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Adam Yates and Daniel Martínez will spearhead the Ineos Grenadiers team at Paris-Nice (March 6-13).
Yates, who finished second at the recent UAE Tour will take on several GC contenders including Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma), Brandon McNulty (UAE Team Emirates), and two-time defending champion Max Schachmann (Bora-Hansgrohe).
Ineos Grenadiers is sending a strong team to Paris-Nice with Yates and Martínez joined by Luke Rowe, Ethan Hayter, Dylan van Baarle, Andrey Amador, and Omar Fraile. The roster announcement means that there is no place for time trial specialist Filippo Ganna with the Italian now set to race Tirreno-Adriatico after the team altered his race program following an internal race strategy meeting this week.
Martínez recently finished on the podium at the Volta ao Algarve and both he and Yates are expected to be Ineos Grenadiers’ protected riders at the Tour de France in July.
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Rowe was asymptomatic but tested positive for COVID-19 ahead of the UAE Tour. He has not raced since the Tour de la Provence in mid-February but his experience of riding Paris-Nice — this will be his sixth outing — will be invaluable in the crosswinds.
Hayter has yet to discover his best form but the 23-year-old has solidly improved since contracting COVID-19 at the start of the year. He narrowly missed out on the final podium in the Volta ao Algarve but could be a contender for a number of stages.
The plan for the team will be to protect Yates and Martinez and shepherd them towards the hilly and mountain stages that backend the race.
“Adam was climbing really well at the UAE Tour and Dani Martinez was up there in Algarve. So it’s an exciting line-up for Ineos Grenadiers. The team has a nice balance to it, and that’s what we need for a race of this caliber,” sports director Steve Cummings told VeloNews over the phone.
The race begins with three tricky stages with cross-winds likely to play a major factor in the outcome of the race. Van Baarle, Rowe, and Hayter are likely to play integral roles in protecting the leaders, and the aim will be to ensure that both Martínez and Yates arrive at the stage 4 time trial to Montluçon in the best possible state.
“It’s going to be a hard Paris-Nice. The first day will be nervous, and there’s that circuit at the end,” added Cummings.
“The second day is fully open to crosswinds. The third day is open too, so if it’s windy, then I expect the race to be quite violent. There’s the time trial but then looking at stage 5 that’s a lot harder than it seems, and it could be really hard. You’ve got stage 7 to the Col du Turini. Some of the stages could see the race really stretched early on, and that could make for exciting racing.
“Our game plan will be to protect the leaders with Adam. Dani Martínez is going for us too, so we’ll aim to protect them as much as we can. Then we’ll see how they perform in the time trial, and then we’ll see what we need to do. At a race like Paris-Nice you really need to be on it from the start. We just need to get through that first phase of the race, and make sure that we’re still in a competitive position to challenge.”
The field is predictably strong for the first French WorldTour stage race of the season. Roglič recently debuted his 2022 season with Jumbo-Visma and the three-time Vuelta a España winner will be joined by ex-Ineos rider Rohan Dennis, Wout van Aert, and Christophe Laporte.
UAE Team Emirates will have cards to play with both McNulty and João Almeida in their ranks. Ben O’Connor will lead AG2R Citroën Team, while Alexey Lutsenko is part of an experienced Astana Qazaqstan Team.
Cummings believes that the opening three stages will define the pattern for the race and if a team can manage the crosswinds successfully then control of the race, as well as leadership, will fall on their shoulders.
“The field is really deep there too, and there are a lot of good teams. If Jumbo-Visma has a really strong line-up and if you think of the scenarios with the crosswinds, they might have to take the responsibility of controlling the race.”