Race to the Sun. That’s the clever little marketing slogan for the Paris-Nice stage race that runs from rainy, miserable Paris down south to the sunny Mediterranean climate of Nice.
That’s the theory, anyways. The riders gradually getting warmer and more cheerful and tanned as they pedal their way straight down the map of France. The reality this year again is crappy weather, dangerous conditions, extreme weather protocols ignored, then stage three cancelled because of snow. (We’re not even half way to Paris yet.)
In recent years, there’s been a clear and wide-spread preference for skipping Paris-Nice in favor of the better weather a few days later in the Italian stage race Tirreno-Adriatico. Why take the extra risks — there’s plenty of good food and coffee in Italy and probably more sunshine.
In this case, better meaning less rain, snow, sleet, sickness, crashes, build-up derailed, Giro d’Italia form wiped out, season potentially wrecked. Without digging into the crash reports from the last few years, we can all remember several star riders who wished they’d chosen T-A over P-N.
Same twitter disgust — Cannonade’s Jonathan Vaughters: “I wonder when the powers that be in Paris-Nice will stop avoiding clearly written rules regards weather?”
However, team orders are team orders. Even if you’re a huge star, you sign-in where the boss tells you to sign.
And yet, craziness and incomprehension. You have to seriously wonder why, in his final year before retirement, with his final shot at another Tour de France victory, Spaniard Alberto Contador put Paris-Nice on his calendar and threw his preparations in jeopardy.
You also have to seriously question why classics superstar Tom Boonen, after several seasons wiped out by bad crashes – including one at Paris-Nice last year – and with plans of tacking Flanders and Paris-Roubaix for what might be the last time – why he’s riding Paris-Nice instead of taking the nicer weather in Italy. Race to the hospital in ambulance might be a truer description of this race.
Worth noting that BMC’s Tejay van Garderen, who last year lost his podium shot in the Tour de Frane due to sickness and then crashed out of the Vuelta a Espana, is taking no chances this year.
Right now Van Garderen in over in Italy riding Tirreno-Adriatico. Tejay ain’t no fool.