Or so goes the common complaint about Paris-Nice. For a relatively exciting race, people sure have plenty of complaints. "It's too cold." "It's too wet." "I'm under a truck." But if there's one complaint that rings hollow, it's that the race isn't decided until the last climb, the Col d'Eze. Sure, the stages haven't generally given us big time gaps, save for the time trial, which did what time trials are supposed to do -- shake up the GC. But if it all comes down to tomorrow, well, is that really such a bad thing?
By "tomorrow" I actually mean two climbs, the Col de la Turbie (or maybe it's just La Turbie?) and the final, lovely, scenic Col d'Eze. Stats:
- Km 94.0 - LA TURBIE - 7.8 km de montée à 4.1 % - Catégorie 1
- Km 108.0 - COL d'EZE - 4.3 km de montée à 6.7 % - Catégorie 1
The finish line is at 124km, so as usual the descent of the Col d'Eze will have as much a say as the climb. Alberto Contador used a brilliant descent off the Col in 2007 to snatch the overall from Davide Rebellin, back before we knew the Accountant very well. Rain is in the forecast, which may actually neutralize the impact of the final descent if it's slick enough. Realistically, it's a three-man race now:
- Tony Martin, HTC (leader)
- Andreas Kloden, Shack, at 0:36
- Bradley Wiggins, Sky, at 0:41
Rein Taaramae is next at 1:10, followed by Peraud and Sam-San, but the gaps on the Nice stage tend to be handfuls of seconds, not minutes, so unless three powerful teams fall completely asleep we can rule out all but the current top three. Taaramae was third on the stage last year, so maybe the Estonian will be consoled with a stage win... if he can get rid of Sanchez. Interestingly, Tony Martin DNF'd on this stage last year, but I can't find any record of him crashing and the only mention of a crash was earlier in the stage, not on the decisive parts. My recollection is that he's not the greatest bike handler, but 36 seconds and some fantastic climbing power should get the job done. Klodi's last appearance in Paris-Nice was his victorious romp in 2000, believe it or not. Wiggins hasn't finished Paris-Nice since 2006. None are among the handful of guys (like Taaramae and Luis Leon Sanchez) who seem to contest Paris-Nice every year, but all of them have enough ability and time to hang on to their positions. Should be exciting nonetheless.