The 2016 edition of Paris-Nice will include a visit to the Chalet Reynard on the slopes of Mont Ventoux, a stage finish at the summit of the 15km Col de la Madone d’Utelle and include two dirt road sections during stage one to Vendôme.
Time trials will be less of a factor in the 74th edition of the race, with only a 6.1km individual time trial as the prologue stage around Conflans-Sainte-Honorine near the French capital. The so-called ‘Race to the Sun’ will end with a road race stage around Nice, with the Col d’Eze climb the last chance to attack before a fast descent to the finish. The French WorldTour race will be held between Sunday March 6 and Sunday March 13.
Details of the race route were revealed at a presentation on Thursday morning, with race director Christian Prudhomme also announcing that a Paris-Nice sportif will be held on Saturday March 12 on the same roads used during Sunday’s final stage. Called the Paris-Nice Challenge, two routes offer rides of 126km and 99km. Entries open on January 14 at the event website: asochallenges.com.
Paris-Nice is traditionally the first European WorldTour stage race of the season and tests the form and ambitions of the Grand Tour riders who will fight for victory in the Tour de France in July. Richie Porte secured overall victory atop the Col d’Eze on the final day of the 2015 Paris-Nice and is likely to defend his title after moving to BMC for the new season. Vuelta a Espana winner Fabio Aru (Astana) has already confirmed he will ride as he prepares for his Tour de France debut in 2016.
Dirt roads, the Ventoux and Col d'Eze
The 2016 Paris-Nice has been designed to test riders' ability on all kinds of terrain. The opening 6.1km prologue time trial around Conflans-Sainte-Honorine will be a first test for the overall contenders. Stage one from Condé-sur-Vesgre to Vendôme is over 195 kilometres and includes two dirt tracks in the final loop near the city. Much of the stage is on exposed roads and so cross winds and echelons are expected to be a factor.
Stage two from Contres to Commentry takes the race to the edge of the Massif Central and suits the sprinters, while the 215km third stage from Cusset to Mont Brouilly is a hillier day. It ends with a loop through the vineyards and a climb to the finish that is covered twice.
Stage five from Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux to Salon-de-Provence takes the race close to Marseille and the Mediterranean coast, and offers the sprinters another chance of success. However, first they will have to climb up to the famous Chalet Reynard on the slopes of Mont Ventoux. At 1440m, it will be the highest point of the race and could be covered in snow in early March. The stage also includes four other short climbs before the descent to Salon-de-Provence.
The race then transfers to Nice for the final two stages. Stage six starts in the city and ends atop the La Madone d’Utelle. It should not be confused with the Col de la Madone often used by riders based in the area to test their form. The La Madone d’Utelle is 15kms long and twists and turns up the Sanctuary. The climb has an average gradient of 5.7%, enough to decide the overall winner of Paris-Nice.
The seventh and final stage is over a hilly 141km loop around the city and includes six categorised climbs. The stage profile is like sharks teeth, offering plenty opportunities for an attack on the race leadership. The Col d’Eze has been made famous by Paris-Nice and the climb overlooking the city will rightly be the last of the 31 climbs in the 2016 race. The overall winner will be crowned on the Promenade des Anglais, on the Nice seafront.
2016 Paris-Nice stages:
Sunday 6th March, prologue: Conflans-Sainte-Honorine - Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, 6.1 km (ITT)
Monday 7th Marche, 1st stage: Condé-sur-Vesgre - Vendôme, 195 km
Tuesday 8th March, 2nd stage: Contres - Commentry, 214 km
Wednesday 9th March, 3rd stage: Cusset - Mont Brouilly, 165.5 km
Thursday 10th March, 4th stage: Juliénas - Romans-sur-Isère, 193.5 km
Friday 11th March, 5th stage: Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux - Salon-de-Provence, 198 km
Saturday 12th March, 6th stage: Nice - La Madone d’Utelle, 177 km
Sunday 13th March, 7th stage: Nice - Nice, 141 km.