By Hedwig Kröner
French Grand Tour organiser ASO has presented the parcours of the 'race to the sun', Paris-Nice, on Tuesday. The 65th edition of the stage race, starting with a prologue in Issy-les-Moulineaux on the outskirts of Paris and finishing traditionally on the 'Promenade des Anglais' waterfront in Nice, is scheduled to take place from March 11 to 18, 2007.
This year, the race will take a new turn as the peloton will pass France's central mountain range, using the Central Massif on its western side instead of heading straight towards the Côte d'Azur on the eastern side as it had been of use previously. The first three stages have been characterised typical sprinters' stages, whereas the second part of the week will offer opportunities for breakaways and climbers. The first decisive ascension before the taking on the hinterland of Nice on the last day of the race will be the climb up the airport of Mende on stage four, which has been re-named 'Montée Laurent Jalabert' since the famous French cyclist won a Tour de France stage there in 1995.
According to the organiser's announcement on January 13, 20 teams will participate in the event: all ProTour teams, except Swedish-Belgian outfit Unibet.com, as well as French Pro Continental squad Agritubel. The UCI is still opposed to the organiser choosing his own participation criteria, and has threatened to sanction the ASO. But race director Christian Prudhomme affirmed that "Paris-Nice will take place as planned, according to the applicable technical regulations and in compliance with French law [Unibet.com will thus not participate]."
The main contenders at Paris-Nice will be: Tom Boonen (Quickstep-Innergetic), Andrej Kashechkin (Astana), Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner), Alberto Contador (Discovery Channel), Fränk Schleck and David Zabriskie (Team CSC), Philippe Gilbert (Française Des Jeux), Cadel Evans (Predictor-Lotto), Cyril Dessel (Ag2r Prévoyance), Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank), David Millar (Saunier Duval-Prodir), Michael Rogers (T-Mobile) and Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis).
The 2007 parcours of Paris-Nice outlines as follows:
Prologue - Sunday, March 11: Issy-les-Moulineaux, ITT, 4.7 km
Stage 1 - Monday, March 12: Cloyes-sur-le-Loir - Buzançais, 186 km
Stage 2 - Tuesday, March 13: Vatan - Limoges, 177 km
Stage 3 - Wednesday, March 14: Limoges - Maurs, 215.5 km
Stage 4 - Thursday, March 15: Maurs - Mende, 169.5 km
Stage 5 - Friday, March 16: Sorgues - Manosque, 178 km
Stage 6 - Saturday, March 17: Brignoles - Cannes, 200 km
Stage 7 - Sunday, March 18: Nice - Nice, 129.5 km