The 2010 edition of the Paris-Nice event will see the Col de Vence returning after eight years of absence to challenge the riders in the penultimate stage of the event. The last time the Col de Vence was featured in the Paris-Nice, it was 8 years ago in a relatively flat race. Now it’s back, along with eight other climbs, and this time, the climb is set to pose an arduous task to the pelothon just within 30 kilometers from the finish line at Tourrettes-sur-Loup.
The positioning of the Col de Vence will need some careful strategizing from the riders and team directors. Although there will still be some distance left after the climb to allow for some quick regrouping before reaching the finish line, any rider left behind on the Col de Vence will most certainly have to say goodbye to his chances of getting a podium finish.
1981 Paris-Nice champion Stephen Roche acknowledges the critical role that the Col de Vence will be playing in the race. “There’s no doubt that any of the favourites who are slightly weaker will get left behind at the Col de Vence. It’s a really tough climb and you need extremely good legs to tackle it.”
Roche should know, since he was also a Col de Vence victim way back in 1987, when he lost the leader’s jersey not because he got tired, but because of a flat tire. It was a burst tyre just before I reached the summit,” Roche recalls. “I had to stop at the top and wait for assistance. I then embarked on a kamikaze descent to catch up with the pack, but in the meantime there had been a split in the peloton.”
Roche had tried valiantly to close the distance, but the threesome of Sean Kelly, Charly Mottet and Jean-François Bernard had already opened a wide gap that was unsurmountable.
Roche’s son, Nicolas, is a rider in Team AG2R La Mondiale and is racing in the event. Nicolas has had plenty of training in the Col de Vence under his belt, which will prove to be an advantage at this point of the race.
As his father Stephen says, “He has recently realised the importance of checking out a road in advance to ensure there are no surprises during a climb. Not just because it lets you familiarise yourself with the route, most importantly it puts you in the right mindset for the race.”
Image courtesy of Londres-Paris