After a six-week hiatus, the 2014 UCI WorldTour resumes tomorrow with the 72nd edition of Paris-Nice, the traditional ‘race to the sun’ which is often the first indicator of form for GC riders. Here’s a quick preview of what to expect.
- Paris-Nice is run over eight stages, starting south of Paris on Sunday and finishing on Nice’s Promenade des Anglais a week later.
- This year the race is dramatically different: no prologue, no time trial and no summit finish. A simpler and more open race formula, which will include time bonuses and, according to organiser ASO, “will allow rouleurs and climbers to have a crack at victory alongside the fighters and puncheurs of the pack”.
- The first three stages are sprinter-friendly and could be marred by nervousness in the peloton. There’s a possibility of strong winds forcing splits in the peloton and time gaps on GC.
- Stage four’s steep ramps in the closing kilometres could catch out some while proving a bonus for the puncheurs. But stage six is more likely to prove decisive for GC contenders, when the race’s longest stage takes in the cat 1 Col de Bourigalle – the first of five cat one climbs in the race – before an uphill finish into Fayence.
- If the race is close, time bonuses should ensure an exciting last couple of stages, as GC contenders mix it with the puncheurs.
- All 18 WorldTour teams will take part, plus French squads Cofidis and Bretagne-Seche and Swiss team IAM with French housewives’ favourite, Sylvain Chavanel. Each team has eight riders.
- This is an ASO event, so the overall leader wears a maillot jaune.
- Pretty much all the great and good of cycling have won this event, but the record of seven wins is held by Sean Kelly.
- Mario Cipollini holds the record for stage wins (eight). In-form Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) is closing fast with six and could add to his total this week.
- The 2013 edition was won by Sky’s Richie Porte, the first victory by an Australian.
Who to watch
The absence of a selective time trial may make it more difficult for the big-name GC riders to assert their authority on the race this year. Defending champion Richie Porte was scheduled to defend his crown, but the late withdrawal of Chris Froome from Tirreno-Adriatico sees him moved across to the Italian race instead.
Porte’s absence offers BMC’s Tejay van Garderen, who finished runner-up to Froome in the recent Tour of Oman, a gilt-edged opportunity to win his first European stage race. The young American took the GC at the Tour of California and the USA Pro Cycling Challenge last year.
Of interest will be the form of double Tirreno-Adriatico winner Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), whose season so far has been relatively quiet (12th overall in Oman) following the birth of his first child. Adverse weather conditions en route may tip the advantage in his direction.
However, one cannot ignore Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEDGE), recent Tour du Haut Var winner Carlos Betancur (Ag2r La Mondiale) or Sylvain Chavanel (IAM), who’s always fared well in this race – fifth overall and points jersey winner last year – not forgetting current world champion Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida).
The sprinters will have their eyes on those first three flat sprint-friendly days and there’s a number in the race with victories already under their belts such as John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano), Boonen and Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ) who’ll all be looking to add to their opening scores while others such as young gun Moreno Hofland (Belkin) will be looking to open their account.
March 9th: Stage 1 – Mantes-La-Jolie to Mantes-La-Jolie, 162.5km
March 10th: Stage 2 – Rambouillet to Saint-Georges-sur Baulche, 205km
March 11th: Stage 3 – Toucy to Circuit de Never Magny-Cours, 180km
March 12th: Stage 4 – Nevers to Belleville, 201.5km
March 13th: Stage 5 – Creches-sur-Saone to Rive-de-Gier, 152.5km
March 14th: Stage 6 – Saint-Saturnin-les-Avignon to Fayence, 221.5km)
March 15th: Stage 7 – Mougins to Biot Sofia Antipolis, 195.5km
March 16th: Stage 8 – Nice to Nice, 128km
Daily live coverage and highlights will be shown by Eurosport in the UK. For other coverage check cyclingfans.com.
Link: Official website