Paris Nice and Tirreno Adriatico are among the most prestigious One-Week Stage Races, despite taking place at the same time. This usually leads to the top GC riders being split between the two races.
This year, Paris Nice boasts the better quality of overall contenders, including Tour de France champion Jonas Vingegaard and Tadej Pogacar as the big favourites, as well as Simon Yates and Daniel Felipe Martinez.
Tirreno on the other hand seems to be more of a battle between the second tier of GC riders, with Mas, Landa, Hindley and Pidcock headlining the startlist, while Van Aert and Roglic don’t seem to be concerned with the General Classification this year.
Most of the Giro d’Italia contenders opted for the Volta a Catalunya two weeks later instead, where Evenepoel, Roglic, Ayuso, Vine and Geraint Thomas will face off on three summit finishes.
In this article I will analyse possible strategies, performances and likely outcomes on the climbs of Paris Nice and Tirreno Adriatico, while taking into account the circumstances of the non climbing stages. A similar piece for the Volta a Catalunya will follow in the coming weeks. All watt estimations are calculated using standard values for wind, draft, temperature and etalon weight of 60kg.
The route of Paris Nice is quite traditional, featuring a pair of flatter stages with crosswind potential, two stages that seem destined for the breakaway specialists, two uphill finishes with differing difficulty and the classic, short but intense medium mountain stage around Nice.
The true relevation of the course is the omission of the usual Individual Time Trial, which is replaced by a 32km Team Time Trial, which should suit the rouleur-heavy squad of Jumbo Visma. This stage will also be a test for a new Team Time Trial rule, which we might see more often in the future. The time of the first rider will count for the stage, compared to that of the 4th rider like previously.
This could lead to some different strategies, such as leadout-like racing in the last part of the Team Time Trial, which will be exciting to watch. Nontheless, Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo Visma), Dani Martinez (INEOS) and Simon Yates (Jayco) are favourites to gain a serious advantage in the General Classification on Tadej Pogacar (UAE Emirates) on this stage.
La Loge des Gardes, Stage 4
ᵉW/KG Prediction: 6,50ᵉw/kg ~ 16’22min – 24,70km/h – 1760 VAM
The climb to La Loge des Gardes is the first and much easier of the two summit finishes, having a 7,12% average slope for 6,74km. This brand new ascent is not only quite gradual, but also features the easiest sections towards the top of the climb, making it hardly selective. The chances of big gaps are even further minimised if there is a head wind, which could have a massive effect as this climb is not a traditional hairpin climb, and instead travels largely in onedirection.
Despite all of this, some contenders are destined to try to gain back time lost in the Team Time Trial. It will be interesting to see if Pogacar settles for bonus seconds in the sprint or will try to create real gaps on this climb. This might be the most ideal climb in cycling for Pogacar to win the stage, being hard enough to drop any rider faster than him, while offering no opportunity to drop the Slovenian, whose unmatched sprint among GC contenders will make him the clear favourite for the stage win.
No matter the tactics, a small group sprint is by far the most likely outcome for this stage, with a breakaway win also being a possibility. On a climb of similar difficulty, Chiroubles in 2021 Paris Nice, Primoz Roglic managed a solo win by 12 seconds against much weaker competition. However that climb had a serious steep section (1,2km at 10,3%), on which Roglic could get away, which is completely missing from the La Loge des Gardes climb.
Col de Couillole, Stage 7
ᵉW/KG Prediction: 6,10ᵉw/kg ~ 42’00min – 22,30km/h – 1679 VAM
The Col de Couillole is undoubtedly the hardest climb of this years Paris Nice. Featuring 15,61km at 7,53%, it will take the best riders over 40 minutes to complete and is comparable to the Col de Turini (used in Paris Nice 2019, 2022), being 900 meters longer with a near identical gradient. The stage is only 144km long and the climb features only one kilometre with a gradient over 8%, meaning it will not be easy to gain a lot of time, but an ascent of this length and gradient will definitely lead to some gaps.
