s stage as most expected on stage one of 2017 Paris-Nice. Instead the peloton faced a tough day on the bike, with crosswinds and rain causing the peloton to shatter into pieces.
Kristijan Koren was part of a breakaway of four and managed an 11th place finish: “Today was very hard. This morning I talked to the directors and we were discussing the possibility of joining the break. The weather was horrible and there would be a lot of stress as it’s the first stage.”
The group of four stayed away until 65 kilometers from the finish, when a 25-rider group caught up with them.
“After the chasing group caught us, it was a matter of saving energy until the line,” Koren explained.
“My legs are good, so I may try to pick another stage to go for my own chance.”
Sport director Charly Wegelius added: “It was an unusual stage, in which a lot of teams lost a lot. I think we did a good job of preserving what we want to.
“Koren did us proud in the break and also being the second rider of the original break to finish. The way he was riding in Ruta del Sol was really good and he’s proven that he’s continuing that here. That’s the spirit that we take forward to the next stages.”
It was another rainy and windy day on stage two of Paris-Nice, and again Kristijan Koren decided to get himself in the break. He escaped the peloton with eight other riders but was soon caught by the first group of a decimated peloton.
“It was the same story as yesterday: a lot of rain and very wet conditions – so I tried to go again,” Koren said. “After 10 kilometers in the break, the race radio announced that the first peloton was coming back. I got into the wheels of the first group and then dropped into the second group.”
But that wasn’t the end of the story as Koren showed himself in the finale of the race with an attack at 2.5 kilometers from the finish line.
“The groups came back together in the end,” Koren explained. “It was so cold! Charly [Wegelius] had talked to me on the radio and had said that I could avoid a risky bunch sprint by getting out there, so I did.”
A bit of peace and predictability returned to the peloton on stage three, which turned out to be a traditional sprinter’s stage, with the peloton allowing a break to go free and catching all the escapees back before the finish line. Bora-Hansgrohe’s Sam Bennett took the win, with Arnaud Démare retaining the general classification lead.
Mike Woods reflected on the stage: “The last two days have been really hard on everyone in the peloton. Especially with the weather. Today there was only a little bit of rain, and it was far more tolerable.”
Although a mass sprint was imminent, the last two breakaway riders held their advantage until well into the last 3 kilometers.
“I think we were a bit worried about the breakaway surviving, but otherwise we figured it’d be coming into a sprint finish,” Woods said. “The climbs, despite the facts they were categorized, weren’t really hard. And FDJ plus some other teams took the job of controlling.”
For most of the Cannondale-Drapac squad, the individual time trial in stage four mostly meant saving a bit of energy, as Mike Woods explained: “Half the team is looking at the last three stages to get some individual glory and also protecting Davide [Formolo]. So the individual time trial will just be a big goal for Davide.”
Koren pushed his way to a 50th spot in the result, 1:45 down on stage winner and new race leader Julian Alaphilippe. The stage result saw Koren slot into 14th overall. Formolo was able to jump from 18th to 16th place in the general classification and is now 2:18 down on Alaphilippe.