Of Paris-Nice, Phoenix-es, and CSC

Does anyone else think that it’s fitting that CSC has made some deep impressions at Paris-Nice the last several years?

I wrote it for VeloNews a few years ago and I’ll write it again now---the cycling season starts a few different times and places depending on where you live and what sort of racing you’re into. If it’s the spring classics, it might start with Het Volk, or if you’re more Italian-oriented, Milan-San Remo. If you’re a calendar freak, it starts at the Tour Down Under. French? Then it's probably the GP Marseillaise. If you get your cycling news from American television, it starts (and ends) with the Tour de France.

But despite an ever-expanding season pushing it deeper into the schedule every year, Paris-Nice has always had a special symbolism to it---after all, it’s the “race to the sun”, where riders physically and metaphorically ride out of the cold of winter and into the warmth of a new season.

Last year, the story of Paris-Nice was the dominance of Bjarne Riis’s CSC team, which seemed to steamroll the rest of the field and have a near monopoly on the top 10 in GC for much of the race. The team rode strongly in the prologue, then rode a sudden and furious virtual team time trial on the front to break the field to pieces in brutal crosswinds, all of which paved the way to the overall win for Jorg Jaksche.

This year, CSC is sitting pretty again, with Jens Voigt taking the prologue and a resurgent Bobby Julich riding well again. Crashes and weather-shortened stages have played a bit of havoc with CSC’s initial impact, tipping the scales in favor of lowlanders Rabobank and Quick.Step. Right now though, CSC still occupies third through fifth on GC with Arvesen, Gusev, and Voigt, with Julich lurking in 11th, and with Mt. Faron still looming, things are far from over.

And CSC doing well in Paris-Nice just seems right. Just as Paris-Nice resurrects the cycling season from the dead of winter each year, Bjarne Riis has quickly established a reputation for resurrecting careers—whether from decline or stagnation.