In all probability, Jonas Vingegaard will be the best placed contender in the General Classification at this point of the race, with Pogacar further behind than Martinez and Simon Yates after the team time trial. If a scenario like this happens, UAE will have to set up Pogacar to attack on this climb. Wellens, Großschartner, and Novak are his main support in the mountains, who can definitely light up the early slopes, but can probably not hold a high tempo for over 20 minutes. This would suggest that Pogacar will probably attack quite early on the climb to take back time, in a similar fashion to INEOS attacking Roglic on Col de Turini with over 7km to go last year.
Such an attack will likely lead to a situation where multiple GC riders are rolling attacks in a small group, as no team has a supporting cast strong enough to create a pace hard enough to put other contenders on the limit early on the climb. A situation like that is usually worst for the rider best placed in the General Classification, who will be forced to close most of the moves.
If Jonas Vingegaard finds himself in those circumstances, attacking himself to reduce the group further, weaken the rest of the contenders or even go solo, is probably the best move. Considering Vingegaard’s shape displayed in Gran Camiño it is more likely for him to drop all other riders, than for him to be dropped on a climb like this head to head, but multiple other contenders start – stop attacking might make it difficult for him.
It will also be interesting to see what the talented riders who performed well in the early races can show on a long climb like this. Matteo Jorgenson, Skjelmose Jensen, Powless and Vauquelin are definitely among the riders to watch here, who will all be fighting for a top 10 in GC.
Breaking the climbing record will be difficult and can only be achieved with a constantly high pace for which one of the contenders will need to go solo early or multiple riders be happy to work together. Jonas Vingegaard and maybe also Tadej Pogacar could definitely break the record if they tried to, but with tactical games on the climb it will be very hard to ride faster than Richie Porte in 2017, who showed one of the best performances of the year, climbing Col de la Couillole in 41’51min, at 6,15ᵉw/kg.
Col de Peille, Stage 8
ᵉW/KG Prediction: 6,60ᵉw/kg ~ 15’28min – 24,91km/h – 1792 VAM
This climb is probably best known for the exploits of Alberto Contador, who forced serious selections on this rather easy climb of 6,42km at 7,20% multiple times. He also holds the climbing record of 15’48min at 6,67ᵉw/kg, set in 2017. This record is breakable, but only if the contenders race this climb, which is located 50km from the finish, full gas from the bottom.
Such a scenario is relatively likely if Pogacar is still over 30s behind the leader in the General Classification. UAE also have a good squad to make these shallow medium mountains quite hard to set up their leader. Despite this, getting away solo here is quite unlikely considering the ability of the other contenders on a climb like this and the large drafting benefit at the high speeds that will be achieved on this climb. The rather mild forecasted temperatures also make a small group more likely than all out chaos on Col de Peille.
Col d’Èze, Stage 8
ᵉW/KG Prediction: 6,50ᵉw/kg ~ 16’10min – 22,42km/h – 1755 VAM
The Col d’Eze is the last and hardest of five categorized climbs on this final stage around Nice. The parcours of the stage is quite difficult and offers enough opportunities to create time gaps. The most likely moment for a deciding attack is the 1,9km long, 10,7% steep section of the Col d’Eze (6,04km at 7,83%). This stage design suits Pogacar really well, which could lead to a great battle against Vingegaard on this final climb of the race.
Simon Yates and Daniel Felipe Martinez were already contending on this stage last year. Martinez was looking strong before an unfortunate mechanical, while Yates dropped Roglic and would’ve won the General Classification without a heroic Wout Van Aert pulling Roglic to the finish. Yates pushed 6,57ᵉw/kg for 16’51min on that occasion, which was the only ascent of that particular route up Col d’Èze to date. That was certainly a good performance, but to open a similar gap to Vingegaard, even without Van Aert as a security blanket, an even better effort will be needed.
