It is now or never

March 9 th 2024 - 05:41

Before the start of this Paris-Nice, the peloton were gearing up for a queen stage on terrain becoming more and more familiar to the riders in the mountains around Nice with the ascents to La Colmiane and Auron, roads that will be part of the Tour de France final week-end in July. Weather has changed their plans as Saturday’s stage 7 will be much shorter, with only 104 km and a ride up a slope many of them know well – La Madone d’Urelle.

“I know la Madone d’Utelle well, it’s actually one of my favourite climbs in Nice. I ride it quite often. It’s one of the best views in the whole of Nice with the Alps on one side and the sea on the other side,” said American Matteo Jorgenson (Visma-Lease a Bike), second overall, who lives in the area.

It is a long 15.2-km climb at an average of 5.8 pc and the question is whether it will be hard enough to decide the outcome of the Race to the Sun. In 2016, Ilnur Zakarin had won at the top and Geraint Thomas had taken the leader's jersey away from Michael Matthews. But the gaps at the top were not exceptional, with the top five finishing within 10 seconds.

Current yellow and white jersey holder Brandon McNulty (UAE Emirates), who leads an American one-two in the GC, is cautious: “I’m in a good position but we have two hard days coming with bad weather and we’ll try as hard as we can.” The American has a solid 23-seconds overall lead over Jorgenson with Australian Luke Plapp third, 34 seconds adrift.

The main favourites at the start from les Mureaux nearly a week ago have already lost quite a bit of time, maybe too much to make up for on just one climb. Belgian champion Remco Evenepoel (Soudal-Quick Step) is 1:03 adrift, 2019 winner Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) is 1:14 behind while 2022 winner Primoz Roglic (Bora-Hansgrohe) is 1:44 off the pace.

They cannot afford to wait any longer if they want to add the 2024 Paris-Nice to their record. And while la Madone d’Utelle was not on the original map of the race, it is now probably the ascent that will decide who will be in yellow on Sunday on the Promenade des Anglais. It is now or never.

08/03/2024 - Paris-Nice - Étape 6 - Sisteron / La colle-sur-Loup (198,2km) -
08/03/2024 - Paris-Nice - Étape 6 - Sisteron / La colle-sur-Loup (198,2km) - © A.S.O./Billy Ceusters

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