Five things to take from Paris-Nice

Al Hinds

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Versatile... Team Sky's showings in Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico are signs the team is no longer a one-trick pony based around the success of Bradley Wiggins. (Getty Images)

Another superlative-laden Team Sky performance, the further growth of two young American talents, persisting questions over BMC's Tour leadership and a sick Simon Gerrans, such was the 2013 edition of Paris-Nice.

1. Richie Porte is the real deal

Phil Anderson couldn't do it. Cadel Evans has yet to do it. Richie Porte has done it.

Though it will be quickly forgotten by the mainstream media in Australia, Porte's Paris-Nice win, the first for an Australian since the race's inception in 1933, is as significant as Goss' Milan-San Remo triumph or Robbie McEwen's maiden Tour de France maillot vert. It's a cycling pedestal that few have stood upon, and rockets Porte into the rarefied air of former winners, that particulalry since the 60s, has been incredibly select. Merckx, Poulidor, Anquetil, Kelly - Contador, Wiggins, Martin, - and now Richie Porte. It's big.

But it also marks a personal milestone for the Tasmanian who has long been unable to detach himself of the tags of '2010 maglia bianca' and 'future Grand Tour contender'. Unlike 2010, where a nervy neo-pro found himself in pink but never looked a likely winner, the Porte of Paris-Nice was a commanding figure marshalled by a commanding team.

On a wet, cold and windy day in Brioude, on a stage that Porte may have struggled in the past, he made the right move and propelled himself into overall contention. On the slopes of the Montagne de Lure, he remained calm when Michele Scarponi and Denis Menchov made speculative moves, and stood up to the exuberance of Andrew Talansky when the American himself tried to throw down the pain. But when the moment came, Porte nailed it.

A polished effort on the Col d'Eze finished off a complete performance from Porte, one that showed off the strength of his versatility as much as how far he's come since 2010. The question now of Porte is not if he'll win a Grand Tour, but when.

2. Team Sky is on a roll

As for Porte's Team Sky, the British WorldTour squad has raised the bar again in 2013. It's currently fielding teams in two key races, Paris-Nice and Tirreno, and looks weak in neither. That's to say nothing of a third group currently in camp with Bradley Wiggins preparing for Catalunya, and the Classics riders prepping for April. Not bad for depth. If Sky could be criticised at all last year it was a formulaic reliance on one rider in Wiggins, and one tactic, exploiting the Brit's bankable ability in the time trial.

But all that's forgotten so far in 2012. Attacking displays in Down Under (Geraint Thomas), climbing masterclasses from Froome (Oman), and an all-round controlled ride from Porte in Paris-Nice. We've yet to even see properly see Sir Brad come out to play. Dave Brailsford is getting more out of his riders by sharing the responsibility of leadership among more of them, keeping his stars happy, and the approach is bearing fruit.

3. Forget Armstrong, what about these young Americans?

If Americans needed a tonic to forget the sins of Lance Armstrong and had been embittered by the cracks in the legend of the likes of Hincapie, Vande Velde and Zabriskie, they need look no further than Andrew Talansky and Tejay van Garderen. Though hardly new to the professional scene both are now maturing to the point where they're both not far off going to Grand Tour level and converting abundant talent into a pink, gold or yellow jersey.

Talansky showed in Brioude that he's got nous and the explosive to win races - but he also showed on the Montagne de Lure that he's still lacking a little bit of patience in the finales. That all comes with time in the peloton, but second overall at 24 is not a bad result at all. He told reporters after the race that he'll be back to win the race in the future. I don't doubt it. 

4. BMC's Tour headaches

van Garderen missed the podium, taking fourth overall, but his Paris-Nice was solid and that compounds a problem that BMC at some time will have to tackle properly in the next few months - who will lead the team in July? BMC has already pointed to Cadel Evans as being its man for one last shot at yellow, while van Garderen says he's happy to ride for the Australian.

But while Evans rode to a respectable third in Oman, he's been underwhelming where it's counted in Tirreno, while van Garderen hasn't missed a beat. After last year's fifth overall from the American at the Tour, Evans needs to put his hand up in a big way to guarantee himself the support of BMC and van Garderen. Otherwise, a situation a la his final year at Lotto beckons.

5. Gerrans is not going to win Milan-San Remo

Simon Gerrans has started the 2013 season slower than last year, but despite a dramatic win on Willunga Hill, the Australian will be low on the list of favourites for Milan-San Remo after abandoning Paris-Nice. The defending champion has been suffering from a mild cold and asthma problems which flair periodically and have all but ruled him out of a result in San Remo on March 17.

With Gerrans targeting the Ardennes and peaking later in the year, that may prove less of a hindrance for the Australian and take the pressure off ahead of April. It will also play to Goss enjoying total leadership in La Primavera, after a strong display in Tirreno.

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