Team bosses question the need for a 177km mountain stage with a 16km summit finish so early in the season
After being battered by crosswinds on the opening two stages, the riders of Paris-Nice 2017 could have been forgiven for looking forward to three final days in the sun in the south of France.
However a three tough final stages included no fewer than five categorised climbs, with Saturday’s queen stage including a summit finish atop the 16km Col de la Couillole at the end of 177km in the saddle.
“I think that stage was a bit unnecessary,” said Allan Peiper, the sporting manager of BMC Racing, the team that took victory on the stage thanks to Richie Porte.
“Paris-Nice is always hard,” Peiper continued, “but this one has been really hard.”
“Whether it’s because of the first flat stages with the crosswinds and cold weather, and then the hard hilly stages.
“And this one’s got a 1700m final climb on the second last day, with 4000m of climbing which is pretty much unprecedented for Paris-Nice.”
Peiper said that he hoped other organisers would not follow the lead of Paris-Nice organisers ASO and try and make their races progressively more difficult.
“If every organisers wants to make their race the hardest, and create the suspense by making it hard, then every season it just gets harder and harder.”
Peiper’s opinions were shared by Lorenzo Lapage, directeur sportif for Orica-Scott.
“It was such a hard stage, and very long. Probably too hard and too long,” Lapage said.
“It’s very early in the season, and I think the winner would have been the same if they’d have had one climb less and 20km less as well.”
Watch: Paris-Nice stage seven highlights
Lapage also criticised the choice of finishing location, with the remote summit finish and narrow mountain roads back meaning that some teams did not get back to their hotels until 9 or 10pm.
“At the finish there was a problem with the transfer. It was really badly organised in my opinion. Coming back to the hotel we didn’t get much information from the organisers.
“Thankfully we put the riders in the cars, but the bus wasn’t back at the hotel until 9.30.”
Ben Swift (UAE Team Emirates) was one of fifty riders to roll in with the gruppetto more than half an hour after Porte had crossed the line, suffering after having been in the breakaway on the previous stage to Fayence.
“My legs were pretty nailed because I was in the breakaway the day before,” Swift said.
“I really paid for that effort. I felt OK on that final climb, but it was such a hard stage.
“It’s definitely been the hardest Paris-Nice I’ve ever done. It’s been so much harder than the last couple of years.”
Although agreeing that this has been a difficult week for the riders, Swift said that in his opinion this was more down to the conditions and the style of racing than the parcours.
“The conditions have made the riders race hard every day. With the weather at the start of the week, it made those stages much tougher than they should have been.
“I don’t think the parcours has been any harder than any other year, it’s just been that we’ve had the wind. That creates so much stress so everyone fights for position, which means it’s a hard day every day.”