Bradley Wiggins (Sky) became only the second British rider to win Paris-Nice, 45 years after Tommy Simpson. His victory was forged in the pouring rain on day one’s time trial, cemented on stage two’s wind-wrecked course, held together by impressive tactics and strong team support and, finally, crowned today atop Col d’Eze with a measured display of power and precision.
Arguably this win is as important to Bradley’s palmares as his win in last year’s Criterium du Dauphine and, given the parcours and contenders in this year’s Tour de France, one has to say this could be the year Brad gets onto the podium, maybe even onto the top step. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s recall what happened over the last three stages where I was ‘Behind the Barricades’, in the cars and on the road.
After Paris-Nice’s queen stage today (Thursday), we’re more than mid-way through the Race to the Sun. Sky’s Bradley Wiggins has a firm grip on the leader’s jersey which he assumed at the end of stage two, due partly to his excellent result in the previous day’s time trial but also to his and his team’s astute riding. It was on this stage that a large number of GC contenders saw their chances literally blown away by the fierce crosswinds which provoked large gaps in the peloton. Indeed, after only two days of racing the most likely contenders for the overall numbered four: Wiggins, the stealth-like Levi Leipheimer (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), BMC’s young gun-slinger Tejay Van Garderen and Alejandro – watch out he’s back and he’s behind you – Valverde (Movistar).
In the same way we’ve recently reviewed results in the early French and Italian races on the European circuit, we also need to wrap up the Spanish ones ahead of their first World Tour event, the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya from 20th to 24th March.
The picture’s somewhat similar: races reduced in length either thanks to adverse weather or the adverse financial climate, or both. Again, the races threw up a few surprises, a few new faces and names to conjure with. But in essence, these are races to showcase emerging talent and for second and third division sides to angle for further race invites. Continue reading