Saturday, March 2, 2013

Paris Nice - Prologue Preview

In lack of time, I have teamed up with INRNG to provide you with daily stage previews of both Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico. Originally, I would only have been doing stage previews for Tirreno, but thanks to this collaboration you will now be able to read about all the stages of the two World Tour races. The Paris-Nice stage previews are written by INRNG and can be found here and at while all the up-coming Tirreno-Adriatico stage previews are written by me and feature on both sites too.

A prologue to start the 2013 Paris-Nice. If you watched last year’s race this is very different being short, urban and flat. Note the series of corners and junctions on the map above.
The Route
The suburb of Houilles hosts the 2.9km prologue. It’s short and suits explosive riders rather than those capable of cruising at high speed. Accelerate – brake – corner – repeat, all whilst getting the gear shifts right and trying to adopt an aero position. This is not a course for the big rouleurs but instead for prologue specialists and maybe even a sprinter if they’re in good shape.
Intelligent riders will do well to check the course closely and make mental notes or get the team to take rally driver style notes because the line through the corners isn’t obvious with speedbumps, manhole covers and more, the roads are narrow and suburban.
The Prologue Contenders
Amongst the sprinters Marcel Kittel was primarily known as a time trial specialist when he was in the amateur ranks but could do well and if he doesn’t win he could be in contention to collect the leader’s jersey in the coming days. The same for Elia Viviani of Cannondale who is able to make fast accelerations when seated and Blanco’s Mark Renshaw is in form too. FDJ’s William Bonnet is fast in these courses, the same for Brent Bookwalter who’s finished second in the Giro prologue so can’t be ruled out. Watch Katusha’s Simon Špilak because he was second in the Ruta de Sol prologue. Tony Gallopin should be worth watching all week but can do well in the prologue, many in France talk of Thibaut Pinot and Pierre Rolland but Gallopin’s got plenty of talent too. Orica-Greenedge often resemble a giant team pursuit squad and Leigh Howard and Michael Matthews are good picks. Sylvain Chavanel is normally a good prologue rider but this course might be too stop-start for him. The same for Gustav Larsson of IAM but the Swiss team has an inform Martin Elmiger. Europcar’s Damien Gaudin won’t be cited by many but he’s got a track background which will help. Finally two opposites in age, there’s Sky’s neo pro Ian Boswell and who’d rule out Jens Voigt?
The first rider is off at 1.45pm and the last rider will arrive at 4.43pm. The TV will show the later starters with the broadcast beginning at 3.20 – 4.55pm Euro time. It’s broadcast live across a range of channels. Alternatively you can find a pirate video stream via sites like or
Say It
Listen to Houilles pronunciation by Forvo Houilles
The town’s name might be changed because it’s the butt of jokes.
Eat It
There’s little terroir on this stage, instead it’s banal suburbia. So pop into the café to order a banal croque monsieur, a grilled ham and cheese sandwich.
Celebrate It
Houilles was home to Victor Schœlcher, the man who helped abolish slavery in France. France was one of the last imperial powers to put an end to the practice and Schœlcher worked hard to make this happen. Visit France’s numerous overseas colonies today and the man is celebrated with statues, books and collective memory but on the mainland he’s a discreet figure. Still Houilles has a street named after him and his old home is still there.
Clear skies but the temperature won’t get past 10°C (50°F) with a light breeze expected from the northwest. The urban course means plenty of shelter but the winning margin will be small and every second counts. But unlike past editions where high winds or rain have changed the results the weather doesn’t look to be a factor.

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