I thought about making just one post for the Paris Nice and the Tirreno Adriatico combined because everything went exactly according to expectations set forth here and here. I decided against it because, despite the predictablity of events, there were still riders that stood out and deserve their own separate mention.
João Almeida (UAE Team Emirates)
Not the best showing for someone who aspires to be a long-term Grand Tour leader of a team. Obviously, this does not mean that Almeida isn’t still extremely talented. Everybody that follows me knows how bi of a fan I am of the Portuguese. I think he’s going to win a GT in the next three years. Still, this was his first leadership role in a stage race with the importance of a Paris Nice and it didn’t look promising. Once agan he lost so much time at the beginning of the race that he took himself out of contention before the fight for the leader’s jersey even started (stage 4 of the Giro last year, for example). He’s still a very young rider so mistakes are normal especially given the lack of leadership opportunities he had at Quick Step.
Still, his lack of focus early on in races is costing him everything later on. Once again, he recovered on the hardest stages (finished 5th on the Col de Turini) but that was only good for an 8th place overall. Not a lot for UAE’s second option and team leader at the Giro. The silver lining is precisely that it happened in the Paris Nice and not in the Giro. Let’s wait for more consistency from the Portuguese.
Daniel Martinez (Ineos Grenadiers)
From the 6th in last year’s Giro, we move to the 5th, Daniel Martinez. For the second time this year he finishes 3rd in a weeklong stage race and 2nd in the queen stage (the same thing happened at the Volta ao Algarve). With Carapaz likely to go and try to win the Giro for a second time in his career, Martinez will surely have the opportunity to at least be a protected rider within one of Ineos’ star lineups at one of the GTs. In the Paris Nice he once again showed he deserves that and more.
Simon Yates (Team BikeExhange)
He pretty much was Team BikeExchange last season all by himself. And quite frankly, the same thing should happen this season. I don’t believe Michael Matthews will return to form. At least, not to team leader level form. And while I believe Dylan Groenewegen will have a career resurgence in the Australia team, I think it’s too early to put leader’s expectations on the Dutchman. Hence, in 2022, BikeExchange will likely go as Yates takes them. And he’s probably going to take them quite far.
It was always going to be a herculean task to defeat Primoz Roglic and Jumbo Visma in the Paris Nice. So, finishing 2nd is essentially finishing 1st in the sense that it was the best realistic place anybody could aspire to. Simon Yates was 2nd in GC, 29 seconds behind Roglic. 28 of those seconds were taken by the Slovenian on the first stage. The one that was supposed to end in a sprint. Just further proof that Roglic could have been challenged if somebody forced him to play catch up instead of playing with the lead.
Nairo Quintana (Arkea Samsic)
To be honest I thought Quintana was done after seeing him fight for the mountains’ jersey of last year’s Tour and being thoroughly outclassed by Wout Poels. However, the Colombian’s performance at the Paris Nice should give Arkea some hope. A 4th place in the queen stage and a 5th in GC are very good results for Quintana and the team.
It is spooky how similar this season has been to his 2020 season so far: a stage win and the overall in the Tour de Provence + a stage win and the overall in the Tour du Var. And now a 5th in the Paris Nice vs a 6th in 2020 with a stage win. We all know how the rest of Quintana’s 2020 went so let’s not hold out hope. But it’s impossible not to root for a legend of the sport to achieve something great for one last time before retiring. Maybe it’s this year that he will repeat his 2013 polka dot jersey victory.
Primoz Roglic (Jumbo Visma)
As much as Simon Yates proved to be closer to him than to anybody else, nobody could really touch Roglic. From the moment they gave him nearly half a minute on stage 1, everybody else’s fate was sealed. And the fact that that reality was so apparent is proof of the Slovenian’s (and Jumbo Visma’s) quality and dominance. Even during the peak of Yates’ attack yesterday, Roglic and the inevitable Wout Van Aert measured their effort and cleverly managed their distance to the British rider. By the end of the stage it was Yates fearing Jumbo Visma’s duo and not the other way around. Things might have been different had Roglic not amassed 28 seconds on the first day though. Which brings me back to my original point: he’s already hard to beat when his opponents make no mistakes. With a gift? No way anybody is catching him.