A rejuvenated Giacomo Nizzolo powered past Pascal Ackermann and his Bora teammates to take victory on Stage 2 of Paris-Nice.
The race was blown apart by crosswinds, leaving a group of 10 riders at the head of the race, with both Nairo Quintana and Julian Alaphilippe facing difficulties which left to lose yet more time as they crossed the line behind the favourites.
The first indicator of the main GC contenders’ form is upon us, and with the cancellation and uncertainty around many races, it comes with extra importance.
With four mountain stages, a hilly time trial and three other stages, the race provides the perfect opportunity for riders to show how their early season prep has been going, and will give us a good idea as to who is on hot form for the year.
Seeing four mountain stages fall together across the final days of the race, it’s likely we’ll see the race decided here, with the individual time-trial being a mere 15km, so will unlikely allow any time-trial specialist contenders from grabbing enough of a lead to see them through.
Looking across the stages, it seems the penultimate stage will hold the most importance, as the only summit finish across the race, and will potentially see some big attacks from some of the big contenders.
With reigning champion Egan Bernal not in attendance, it leaves the door open for an exciting contest.
ONES TO WATCH
Contender Rating: 5/5
Quintana comes into the race on great form after winning the Tour of the Alps, which goes along with GC victory in the Tour de La Provence, leaving the Colombian with a 100% win rating a stage races so far this year. The 30-year-old, will be coming into Paris-Nice with ambitious of maintaining this record, and with such a small amount of time trialling, is an absolute favourite for victory.
Contender Rating: 5/5
Porte is the only entrant to have won Paris-Nice in the past, having done so twice, and comes into the race in good form. The Aussie took victory at the Tour Down Under in January and finished third at the Tour of the Alps. He’s always performed well over one week stage races, and is definitely a favourite for victory.
Contender Rating: 4/5
Bardet has been in good form in the early season, most recently finishing second at the Tour of the Alps. The Frenchman’s riding style has seen him take four top tens at Paris-Nice, but only with a highest finish of fifth. With minimal time-trialling, this year could very well be the one for Bardet.
Contender Rating: 3/5
Kreuziger is a strong rider and will be looking to take victory at Paris-Nice, especially in a year with a slightly weeker field to normal. The Czech rider has not seen too many good results so far this season, so is likely still riding in to form, but still has a strong chance to perform well here.
Contender Rating: 2/5
The Frenchman has been improving year on year, and looks set to have another great season. The 27-year-old has not had any notable results this season, but is likely attempting to peak for the Tour De France, and as such will not be on top form. It’s therefore right to define the Quickstep man as an outsider for Paris-Nice, who could easily spring a suprise.