Springtime stage races from one place to a different place – a round-up
You may have noticed that my approach to race reports this year has been to deliver them almost pointlessly late. You may think that this temporal delay removes my responsibility to look at the ins and outs of how each race was decided. You’d be right. I’m also lazy. And busy.
These ingredients are not a recipe for timeliness.
So, spring stage races then. We’ve just had the week where one bunch of riders makes their way from Paris to Nice while another schleps from the Tyrrhenian Sea (with its hideous consonant cluster) to the Adriatic.
Let’s do Paris-Nice first, as indicated by this sub-heading reading ‘Paris-Nice’.
Every year there’s a bit of a battle between these two races to attract the best riders. In recent times Tirreno-Adriatico’s had the edge, but not this year. I therefore found that the French race drew a little more of my attention.
It was won by Team Sky’s Colombian, Sergio Henao, who isn’t voluntarily removed from racing pending the results of some scientific study or other, like he usually is. He raced much as he ever does, outdoing pretty much everyone on the smaller climbs, but flagging a little on the longer ones.
This is important. Henao might be someone to watch in the Ardennes Classics next month, but I still can’t see him vying for a Grand Tour. In contrast, Richie Porte got minced in crosswinds on an early stage but was the standout rider on the mountain stage and was second only to Henao in the hills. So while the angry little Tasmanian didn’t actually make the top ten overall, I actually think he had a better week than Alberto Contador, say, who finished second overall and by only two seconds.
It seems encouraging, but you could also argue that it’s business as usual. After all, Richie Porte always has a bad day.
Other notable results were Ardennes podium regular Julian Alaphilippe somehow winning the time trial and finishing fifth overall; Brummie-Irish double-Monument winner and Grand Tour wannabe Dan Martin finishing third, despite spending much of the week trying to support Alaphilippe; and Simon Yates – not the one who did well in last year’s Tour de France, the other one – winning the stage that finished with the Mur de Fayence.
I didn’t massively follow this one. Nairo Quintana won. He’ll be preparing for this year’s Tour de France by trying to win the Giro d’Italia – or, to put it another way, he maybe doesn’t fancy his chances at this year’s Tour de France but is going anyway after he’s done the Giro.
Nairo won the mountain stage ahead of two Brits, Geraint Thomas and Adam (yes, the one from the Tour) Yates. However, The Rider Called Rohan (Dennis) came second through the magic of time trials.
The only other notable event I know about was Peter Sagan going off road to avoid a woman walking her dog.
So what can we conclude?
Quintana, Porte, Contador. Things are much the same. I ain’t giving Henao’s result much weight and no-one else did anything eye-catchingly beyond expectation.
It’s all irrelevant for the time being anyway because the next big race is Milan-San Remo on Saturday. A 300km slog that culminates in some tiny climbs and then some sort of knackered-out sprint, it’s probably the only race all year where climbers, sprinters and classics riders can all consider themselves in with a shot.