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Defending champion Richie Porte will not defend his crown in Paris-Nice after Team Sky withdrew the Australian from the start list to replace Chris Froome in the Tirrenno Adriatico. The Tour de France champion withdrew with back problems. Race organizer ASO was not happy with the late chance to Team Sky's roster.
"We find it a cavalier move to withdraw the defending champion just before the start of the race," race director Christian Prudhomme told AFP. "We were told that the Tirreno would be more favorable to obtain WorldTour points because of its characteristics and the time trial."
Paris-Nice revealed a course without any time trials or uphill finishes in the higher mountains. Many of the Grand Tour contenders, the big names in sprinting and classics' riders like Nairo Quintana, Alberto Contador, Cadel Evans Jurgen van den Broeck, Bauke Mollema, Robert Gesink, Peter Sagan, André Greipel, Marcel Kittel, Mark Cavendish, Fabian Cancellara and Philippe Gilbert opted for the Tirreno Adriatico. The race between the two seas includes a team time trial, an individual time trial and two mountain stages.
"We stick to our route without time trials and big mountain top finishes," Prudhomme commented. "We did this to make the race attractive. The race can be decided on the flat stages and on the hillier stages to Mont Brouilly, [Mur de] Fayence or even on the last day."
Despite ASO's plans to make it an attractive race, Paris-Nice is left with a field with very few of cycling's super stars but includes outsiders and young guns. The biggest names on the start list are world champion Rui Costa, Giro-winner Vincenzo Nibali, Sylvain Chavanel, Tom Boonen, John Degenkolb, Fränk and Andy Schleck, a strong BMC Racing Team with Greg Van Avermaet, Taylor Phinney and Thor Hushovd and French prodigies like Nacer Bouhanni, Romain Bardet, Adrien Petit and Bryan Coquard.
"We don't want to think in stereotypes. Of course it's the riders who decide but I vow for more open races. I am convinced we'll see a great race," Prudhomme concluded.
Geraint Thomas is the designated team captain for Team Sky now Porte rides the Tirreno instead of Froome. Froome cancelled his participation in the race he finished second in last year, because of lower back problems.