Paris-Nice gives the mountain goats and stage racers something to do during the spring to distract them from their whiny fear of cobbles; and of course, to help them forget they are not "hard-men" that can win hilly classics like Fleche-Gilbert and Liege-Philippe-Liege. The only other purpose the race serves is to give one-week stage races specialists a chance to shine. Last I checked, there was only one of these specialists in the world, Tony Martin.
To me, one week stage races exist to fill the schedule, and make promoters some coin. While Grand Tours tend to lose my interest due to my ADHD; and classics leave me wanting more; one week stage races are nonetheless pretty "meh". Reason being, the results are based on the formula of "every stage is pretty much the same, either hills or flat, and THIS year, we threw in a (fill in the blank with mountain top finish or time trial) to mix things up!". You're confused? So am I.
Take the Tour of Oman this year as an example. Without looking, who won? Andre Gri-nope. Oh yeah, it was Peter Sa-nope. Peter Velits. Yeah, you didn't know that. I didn't either until I looked it up. All we remember is Andre Greipel, Peter Sagan, and Marcel Kittel having a badass contest over whose balls were bigger. But apparently the organizers threw in a hilly stage somewhere and shook things up.
Or remember when Cam Meyer won the Tour Down Under in 2011? Yeah, probably not.
You see people, my job is to pick races. I have no other choice. If I don't, my hype man will be calling me, and the 26 people that clicked on my post yesterday will be disappointed that I left out the Race to the Sun. So ask (implicitly) and you shall receive.
DJ Wheel Crusher's 5 Spoke Favorites:
- Tony Martin - again, I hate putting everyone's favorite in my 5 spoke category. Makes me feel like there is no point in me typing this boring post. But let's be honest, Tony Martin is the man. He declared boldly last year that he was going to specialize in 1-week stage races. As you can imagine, I laughed at this. But you can't fault a man for wanting to get that paper (and share it with his teammates). Further adding to Tony Martin's chances, he has probably the only other guy in the world that could successfully be a 1-week stage race specialist (but refuses to acknowledge it, unless it involves beating up on 20 year olds and Conti teams in the US) Casper Leipheimer. My only concern with Tony winning is that he built up too much beef on those hammies in his successful bid last year to topple Fab's Time Trial World Championship dynasty and he won't be able to hang on the climbs in France.
- Alejandro Valverde - I love a good upset story. What I love even more is "haters gonna hate" story. Don't get me wrong, giving Valverde the benefit of the doubt, he still a huge dirtbag. But then again, in all likelihood, so is that good American cyclist. (Haven't met either of them). Common thread? They both are awesome at riding their bikes. If I wanted a popularity contest, there's a lot more American Idol on TV in the US than cycling. Valverde has shown that he doesn't need dope to win, or at least this time he found a better way to do it. Either way, I wouldn't be surprised to see navy blue and green on top of the podium in Nice.
DJ Wheel Crusher's 4 Spoke Favorites:
- Simon Gerrans - GreenEdge basically took Australian cycling and made it super lame, but that's beside the point. Gerrans showed earlier this year that he has good early season form, mostly due to Australia's mandatory backwards weather. He's also got a solid dose of old-man swag. GreenEdge probably won't win anything major for the rest of the season that doesn't take place on a track, so this would be a good chance to slip in a W.
- Denis Menchov - he's shown since randomly winning the Giro that he doesn't intend to take a major win for the rest of his career. Lately, the only thing he has won is the contest to see which rider can hop to the most dysfunctional team every year (I'm calling it, Cristina Watches when his Katusha contract is up). So it's about time he prove to us he still knows how to win. If he has done any training this winter, which is not a given, he could shine in this race. Especially in the final stage time trial that may or may not be a legitimate uphill time trial.
DJ Wheel Crusher's 3 Spoke Favorites:
- Tejay Van Garderen - I think we're getting to the point where we can stop wondering if Tejay is going to be the next lance. I'm not a physiologist, but it seems logical that he would be better suited for one-week stage races rather than three-week slugfests. He showed last year that he could ride with the big dogs, especially on his home continent. I'm ready for him to bust out in Europe on the big stage, and not just for one stage.
- Richie Porte - Porte would be a 5 Spoke favorite for sure if it weren't for one very lanky, very pale reason. Porte has the unfortunate burden of being on Bradley Wiggins team. In two years, Wiggins went from being one of my top favorite cyclists to being my least favorite. After selling out to Sky, he has shown a startling proficiency in disappointing and holding down his teammates in the process. My guess is that Porte will be the Froome of Paris-Nice and Wiggins will get 4th.
DJ Wheel Crusher's Darkhorse:
- Thomas Voeckler - Voeckler's a darkhorse? Yeah...because if he isn't he'll disappoint. Voeckler has shown over his long career that the only thing in his life rivaling his love for suicidal breakways is his hatred for expectations. This is why he won't ride for a ProTour team. So now that I have framed him as a darkhorse, I expect him to shine. If he can race in a somewhat logical fashion (highly unlikely), I think he might go somewhere in this race. It is not going to help that he will be missing the most badass French cyclist since Jeannie Longo, Pierre Rolland.
That marks the end of my picks for this weekend. Feel free to leave comments if you agree/disagree/want me to stop writing this crap.