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The 2017 edition of Paris – Nice will go down as one of the hardest in recent history with the unfavourable weather in the early part of the race and the hillier and aggressive racing in the last days contributing to a hard week in the saddle for all.
Stage 1 & Stage 2
The opening days of this year’s Paris Nice was defined by the huge winds and rain which battered the peloton. This weather not only leads to nervous racing within the peloton but it also means the power needed to keep at the front and stay in the front splits is extremely high. The power seen in the opening days proves that ‘flat’ days can require higher power outputs and big average powers just to keep yourself in the game and maintain a position at the font of the peloton.
We can see from the average powers on the day’s stage just how hard it was on Stage 1-
Philippe Gilbert – 345w normalized, 4.79w/kg 3:22:52
Kristijan Koren- 352w normalized, 4.89w/kg 3:23:02
Jelle Wallays – 380w normalized, 5w/kg, 3:23:35
You can see that these riders had to average just under 5w/kg to stay with the leading groups for almost 3 1/2hr. This is as high, or higher, than many mountainous stages in previous races. The winds that split the bunch after 1hr of racing caused havoc, Jelle Wallays averaged 404w for close to 30min and averaged over 50kph when the front group was formed of 26 riders. This was matched by Bram Tankink who was chasing in the second group when he produced 374w, 5.18w/kg for 40min as they perused the leading group. The sort conditions were suitable to classis specialists such as Gilbert who made his intentions clear that he was on the hunt for a stage win. In the last 3min to the finish line Philippe had enough power left in reserve to produce 490w, 6.81w/kg as he made his way to 4th on the stage 9 sec behind winner Arnaud Demare (Fra) FDJ.Stage 2 was to start off where they left Stage 1, fast and aggressive riding from the start which seen the peloton split up early in the race. Averaging close to 50kph in the first 2hrs of racing with the cross winds again laying havoc with the riders. Riders such as Richie Port lost big time today, which is unsurprising with the conditions. Losing a matter of 1-2min in an echelon can lead to massive loses further in the stage as the ability to regain contact with leading groups in an echelon split race is extremely difficult. In these occasions it is critical to have a strong team around the team leaders if they are to stand any chance of making it in the front group.
The aggressive start of the race can again be seen in Jelle Wallays power in the first third of the stage, during this section he had 25min at 388w, averaging 52.2kph. This again shows the considerable effort needed to maintain a hold in a lead group during an echelon fight within the race. With only around 50 riders making the finish in the led group with many C contenders losing time like Porte and Cannondale-Drapac duo of Joe Dombrowski and Pierre Rolland.
The higher average powers on the stage is again proof of a hard day out, Oliver Naesen normalized 328w for 4hr 20min and Jelle Wallays averaging a normalized power of 347w.
This was two extremely hard days to kick off the 2017 edition of Paris Nice, this is some of the highest average powers which we have seen to date in 2017.
The weather cleared for stage 3 which was a welcome sight for the 167 riders starting the day. The race started a lot more tranquil compared to the past two days and the stage was to end in a bunch sprint which was won by Irish man Sam Bennett (Irl) Bora-Hansgrohe.
The stage had an early breakaway which was to stay in front for most of the stage before they were reeled in by the sprinter teams. Part of the breakaway was American Ben King who played his cards for a stage victory.
We have compared two riders from the same team, Dimension Data, to show the difference between riding in the break and within the peloton.
Ben King (Breakaway rider)- 303w normalized, 4.33w/kg. 4:33:03
Kristian Sbaragli (team sprinter) 277w normalized, 3.79w/kg, 4:31:14
The 14.5km time trial to Mont Brouilly proved to be a fascinating test, combining a need for raw power across a mostly flat run of 11.5 kilometres from Beaujeu, and uphill speed over the final 3km climb averaging 7.7% gradient. This sort of TT did not suit your typical TT rider, nor your typical Climber, so we were to see the riders who paced the flat perfectly and had enough power to hit the last 3km at an effort well over their threshold.
In the initial ‘flat’ part of the stage which consisted of the first 11km Alexey averaged 388w, 5.46w/kg but was then able to produce a 458w, 6.45w/kg for 8:30min on the ascent to the finish. I would estimate he rode the last section about 110-115% of his FTP and the first section just under his FTP at 95%.
We can also see that riders who finished between 30th-10th place needed be around 5.9-6w/kg for the 22-23min effort. What is important to note is that this was not a ‘normal’ TT which requires an even out effort, this was a race of two halves’ and it was critical to get your pacing on both sections perfect.
We have estimated the power of eventual stage winner Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Quick-Step Floors and hill climb specialist Richie Porte who was to go on and finish 10th on the stage but who was to set the fastest time on the hill section.
Last climb estimates-
Julian Alaphilippe - ~405w, 6.53w/kg, 8:02
Richie Porte - ~410w, 6.72w/kg, 7:50
On the heels of a critical time trial, and with three mountain stages looming, stage 5 was the last sprinter-friendly day of the race and a welcome chance for the GC hopefuls to take a breather ahead of the weekend. This seen the usual early breakaway taking a lead before the sprinter teams reeling it in before a bunch sprint which was to be won by German powerhouse André Greipel (Ger) Lotto Soudal.
Breakaway rider Lilian Calmejane (Direct Energie) had a final normalized power for the 189km stage at 314w, 5.55w/kg. Comapring this to teammate and designated sprinter Bryan Coquard who normalized 263w, 4.24w/kg. Bryan was to finish 8th on the stage and to do so he put out a blistering 739w, 11.92w/kg for 30sec. A big anaerobic effort after 4 ½ hr of racing.
