The Paris-Nice wraps up this Sunday, but the best stage is still to come. ASO has returned to the race’s traditional individual time trial up the historic Col d-Eze to wrap up the stage race. Stage 6 saw Luis Leon Sanchez win from the break over Jens Voight, but his margin of victory was not enough to take the yellow jersey off the slight but sturdy shoulders of SKY’s Bradley Wiggins.
The Col d’Eze is the most famous climb of the entire Paris-Nice and has served as a proving ground for many of the race’s winners for many years. Time trialing up the Col is a true test of any rider, and balances the traits of a true climber and a time trial specialist. Eddy Mercx first conquered the climb via TT in 1969, and since then, the likes of Sean Kelly and Stephen Roche (pictured above) have also taken top honors on the climb in route to winning the race overall as a result.
The stage is just 9.6km long with a total elevation gain of about 460 meters with an average gradient of roughly 4.7%. There are two steeper sections that go over 8% at the base of the climb and at just over halfway, as well as a relatively flat section at the top heading to the line.
Bradley Wiggins is leading the GC, and if he has the lead heading into the final stage, should be safe. In fact, this is the type of effort that suits him, combining both time trialing skill and the ability to climb the steeper sections without losing time. If he should falter, however, there are a number of equally strong climbers on his heels. Levi Leipheimer has been Wiggins’ equal on all the climbs thus far and is just as capable of winning the stage as any of the GC favorites. Wiggins has 10 seconds on Leipheimer and just 6 seconds on Lieuwe Westra, while Alessandro Valverde is 18 seconds off the pace. Should Wiggins stumble, he could slip right off the podium.