Gallery: 20 years of Paris-Nice

Paris-Nice is known as "the race to the sun", and for 71 years it has been an early-season proving ground for the Grand Tour contenders. Taking riders from the cold, dreary weather of Northern Europe to the (sometimes) warm, sunny Mediterranean climate in Nice, it also serves as a symbolic transition from winter to spring.

The Col d'Eze has served as the main difficulty throughout much of the race's history - it made its first appearance in 1968, and although the grand finale was moved from the climb into the more spectator-friendly streets of Nice proper in the 90s, it returned to the slopes in recent years. Bradley Wiggins won the overall with a stellar performance in a time trial up the 500m ascent.

The type of rider who wins has shifted with the prominence of the final climbing stage. Sean Kelly dominated in the 80s, winning seven straight classics-rider-friendly editions, but Jacques Anquetil is the next most prolific with five career wins. 

Eddy Merckx got the better of Raymond Poulidor in three editions in the 1970s, but the Frenchman rallied back for two overall victories. Laurent Jalabert and Joop Zoetemelk each won three, and seven different riders are double champions including Alberto Contador and Alexander Vinokourov.

This year's race should once again favor the Grand Tour challengers.

The parcours ups the suffer score with a triple whammy in the final three days: a mountain top finish on the Montagne de Lure is followed by the longest stage, 220km from Manosque into Nice with five classified climbs including the category 1 Côte de Cabris and Col du Ferrier in the latter half precede the 9.6km uphill test.

As we await the excitement of the week ahead, enjoy this gallery of images from the past 20 years of Paris-Nice.


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