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6 riders to watch at Paris-Nice

Paris Nice 2021 Primoz Roglic, Tao Geoghegan Hart and David Gaudu are among our riders to watch
Primoz Roglic, Tao Geoghegan Hart and David Gaudu are among our riders to watch (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

A year from the race that drew an end to the first part of the 2020 season, the peloton returns to Paris-Nice, this time in less uncertain circumstances.

As ever, the eight-day race – the first WorldTour stage race of the European season –draws a strong peloton of riders, with three Grand Tour winners, five ex-world champions, four Monument winners and four Paris-Nice champions on the start list.

There's a lot of firepower set to line up in Saint-Cyr-L’École on Sunday then, meaning plenty of climbers, sprinters and puncheurs to keep an eye on during the week.

We've narrowed that 161-man start list down to just six riders who we think ought to make an impact during the race. There are Grand Tour winners looking to build form, up-and-comers hoping to make the next step, and sprinters looking to battle with the best. Read on for our six riders to watch at Paris-Nice.

Cyclingnews will have full live coverage of the Paris-Nice, followed by race reports, news and interviews. For more information on how to watch live coverage of the race, visit - How to watch Paris-Nice 2021 – live TV and streaming.

Giacomo Nizzolo

ROQUETAS DE MAR SPAIN FEBRUARY 14 Arrival Stijn Steels of Belgiumand Team Deceuninck QuickStep Giacomo Nizzolo of Italy and Team Team Qhubeka Assos Celebration Martin Laas of Estonia and Team BORA hansgroheduring the 34th Clsica de Almeria 2021 a 1833km race from Pueblo de Vicar to Roquetas de Mar ClasicaAlmeria21 on February 14 2021 in Roquetas de Mar Spain Photo by Tim de WaeleGetty Images

Nizzolo claimed the win at the Clásica de Almería last month (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Age: 32

Team: Quebeka Assos

Brief: One-man team?

It's early in the season, but already it's easy to see how critical Nizzolo is for this team's ambitions for the year ahead. They have strength in depth – that was clear with their collective effort in Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne – but what they lack is a world class finisher when Nizzolo isn't present.

The Italian is fundamental to the team's success – he's taken their only win so far – and his ability to mix it with the best sprinters and also survive when a few big hills or crosswinds are brought into the mix gives Doug Ryder's team a focal point that no other rider on the team can honestly provide.

The calibre of opposition in Paris-Nice is formidable with Arnaud Démare, Mads Pedersen and Sam Bennett all on show but Nizzolo has shown, including last year when he won a stage in this race, that he's every bit as competitive. For Quebeka Assos to consistently win big races they need Nizzolo.

Tao Geoghegan Hart

BLAUSASC FRANCE FEBRUARY 21 Tao Geoghegan Hart of United Kingdom and Team INEOS Grenadiers Julien El Fares of France and Team EF Education Nippo during the 53rd Tour Des Alpes Maritimes Et Du Var Stage 3 a 1347km stage from Blausasc to Blausasc letour0683 on February 21 2021 in Blausasc France Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images

Geoghegan Hart at the Tour des Alpes Maritimes et du Var (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Age: 25

Team: Ineos Grenadiers

Brief: Taking on Roglic

Primož Roglič is the obvious pre-race favourite. His record in week-long stage races is frankly frightening, but he represents a fascinating challenge for Geoghegan Hart and the Ineos contingent.

With Rohan Dennis, Richie Porte and Laurens de Plus in their ranks the British squad have one of the strongest GC prospects on paper, and how they approach the race will say a lot about their plans for a more expansive style of racing over the coming season. We saw glimpses of it at the Giro, and again at the Opening Weekend but Paris-Nice is a different beast entirely.

For Geoghegan Hart, the race represents the next step towards the Tour de France, and while beating Roglič is by no means a deal breaker, seeing him compete against the Slovenian will be something Ineos and Jumbo-Visma will be watching with anticipation.

Lucas Hamilton

ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 24: at the Women's Trek Stage 4 Victoria Park of the Santos Festival of Cycling on January 24, 2021 in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo by Peter Mundy/Getty Images)

Hamilton following Richie Porte at the Santos Festival of Cycling (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Age: 25

Team: BikeExchange

Brief: A chance to step up

With the departures of both Adam Yates and Jack Haig, the Australian squad need reinforcements when it comes to their stage racing leadership. Simon Yates can't be everywhere at once, and Esteban Chaves is too inconsistent with illnesses and a lack of form often derailing his ambitions.

