Anything is possible... even a bunch sprint
March 6 th 2023 - 05:37
Paris-Nice race director François Lemarchand has been trying for a number of years to make the first stage as unpredictable as possible. Climbs, corners, crosswinds, intermediate sprints placed at awkward moments in the stage – everything seems to have been designed to avoid the obvious bunch sprint. Today’s 169.5-km stage around La Verrière is no exception.
“You only have to look at the map to understand that we have definitely opted to try and spur attacks. There are changes in direction all the time and we have gone looking for the hardest climbs in the Chevreuse Valley. We also placed the only intermediate sprint of the day at the top of a hill 6 km from the finish,” Lemarchand said.
“A lot will depend on the intensity of the race when the peloton reaches the ascents. The Millon-la-Chapelle climb is a small wall, but riders like Arnaud De Lie, Michael Matthews or Mads Pedersen should be able to cope. Actually, anything is possible,” he added.
Lemarchand is even convinced that GC contenders like Tour de France champion Jonas Vingegaard and Tadej Pogacar will battle it out from day one. Still, in spite of the winding roads, the bumpy profile and the possible bad weather, sprinters of the highest level are so many in this year’s edition of the Race to the Sun that it looks unlikely that their teams will let any move gain momentum before the finish line.
Paris-Nice has rarely boasted that many sprinting talents at the start and the list of riders capable of raising their arms on the finish line in case of a sprint is extremely impressive and spans several generations. Former stage winners like Arnaud Demare, Sam Bennett, Michael Matthews, Mads Pedersen, Cees Bol or Alexander Kristoff can seriously hope of shining again while Tim Merlier, Arnaud de Lie, Kaden Groves, Bryan Coquard, Olav Kooj, Matteo Trentin or even Fred Wright are among the riders who could have their day if the GC contenders decide to play a waiting game.