The Race to The Sun
Pro-Cycling is one of the most colourful and beautiful spectacles imaginable. The ever growing popularity of events in the UK such as Ride London. Yorkshire and the Tour of Britain is magical but, they are babies; moving on to the Continent these events are ingrained into the fabric of the Culture, some with nearly a hundred years of history and pedigree behind them. I managed to get over to France for a long weekend and caught the last two stages of the race of this wonderful 75th mini Tour de France; Stage 7, from Nice to the Col du Couillole and Stage 8, from Nice to Nice via the Col d’Eze. I was based in Vence for Stage 7 and Nice for Stage 8.
Running from Sunday March 5th to 12th 2017, the 75th Paris-Nice was made up of 8 stages and covered a total distance of 1233 kilometres. Raced over eight days, the race started with a prologue in the Paris region and ended with a final stage in Nice via the Col d’Èze overlooking the city.
Photos by Me / Maps from letour.fr
The race has been held annually since 1933, starting its life as “Six Jours de la Route” – in part to try and rival the extremely popular Six Day Track events. In the 1939 edition only 19 riders finished the race – 67 dropping out on route and the time gap between first place and second was a whopping 9’39. The Second World War interrupted the race but once the conflict was resolved and the occupation of France ended, it returned for a one-off in 1946 before returning permanently in the 1950s. In 1951 it was reborn as “Paris – Côte d’Azur” and finally in 1954 it took the name “Paris – Nice.”
The roll of honour includes some of cycling greatest riders including, Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx (21 stage wins), Miguel Indurain and Alberto Contador. The most successful rider ever is Ireland’s Sean Kelly, who claimed seven consecutive victories in the 1980s.
A riot of Colour and Light
Stage 7 Nice – Col du Couillole
11th March 2017
A summit finish at Col de la Couillole, located at an elevation of 1,678 metres. To get there the riders have to climb 16 kilometres at 7.3%. Before arriving at the foot of the Couillole the route takes in the Col de Saint-Martin, which is a 7.5 kilometres toil at 7.1%.
The penultimate stage of this years Paris Nice; the highest summit finish in the races history – the 1678m Col de la Couillole, one of three category 1 climbs on this stage. I caught the action as it went through the medieval town of Vence and heading up the Col de Vence, about 20km into the race. The weather was absolutely glorious. The previous days Stage 6 saw Simon Yates breakaway 20 km from the finish on the Col de Bourigaille for an emphatic Stage victory with race leader Julian Alaphilippe (Quick Step) hanging on to the Yellow Jersey with 36 seconds in hand and Sergio Henao (Sky) 46 seconds behind him on the General Classification
Golas – Team Sky
(Above left) Richie Porte (BMC) on the Col de Vence, winner of todays stage, and (right) Sergio Henao (Sky) pictured the following day in Nice sporting the Yellow Jersey after his forth place finish on the stage gained enough time to take the lead in the General Classification
Some snaps of the beautiful medieval town of Vence, just under 20km of racing from Nice, and my base for Stage 7.
The Paris- Nice Challenge Sportive Ride – 11th March 2017
Stage 8 Nice – Nice
12th March 2017
The final stage is similar to last year’s, although the route is shorter (only 115.5 kilometres). After starting out in Nice the riders face the climbs up Côte de Levens, Côte de Châteauneuf, Col de Calaison, Côte de Peille and Col d’Èze. The last summit is crested with 15 kilometres remaining before the run-in to Nice is going to decide on the winner
Stage 8 – Depart – Nice
Some Peloton Portraits: If you can recognise more that five of them, then congratulations, you are a Cycling Geek !
Andre Greipel (Lotto)
Phillip Gillbert (Quick Step – wearing the Belgium National Champions Jersey
Rolling out of Nice on Stage 8
Marcel Kittel – Quick Step
Simon Yates (Orica)
Stage 8 – Fan village – Nice
Mavic neutral service crewman – the cycling equivalent of a St. Bernard
Stage 8 – Finish
After a gruelling mountain race around the Alpes-Maritimes, taking in three category 2 climbs and a cat 1, the riders finaly arrived back into Nice after around 115km of racing and then doubled back out again to tackle the Col d’Eze loop (see Stage 8 Profile above) Then the riders came down off the Eze and back into Nice once more for the climax of both the Stage and a week of racing………………..
History repeated itself on Sunday for Team Sky’s Sergio Henao and Alberto Contador, who battled it out in a nail-biting final stage of Paris-Nice before the Spaniard was forced to concede defeat for two seconds. Already beaten a year ago by a slim four-second margin by another Team Sky rider, Geraint Thomas, the 2007 and 2010 winner of the Race to the Sun again failed by the blink of an eye as the British outfit conquered their fifth final victory in six years with four different riders. Sergio Henao emulated Bradley Wiggins (2012), Richie Porte (2013 and 2015), and Geraint Thomas for the most prestigious win in his career. But the Colombian champion is far from a second choice winner: attacked all day by El Pistolero Contador, he resisted bravely and kept his cool until the finish line. France’s Julian Alaphilippe (Quick Step), with the green and white jerseys, and his compatriot Lilian Calmejane (Direct Energie), crowned KOM champion, completed the podium.
(extract from letour.fr website)
Stage 8 Winner David de la Cruz of Quick Step managed to hold on against Contador (second), which meant the latter failed to pick up the 10 bonus seconds for the stage win and cost him the Yellow Jersey
Podium – 2017 Paris Nice
The Maillot Jaune
Champion: Paris-Nice 2017: Sergio Henao (Sky/Columbia)
1st Sergio Henao (Sky). 2nd Alberto Contador (Trek). 3rd Dan Martin (Quick Step)
Best Team – Quick Step
Four Jerseys: KOM, Yellow, White and Green – Paris-Nice 2017
Last but not Least