The Dane is much less prone to historic breakdowns on later stage of a stage races than Roglic and posesses an overall climbing ability superior to that of Roglic at any point of the Slovenian’s career. This reality and the 32km Team Time Trial make Jonas Vingegaard the clear favourite to win the General Classification of Paris Nice 2023. Nonetheless, this stage will most likely be the biggest difficulty for Vingegaard, as his three main competitors (Pogacar, S.Yates, Martinez) excel at stages designed like this and rolling attacks can be very effective on these shallow gradients.
The route of this race is nearly perfect for Jonas Vingegaard, as the long Team Time Trial should give him a large buffer on Pogacar before the climbs even start. Considering the strong startlist with three main challengers (Pogacar, S.Yates, Martinez) paired with difficult stages on the final weekend, a victory is not a surefire thing however.
Unlike in Paris Nice, the Italian stage race does not rely on long climbs, only featuring one climb over 20min in the seven stages. Next to this summit finish on Sassotetto, there will be three sprint stages, two punchy courses and a 11,5km Individual Time Trial on the first day. Looking at this route, there will probably only be three stages that could see serious GC changes. These are the Time Trial at the start of the race, the summit finish on Sassotetto, which will likely make the biggest differences and Stage 6, which features a hilly course around Osimo.
Thymen Arensman, Joao Almeida and Brandon Mcnulty have put themselves in a solid position for GC with the opening time trial, whilst Roglic, Mas, Hindley and Landa have ground to make up. After his victory at Strade Bianche Pidcock lost significant time in the TT as well as one of UAE’s top leaders, Adam Yates.
The hilly stage around Osimo will take place after the summit finish on Sassotetto and will be the last opportunity to create time gaps. The difficulty of the stage can be compared to the famous Castelfidardo stage, which Van der Poel won in 2021, featuring three laps over the combo of Muri di Casto del Borgo, which is a 1,35km ascent at 13,11%, of which around 500 meters are on cobbled roads, and the Osimo climb (1,7km at 5,7%).
This stage design seems to be made for Pidcock, who excels on short climbs and will have no trouble on the cobbles. The brit will attempt to ride for the General Classification and has a very good chance on this route, especially considering the multiple cards INEOS will be able to play, having Arensman and Geoghegan Hart in the squad as well. Vlasov and Mas have also recently shown great qualities as puncheurs and should be able to go well on this stage.
Sassotetto, Stage 5
ᵉW/KG Prediction: 6,40ᵉw/kg ~ 27’56min – 23,20km/h – 1740 VAM
Sassotetto is a climb of medium difficulty (10,8km at 7,50%), which will be completed in around 28 minutes by the best riders. Simon Yates set the foundation for his Tirreno victory here in 2020, with the climbing record of 27’36min at 6,51ᵉw/kg. He gained 35 seconds on the second best rider with this impressive display and only 12 riders finished within 2 minutes of him.
This might make the climb seem very selective, but that stage was over 200km long which added extra difficulty compared to the 168km stage this year. Yates also needed one of his best ever performances to create such a gap. On a very similar climb, Collau Fancuaya (Vuelta 2022), the 12 fastest riders were only separated by 64 seconds, despite a fast ascent. On that climb, Enric Mas pushed 6,34ᵉw/kg for 27’29min, so he can be expected to perform in the same region on this climb as well. Next to him, Adam Yates who performed exceptionally well on Jebel Hafeet should be considered the favourite for this stage.
The most important takeaway from this stage will be the climbing level of Tom Pidcock on efforts longer than 20 minutes. The young brit seems to be attempting a General Classification campaign at the Tour de France later this year. This stage will be the first real indicator of what to expect from Pidcock, who performed well on the short Malhao climb in the Volta ao Algarve and set a high level KOM on Sa Calobra in training.
Considering the route with this very hard Stage 6, my pick to win the General Classification is Tom Pidcock, who is in great shape and will be supported by an elite supporting cast. He will probably be able to limit his losses on Sassotetto and posesses the ability to gain serious time on Stage 6. Other contenders that should be up there are Enric Mas, Mikel Landa and Adam Yates. Roglic could also go well, if he is close to his usual shape, while I am not confident in Jai Hindley this early in the season.
Gabriel Stróżyk (@NaichacaCycling)
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