Nairo Quintana came into Paris-Nice as the overwhelming favourite for the general classification after winning his first two stage races of the season, Tour de la Provence and Tour des Alpes. But a crash on stage 2 when the peloton had shattered in the crosswinds left the Colombian with a 1:50 deficit to race leader Max Schachmann (Bora-Hansgrohe). Arkea's directeur sportif Yvon Ledanois hasn't given up, however, and focussed on the reaction of the team to their leader's predicament.
"This stage went well for us up to 25 kilometers from the finish," Ledanois said. Quintana was in the lead peloton after the race broke up both in stage 1 and on Monday's second stage, but disaster struck when Quintana crashed. "The riders were vigilant within the peloton, and then Nairo crashed.
"What I want to remember from this moment is the reaction of our riders. They were immediately with their leader: Dayer, his brother, gave him his bike, Diego Rosa waited to restart and try to minimize the gaps at the finish as much as possible. Connor [Swift] let himself drop from the first peloton. The crash is part of the race, it's Paris-Nice."
There should, in theory, be plenty of ground left in the race for Quintana to make up time, with stage 7 to La Colmiane in particular a key opportunity for the Colombian. As long as the coronavirus outbreak doesn't stop the race before it reaches Nice, Quintana could have other chances now that he's lost so much time.
"Paris-Nice is far from over, and it can also allow us to have opportunities to seize that we might not have had, without this stage which proved to be difficult for us," Ledanois said.
"We are not going to complain or question everything. This event will end on Sunday in the Alpes-Maritimes, and we will then draw up the balance sheet at that time. No professional cyclist, no sports director likes to have days like this. And above all, this is not what we hope in the end when we take the start of a stage that had been studied to the millimeter, identified as tricky and windy ... after that is fate. You have to accept it, look ahead," he concluded.