The first stage in the high mountains of this year’s Paris Nice was set to be a showdown between those riders already contention for the win and those who are trying to pay catch up after losing out in the crosswinds and TT.
One of those riders to take the advantage of the Hilly terrain was eventual stage winner Simon Yates who did as solo ride in the last 19km to claim a victory over Sergio Henao (Col) Team Sky.
The race had a very hard start with the first ascent of the category 1 Col de l'Espigoulier to be tackled from the gun. This seen some big peak powers being hit early as riders such as Thomas de Gendt averaging 437w, 6.33w/kg for 20min on this climb which was again to be passed in the run into the finish. This would have been a big shock to the system having to tackle such a hard climb from the off.
The final ascent of the Col de l'Espigoulier was always going to prove decisive, it was 600m to the top of this climb where Simon Yates made his bid for victory as he powered away from his rivals to open a significant gap by the top of the climb. We have again estimated Simon’s average power for the climb and came to a range of ~350w, 6.03w/kg for 18:22. Impressive riding by this future Gran Tour hopeful and with this sort of power being produced in the early season we can expect to see him fight it out for stage victories in the Grand Tours in 2017.
Another big day in the mountains awaited the riders of Paris Nice as they again headed into the high mountains with 4 categorized climbs, 3 of which were Cat1. The fight for the overall was going to be played out on the slopes of the final climb to Col de la Couillole where Richie Porte made a decisive attacked from a group of select riders to claim victory by 21 seconds, the overall leader changed hands with Henao taking the lead from Alaphilippe as he fell away on the closing kilometres to the line.
The stage was to showcase a new emerging talent who we will know doubt hear about in the future, Lilian Calmejane (Fra) Direct Energie. Lilian was part of a group who attacked early in the race and he was to stay away from the chasing pack until 13km to the finish. Attacking his fellow escapees before the penultimate climb as he fought to secure the victory of the King of the Mountain jersey.
We see some impressive stats from Lilian big day out on the stage- 174.8km / 5:17:23 / 326w Normalized average power / 4.72/wkg
His power on the first 3 climbs were also impressive, having attacked his lead group in the run into the Col Saint Martin and going solo he was able to produce a massive 373w, 5.41w/kg for close to an hour. All of this after already having raced 140km in the mountains. See the picture for further details of his climbing powers. We will hear more from this new potential during 2017.
With the terrain being so hilly it was going to be a hard day for those in the front and for those at the back. This can be seen from riders hitting around 4.5-4.6w/kg for the over 5hrs of racing. We also had an estimate of Richie Porte’s power on the final climb of Col de la Couillole, we have come up with ~380w for the 41min he took to tackle the climb. This was him riding at 6.22w/kg for the duration of this climb, again impressive stuff from Richie in the early season.
The final stage of Paris Nice was by far a forgone conclusion, with Contador being only 31seconds down on the race leaders it was always going to be a big fight on the hilly terrain that lay ahead.
As predicated, Contador was his ever aggressive self by attacking the yellow jersey 52 kilometres to go on the Côte de Peille. He was virtual leader on the road for most of the final 50km with his defecate only being brought down in the final 3km which seen him fail to take the race lead from Sergio Henao by 2sec. A nail biting finish to the end of a very hard 8 days of racing.
The race was aggressive from the start; this can be seen by some extraordinary numbers on the first climb of the day. A group of over 20 riders formed at the head of the race, present was King of the Mountains Jersey Lilian Calmejane of Direct Energie who seemed to of recovered from his epic ride the day before. Lilian kicked out 436w at 6.32w/kg for 13:47 on the Cote de Levens to crest the climb first, this was matched by another impressive rider of Thomas de Gendt who produced the fastest time up the climb with a time of 13:32 at an average power of 466w and 6.75w/kg. This was an incredibly hard start to the start of the stage.
The pace did not relinquish as the bunch did not give the break much time, leaving the pace high in both the break and those in the peloton. This can be seen by Simon Geschke effort on the Col de Colaison which came halfway into the stage. Simon’s effort to maintain his position in the chasing peloton saw him produce 382w at 6.06w/kg for the 12:59 of the climb. Many of today’s climbs where tackled at or above 6w/kg for durations lasting between 13-19min.
On the penultimate climb of Col de Peille, Alberto Contandor threw the race into havoc as he made one of his signature attacks to split the chase group and drop yellow Jersey Sergio Henao as he bridged across to the leading riders. On this climb of 6.3km @ 7.3% gradient, we estimate an average power for Alberto of ~400w at 6.45w/kg for the 15:46 he took to complete the climb. This effort was enough the put all the main contenders in difficulty, but not enough to take the overall victory as he failed in his bid by 2sec to take the overall win.
Some impressive stats from the Stage finish proves just how hard the day was on the 113km stage
Lilian Calmejane – 2:49:15, 348w normalized average, 5.04w/kg
Ronan Hardy- 2:52:18, 319w normalized average, 5.19w/kg
Simon Geschke- 2:52:18, 318w normalized average, 5.05w/kg
Thomas de Gendt- 2:52:18, 371w normalized average, 5.39w/kg
This was indeed one of the hardest 1 week tours that we analysed in recent years, with the wind and rain of the first stages along with 3 very aggressive days in the mountains at the end, we seen some big averages for the stages along with impressive peak powers on many of the climbs. If this race is to set a precedent for the rest of 2017, then we are in for one very exciting season with the emergence of new talent and the aggressive nature of the old guard.
* To understand what normalised power is and how it differs from average power, this explanation at Training Peaks is worth reading. In short: normalised power “is an attempt to better quantify the physiological ‘cost’ of the harder ‘feel’ of the variable effort.”
The graphics in this post appear courtesy of VeloViewer and Philipp Diegner.
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