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Q&A With Sport Director Dave McPartland on Paris-Nice Stage Eight

Sun 16 Mar 2014

ORICA-GreenEDGE’s Simon Yates continued his impressive WorldTour debut with a strong showing on the final stage of Paris-Nice. The neo-pro was part of a 22 rider elite group that contested the stage victory ultimately won by Arthur Vichot (FDF.fr). The French Road National Champion survived the final climb up Col d’Eze to beat out JJ Rojas (Movistar) and Cyril Gautier (Europcar) to the top step of the podium. Carlos Betancur (Ag2r La Mondiale) crossed the line in eighth place, on the same time as Vichot, to become the first Colombian to win the Race to the Sun.  

Jens Keukeleire played an integral role in the early action, putting himself in the break of the day. With representation from all but six teams in the race, it initially looked as if the escape group had a chance to challenge for the stage; however, the peloton proved cautious off allowing the group’s gap to grow. Tinkoff-Saxo decided to chase when they hit the Côte de Peille, the penultimate climb. The fast tempo set by Tinkoff-Saxo spelled game over for the break.

Sport Director Dave McPartland answer questions about the Australian outfit’s final day of racing in France.

Q. What was the team’s plan?

We decided to give the guys a bit of freedom today. With Bling [Michael Matthews] pulling the pin last night, we offered a chance to Simon Yates and Jens Keukeleire. The rest of the guys were happy to help those two. The whole week Simon and Jens have been doing a lot of work for the team. Today was more about giving them a chance to get a good stage result.

Q. What did Jens have to say about the break?

Not much - it was fairly standard. The break went after the first sprint, which was early in the stage. It was controlled by Giant-Shimano for John Degenkolb. They let the break go straight after that. The break never got much time today.

Q: What was the plan once the race came together?

The break was up the road for most of the stage, so by the time it came back to the bunch, we were already at the business end of the race. A lot of the way things played out for the break had to do with Tinkoff-Saxo. They didn’t have anyone up there, so they put the team on the front and made them ride. That was a big reason why the move came back.

The finish suited Simon, so he came into action when the race came back together. He was part of the real select group. By the time they came on the finish circuit, there were only about 40 guys left or so – and at the end, I think there were only 22.

Simon wasn’t just a number today. He went off the front with Frank Schleck (Trek Factory Racing) up the Col d’Eze. It was a short-lived move. Schleck was already out front, and Simon went across to him. We’re all super impressed with his ride today. It was such hard circuit, and he was animating the race in small ways.

Q: Did Simon have any involvement in the crash at the finish?

The crash happened right in front of him. He got held up by it and couldn’t get around it, which is super unfortunate. I’m not meaning to whinge about it, but it seems like whenever one of our rider was looking good, his chances would be disrupted by a crash. We missed out quite a bit this week.

Q: In the race preview, you identified stage wins as the team’s primary goal. Stage wins evaded the Paris-Nice squad this week. What does the team take away from the race?

We certainly hoped to leave here with stage wins, but we also were here to prepare for the spring classics. That was another major priority. We prepared well. There was a lot of talk about this race before the first stage. Lots of people were saying this was going to be a tame Paris-Nice because there were no mountains. Nothing about this race was tame It was a super hard race every single day. Hard racing like this is really good preparation for our Classics guys.

As I’ve already mentioned, Simon’s rides stand out as a bright spot. This is his first WorldTour race, and he has shown that he can mix it up with the best. He had a good ride yesterday. He another good ride today. We’re all very impressed with him and really looking forward to seeing what else he can do in the future.

Jens also showed that he has strong from. He spent a few days up the road, and he got to sprint once or twice. It was good for him to test his legs like that, and it was important for the team to have a presence in the race.

We don’t leave here with the results, but we come out of the race strong and more confident than when we started – and that’s definitely something we hoped to achieve. 

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