Alberto Contador beat Bradley Wiggins by seven seconds to win the 2009 Paris-Nice prologue but predicted a much closer race this year.
Contador held a press conference in Paris on Saturday with Specialized's Mike Sinyard and revealed he will ride a new version of Specialized's Shiv time trial bike. He was forced to use an older model at the recent Volta ao Algarve race because the original Shiv did not perfectly conform to recently enforced UCI bike rules.
"I really like Paris-Nice and it's held in a time of year when I'm usually on good form. It is also a small test for the Tour de France, with high stress stages, a very similar course, especially in the flat stages, and with a high level of competition. Among the first races of the season, I think it's probably the most important," Contador said.
"The prologue will be a good test for me. I'll give it the maximum and hope to do well, but wining or losing will be a matter of two or three seconds because there are other riders who are very strong. There is a big group of favorites, like Millar, Vande Velde, Samuel Sanchez, Luis Leon Sanchez, Chavanel and many others. I hope to have a good day, but the differences will be minimal."
"It's a hard course, even if it's only 8 km, you can make some time differences on some riders. Regarding the bike, there's a big difference. This is the 'Shiv, which I trained on at home and it's completely different to the bike I used in the Algarve. They are different because this bike is more evolved; it's faster in the wind tunnel, lighter and more rigid. There are many factors that change and all for the better."
Contador win Paris-Nice in 2007 but cracked last year and was beaten by Luis Leon Sanchez (Caisse d'Epargne). Contador admitted the defeat taught him a lesson.
"That was a very important stage and is one of those days where you learn many things because it is precisely when things go wrong when you can learn some lessons. That day there were many factors, but what I learnt was good. I must stay more cool in the race, think about the other rivals for the classification and prioritise who is most dangerous. Of course, I shouldn't forget to eat and drink, because although all riders know, there's always one day where you forget."