That vacuum leaves Hamilton with a huge chance. The team has already stated that he will lead their GC challenge in a Grand Tour and for a rider with just one three-week finish that's a lot to absorb. Before then, he can demonstrate his progression in some of the early season week-long races, with Paris-Nice the first one of those on his radar after winning a Tirreno stage last year.

At 25, Hamilton has plenty of time to develop and mature, but the eight-day experience Paris-Nice offers will give him the chance to see where is stands when it comes to leading a team in the mountains, time trials and crosswinds.

Jai Hindley

SESTRIERE ITALY OCTOBER 24 Jai Hindley of Australia and Team Sunweb White Best Young Rider Jersey Tao Geoghegan Hart of The United Kingdom and Team INEOS Grenadiers during the 103rd Giro dItalia 2020 Stage 20 a 190km stage from Alba to Sestriere 2035m girodiitalia Giro on October 24 2020 in Sestriere Italy Photo by Tim de WaeleGetty Images

Hindley was last in action at the 2020 Giro, where he finished second overall (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Age: 24

Team: Team DSM

Brief: It’s his first race since the Giro d’Italia

The 24-year-old hasn't raced since his surprise second place in last year's re-scheduled Giro d'Italia, and while Paris-Nice is not a major target in the grand scheme of things, this week will provide Hindley with further experience when it comes to racing as a GC contender.

Tiesj Benoot is in the squad too, and they've got options when it comes to targeting stage wins, but Hindley will be searching for a positive start to the year in order to take some of the early pressure off and ensure that the focus is on his future rather than last year's surprising but well deserved achievements.

He's only ever cracked the top ten in a WorldTour stage race twice, once in Polonge in 2019, and then in Italy last autumn. Completing a hat-trick here in France would be a welcome return.

David Gaudu

LIVRONSURDROME FRANCE FEBRUARY 27 Arrival David Gaudu of France and Team Groupama FDJ Celebration Clment Champoussin of France and AG2R Citron Team during the 21st FaunArdche Classic 2021 a 1713km race from GuilherandGranges to GuilherandGranges bouclesclassic BDA21 on February 27 2021 in LivronsurDrome France Photo by Bruno BadeGetty Images

Gaudu already has a winn to his name in 2021 at the Faun-Ardèche Classic (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Age: 24

Team: Groupama-FDJ

Brief: A rider in form

We already know that Gaudu will lead Marc Madiot's team at the Tour de France and the signs of the added responsibility show no signs of weighing on the rider's shoulders with a confident showing in the Tour du Var followed up with a win in Faun-Ardèche Classic at the end of February.

Paris-Nice represents a sterner challenge, however, with a stacked opposition and more rugged terrain mixed in with an individual time trial that will see the Frenchman put on the back foot against some of his more capable rivals. While this might also be his Paris-Nice debut, the 24-year-old should be firmly aiming at a place on the podium.

Primoz Roglic

MADRID SPAIN NOVEMBER 08 Arrival Primoz Roglic of Slovenia and Team Jumbo Visma Red Leader Jersey Sepp Kuss of The United States and Team Jumbo Visma Celebration during the 75th Tour of Spain 2020 Stage 18 a 1396km stage from Hipdromo de la Zarzuela to Madrid lavuelta LaVuelta20 La Vuelta on November 08 2020 in Madrid Spain Photo by Justin SetterfieldGetty Images

The last time we saw Roglič was his win at the Vuelta last November (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Age: 31

Team: Jumbo-Visma

Brief: The rider to beat

The Jumbo-Visma leader has never competed in Paris-Nice but, assuming he can navigate the tricky opening stages, the rest of the race should open up in his favour.

He's unbeaten in week-long stage races he's finished in two years, with the only discrepancy coming at last year's Critérium du Dauphiné when he crashed and left the race while in the leader's jersey. He's virtually unstoppable in races that contain a time trial and a couple of mountain stages.

Winning here is not essential given that he has so little to prove in these races and when nothing but July really counts this time around, but the Slovenian will be aiming to generate momentum after his winter break before embarking on a jam-packed spring and summer.