Paris-Nice vs. Tirreno-Adriatico: No Contest?

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[Depiction of Italian peninsula in 2058, including effects of global warming.]

As an ardent lover of the natural environment I do love me some recycling, and recycling old quotes is no exception. Why look for new quotes -- and the carbon emissions which accompany them -- when you already have what you need? So it is with some amusement that I dredge up one of my offseason favorites: Tyler Farrar's assessment of Paris-Nice:

I’ve done Paris-Nice twice and I’ve done Tirreno twice, and I’d be perfectly happy never to go back to Paris-Nice again in my career. One, the weather is horrible, it can really be miserable. Some of the coldest days I’ve ever had on a bike have been in Paris-Nice. And it’s important, that week of racing is really what sets you up for the classics, and going to Paris-Nice where it’s so cold, you’re risking more crashes, you’re more likely to get sick. And it’s just a harder race than Tirreno. You can break your body down so much doing Paris-Nice that you never hit top form for the classics. Whereas Tirreno, the weather’s better. I think you see -- these days, pretty much all the classics riders are at Tirreno. There’s only one or two that do Paris-Nice.

And the hotels in Italy are a lot better than the hotels in France.

Now, Farrar is no fool, he's not keen to piss off a certain, powerful race organizer for no reason. Better weather. Better hotels. Better racing? Can this modern knockoff unseat venerable Paris-Nice as the pre-classics stage race to see and be seen? Let's break it down... on the fillip:

Let's deal with the elephant in the room. The hotels. Now, I can't speak from anything more than anecdotal evidence, so when I say I loved every Italian hotel I've been to, well, the riders aren't on their honeymoon. And when I say that French hotels can't be too bad, again, the riders aren't crashing with their friends in Paris. If the food and accommodations were outstanding at my friends' place (and a true bargain!), that still doesn't do the race much good.

I can say, more objectively, that if all else were assumed equal, the fact is that Tirreno tends to go places where you probably stand a better chance of finding a nice hotel than rural southern France. The due mari refers to the two coasts where the race mostly lingers, and if you aren't familiar with Italian beach hotels, you certainly aren't British. Or Dutch. Or Danish. Or... let's move on. Italy can be detected at night from the international space station based solely on the lights of hotels which outline the entire peninsula. Are they all nice? Nope. But when you're looking down at the beach, and someone is serving you a tangy puttanesca, you're not likely to notice the small closets. Even away from the beach Tirreno uses big towns like Chieti and Perugia to hole up for the night. This isn't hardship duty.

As for the weather, Paris-Nice is called the race to the sun, for the simple reason that Nice is usually pleasant enough, if not downright lovely, this time of year, while Paris weather in early March can be something to flee. Worse, to get away from Paris, the race organizers usually make you take the hilly route, where the altitude can -- and often does -- bring snow into the picture. This year's event seems blessed on that score, but that's an exception. Riders will still welcome the sight of the Riviera.

Tirreno, meanwhile, starts by the same sea (the Tyrrhenian Sea is just another chunk of the Mediterranean, as is the adjacent Ligurian Sea where Nice lies), only further south. If Paris-Nice is the Race to the Sun, Tirreno-Adriatico is the Race That Starts in the Sun, Lingers There, Briefly Takes Leave Of It, And Goes Back to the Sun Again. Nobody gets rich making guarantees about the weather, but if you had to place a bet on which race is more pleasant, it's a pretty easy choice.

And the racing? Well, that's up to the parcours and the racers. Neither parcours looks overly toothy, particularly now that Wolf Mountain (Montelupone) has been sidelined by the Tirreno organizers for a second straight year. But the racers -- meaning, the startlists -- this is where Farrar seems correct. Basically, close to everyone is at Tirreno. All the big teams are staffing both races, but how they do so says a lot about rider preferences.

HTC:

  • T-A: Cavendish, Renshaw, Eisel, Pinotti, Peter Velits, Albasini, Grabsch, Roulston
  • P-N: Martin, Goss, Sivtsov, Tejay, Martin Velits, Bak, Pate

Analysis: The perennially deep team can look good in both places, but the Choice of Velits is rather telling.

Rabobank:

  • T-A: Freire, Boom, Gesink, Langeveld, Wynants, Leezer, Tankink, Flens
  • P-N: LuLu, Mollema, Tjallingi, Ten Dam, Weening, Niermann, Van Emden, Garate

Analysis: World #1 team makes a clear choice. Face it, the Dutch know how to pick their travel destinations.

Garmin-Cervelo:

  • T-A: Hushovd, Farrar, Hammond, Klier, Millar, Wilson, Lancaster, Navardauskas
  • P-N: Hesjedal, Haussler, Le Mevel, Lloyd, Maaskant, Rasch, Talansky, Van Summeren

Analysis: Too bad Sep Vanmarcke is hurt, I think his choice would have spoken volumes.

leoparDSchleck:

  • T-A: Cancellara, Andy S, Benna, Wegmann, O'Grady, Posthuma, Vigano, Klemme
  • P-N: Frank, Feillu, Fuglsang, Gerdemann, Monfort, Pires, Voigt, Weylandt

Analysis: The only big name going to Paris-Nice is Inspector Clouseau. Well, Jens too, but he likes suffering a bit too much. In fairness, someone might tell Stuey to HTFU, or stop using that one.

BMC:

  • T-A: Evans, Ballan, Burghardt, Hincapie, Santambrogio, Quinziato, Van Avermaet, Schar
  • P-N: Moinard, Bookwalter, Eijssen, Kroon, Louder, Morabito, Santaromita, Wyss

Analysis: Wow. Any questions?

Katusha:

  • T-A: Pozzato, Caruso, DiLuca (sigh), Kolobnev, J-Rod, Moreno, Paolini, Kuschynski
  • P-N: Gusev, Brutt, Galimzyanov, Hoste, Ivanov, Trofimov, Trusov, Vorganov

Analysis: Decidedly Russian flavor to the P-N team, if only because Russians don't notice snow. Somewhere in the Loire Valley, Vorganov is sleeping happily in the knowledge that he's been sent on a tropical vacation.

Quick Step:

  • T-A: Boonen, Terpstra, Bandiera, Chicchi, Devenyns, Malacarne, Reda, Stauff
  • P-N: Chavanel, De Maar, De Weert, Steegmans, Maes, Pineau, Reda, Stauff

Analysis: Respect to Reda and Stauff for making it to 15 stages in 10 days. Boonen used to do P-N, but he's learned his lesson. Or he hates ASO.

Sky:

  • T-A: Lofkvist, Flecha, Boasson Hagen, Cummings, Arvesen, Hayman Stannard, Sutton
  • P-N: Wiggins, Gerrans, Hendu, Hunt, Rogers, Thomas, Hungry Like the Wolf (Uran Uran), Zandio 

Analysis: Hm, splitting the ticket. Clearly the classics squad is in Italy. Could their choices be purely practical and not based on seniority, politics, or who needs to be punished? That's a novel approach to running a bike team.

Some of the other team choices are more mixed, with the Tour guys (Kreuziger, Levi, etc.) hanging in France and the sprinters going to Italy. Vacansoleil sent their whole A-list team (minus Bozic) to France, possibly to make nice with ASO in the wake of the Ricco mess. Nice of De Gendt to take advantage of that circumstance. Liquigas sent Sagan to Paris-Nice after some of the Italian continental teams used political pressure to have him sent abroad, at least for a few weeks. Omega Pharma sent Gilbert and Greipel to Italy, but Van Den Broeck to France, logically enough, since VDB is riding an all-July program. Alberto Contador isn't in either country, on the advice of his attorneys.

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