After last year's time trial free Paris-Nice, the 73rd edition of the Race to the Sun returns to its familiar format including the final day time trial up the Col d'Èze, attracting former winners and current world champions. With the route announced earlier this month, race organisers ASO have released the provisional start list, confirming the appearances of Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky), Michal Kwiatkowski (Etixx-Quick Step), Tejay van Garderen (BMC) and Fabio Aru (Astana) among many more.
From the 20 teams which were selected, 22 riders have won stages at Paris-Nice, including Wiggins, Richie Porte (Team Sky), Tony Martin (Etixx-Quick Step) and Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana) who all previous overall winners.
While the route will favour the chrono specialists such as Wiggins, Martin and Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin), there will be opportunities for the climbers to make their mark on the race. The French climbing triumvirate of Romain Bardet (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Warren Barguil (Giant-Alpecin) and Pierre Rolland (Europcar) will be eying off the stage four summit finish on Croix de Chaubouret as will the 2014 Tour de France king of the mountains winner Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo).
Having placed second overall at the Tour of Oman, van Garderen will be hungry for his first win of the season and with his time trialling prowess will be another rider capable of challenging for the GC. Teammate Rohan Dennis looks like providing support as he makes his return to the road following his successful hour record attempt earlier this month.
Bob Jungels (Trek) and Wilco Kelderman (Lotto-Jumbo) could spring a surprise with both riders characteristics suited to the parcours while their appearances further bolster the depth of youthful talent at the race.
It isn't just about the GC men though with French road race champion Arnaud Démare (FDJ) set to go head-to-head with former teammate Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) in the sprints as both riders look to open their 2015 accounts. However, they'll need to get the better of Andre Greipel (Lotto Soudal), John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) and Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) who already have wins to their names in 2015 and will be looking for more success ahead of the classics
For the punchier stages, Tom-Jelte Slagter (Cannondale-Garmin) will again be a rider to watch on the strength of his two stage wins at the race last year but will face stiff competition from Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge), Philippe Gilbert (BMC) and Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida).
20 teams and the main names as of February 25th
Orica-GreenEdge: Michael Albasini (Sui), Michael Matthews (Aus) and Simon Yates (GBr)
Etixx-Quick Step: Tom Boonen (Bel), Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) and Tony Martin (Ger)
Lotto-Soudal: Tony Gallopin (Fra) and André Greipel (Ger)
AG2R La Mondiale: Romain Bardet and Jean-Christophe Péraud (Fra)
FDJ: Arnaud Démare, Arnold Jeannesson, Arthur Vichot (Fra)
Team Giant-Alpecin: Warren Barguil (Fra), John Degenkolb (Ger) and Tom Dumoulin (Hol)
Team Sky: Geraint Thomas (GBr), Lars Petter Nordhaug (Nor), Richie Porte (Aus) and Bradley Wiggins (GBr)
Lampre-Merida: Rui Costa (Por) and Rafael Valls (Esp)
Astana Pro Team: Fabio Aru (Ita), Luis Leon Sanchez (Esp), Rein Taaramäe (Est) and Lieuwe Westra (Hol)
Team Lotto NL-Jumbo: Moreno Hofland, Wilco Kelderman and Laurens ten Dam (Hol)
Team Katusha: Alexander Kristoff (Nor), Egor Silin and Yuri Trofimov (Rus)
Tinkoff-Saxo: Robert Kišerlovski (Cro) and Rafal Majka (Pol)
Movistar Team: Eros Capecchi (Ita) and José Joaquín Rojas (Esp)
IAM Cycling: Sylvain Chavanel (Fra), Matthias Frank (Sui) and Heinrich Haussler (Aus)
BMC Racing Team: Rohan Dennis (Aus), Philippe Gilbert (Bel) and Tejay van Garderen (USA)
Team Cannondale-Garmin: Tom-Jelte Slagter (Hol) and Andrew Talansky (USA)
Trek Factory Racing: Bob Jungels and Fränk Schleck (Lux)
Team Europcar: Bryan Coquard, Pierre Rolland, Thomas Voeckler (Fra)
Bretagne-Séché Environnement: Pierrick Fédrigo, Brice Feillu, Romain Feillu (Fra) and Eduardo Sepulveda (Arg)
Cofidis, Solutions Crédits: Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) and Dani Navarro (Esp)