Conclusions after Paris-Nice
Only two months have passed since the beginning of the season, and Richie Porte already added six wins to his account, four of which came on uphill finishes: Willunga Hill, Alto do Malhão, Croix de Chauboret and Col d’Eze. All these victories brought more confidence, and the Sky rider doesn’t lack any of it at the moment, which makes him even more stronger and dangerous for the GC of the next stage races in which he will go. At the same time, his dominant display in Paris-Nice is a signal to his future rivals in the Giro d’Italia, where Porte, if he keeps the form he has at the moment, will line-up as one of the huge contenders for the pink jersey, which was never won by an Australian rider.
Michal Kwiatkowski missed on taking the trophy home, but the world champion is on the right path for having a great season. Just 24-years-old, the Pole can climb, descent, time trial and sprint from a small group, which makes him one of the most complete cyclists of the peloton. In Paris-Nice, he won the prologue and put on a fierce fight in every day that mattered for the overall classification, where he eventually came second. His next stage race of the season will be the Vuelta al Pais Vasco, and despite the impressive startlist that is already shaping up, Kwiatkowski will be one of the hot favorites to take the victory.
Tony Gallopin changed his preparation in the winter, with the desire to focus on the Ardennes Classics, and this has helped him shine in Paris-Nice. Still young, the Frenchman is very mature and intelligent, two factors which proved to be essential during the one-week stage race. An old school type of rider, Gallopin is building himself not only a nice palmares, but also a strong name in the peloton, earning the respect of his peers for the brave rides he puts on every time he gets the chance. Although we’re only in March, Lotto-Soudal’s cyclists already has two victories under his belt and many more are expected to come, which are sure to make him one of the peloton’s stars.
Paris-Nice was Fabio Aru’s first race of the season, but this doesn’t mean it wasn’t disappointing to see the Italian finish in the 39th position, almost 25 minutes adrift. It’s true that here are still two months until the Giro starts, but Aru has some serious work to do in order to find his form and start the Corsa Rosa as a genuine contender. The Astana cyclist wasn’t the only GC favorite who raced below par last week, other riders who failed to rise to the expectations being Romain Bardet, Wilco Kelderman and Tejay van Garderen, which were all expected to play a big role in the race’s overall classification.
When it comes to the sprints, Alexander Kristoff, Michael Matthews and André Greipel were all on target, scoring a stage win and showing they are on track for Milan-Sanremo, the first Monument of the season, in which the three are expected to play an important part. Unfortunately for Nacer Bouhanni and Arnaud Démare, this doesn’t apply to them, Paris-Nice leaving the two French riders nursing their ego after they missed on a victory, a situation that’s going to add some more pressure now, especially as both are their teams main weapon for racking up wins this season.