Thursday, 7 March 2013

Paris-Nice Stage 5: Montagne de Lure

 
Stage 5 of Paris-Nice could give the general classification another shake-up as the race finally starts to head upwards with 4 categorised climbs before the testing summit finish on the Montagne de Lure. The race first tackled the Montagne de Lure in 2009 where it became the highest stage finish (1600m) in the races long history and it certainly isn't a climb for the faint-hearted...
 
At 13.8km in length it's a fair old slog from start to finish even if the average gradient does at first appear tame at 'only' 6.6% (the grand tours see much harder) but this early in the season a climb such as this presents a real test of form. There are 4 kilometres of the climb at only 5.5% but this is cancelled out by sections in excess of 7% and as high as 8.5%. The consistency of the gradient over the length of the climb does play into the hands of those who prefer to set a steady but hard pace rather than those climbers who like to pick the race apart and string out the bunch by attacking hard on 15%+ gradients. Andrew Talansky (Garmin) is still in the leaders jersey and he is more than capable of handling a climb like this. There are likely to be changes in the General classification though as riders try to put time into their rivals before the testing Col d'Eze Time Trial on stage 7.
 
There are plenty of riders less than a minute down on GC who are capable of winning - or at least gaining time - atop the Montagne de Lure. Alongside Talansky keep an eye out for Tejay Van Garderen, Andreas Kloden, Jean-Christophe Peraud, Lieuwe Westra, Michele Scarponi and of course Richie Porte amongst others, Nico Roche is here too and may take his chances whilst he's not serving in a support role for Alberto Contador. Robert Gesink looks to be in some decent form and might well try to claw back the minute he's lost on his rivals so far. In short, the race is still wide open at this point and now turns in the favour of the climbers. With the final TT being an up-hill affair there will be less intrusion from the Time Trial specialists here too.

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