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Gallery: 20 years of Paris-Nice

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Chris Boardman (Gan) in full time trial mode in 1996

Chris Boardman (Gan) in full time trial mode in 1996
(Image credit: AFP)
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Greg LeMond with the Mercury team in 2001. The former Tour winner supplied the team with bikes

Greg LeMond with the Mercury team in 2001. The former Tour winner supplied the team with bikes
(Image credit: AFP)
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Bobby Julich (CSC) claimed the 2005 Paris-Nice

Bobby Julich (CSC) claimed the 2005 Paris-Nice
(Image credit: AFP)
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Tom Boonen gets ready for the second stage of the race in 2006

Tom Boonen gets ready for the second stage of the race in 2006
(Image credit: AFP)
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Floyd Landis (Phonak) goes on the attack in 2006

Floyd Landis (Phonak) goes on the attack in 2006
(Image credit: AFP)
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Floyd Landis (Phonak) has a last minute massage before the start of the fourth stage in 2006

Floyd Landis (Phonak) has a last minute massage before the start of the fourth stage in 2006
(Image credit: AFP)
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David Millar came back from suspension and pulled on yellow in 2007

David Millar came back from suspension and pulled on yellow in 2007
(Image credit: AFP)
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Thomas Voeckler (Bouygues telecom) goes on the attack in 2007

Thomas Voeckler (Bouygues telecom) goes on the attack in 2007
(Image credit: AFP)
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Laurent Fignon organised the race from 2000-2002 before ASO took over

Laurent Fignon organised the race from 2000-2002 before ASO took over
(Image credit: AFP)
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Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) in time trial mode at the 2011 race

Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) in time trial mode at the 2011 race
(Image credit: AFP)
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Thomas Voeckler celebrates as he crosses the finish line at the end of the 8th stage of the 69th Paris-Nice

Thomas Voeckler celebrates as he crosses the finish line at the end of the 8th stage of the 69th Paris-Nice
(Image credit: AFP)
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Marc Madiot and Jean-Marie Leblanc together in 2004

Marc Madiot and Jean-Marie Leblanc together in 2004
(Image credit: AFP)
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French riders Richard Virenque and Laurent Jalabert share a joke at the 1997 race

French riders Richard Virenque and Laurent Jalabert share a joke at the 1997 race
(Image credit: AFP)
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Richard Virenque leads Stéphane Heulot and Evgeni Berzin

Richard Virenque leads Stéphane Heulot and Evgeni Berzin
(Image credit: AFP)
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1997 world champion Johan Museeum leads teammate Tom Steels and Laurent Jalabert

1997 world champion Johan Museeum leads teammate Tom Steels and Laurent Jalabert
(Image credit: AFP)
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Lance Armstrong flanked by his US Postal teammates at the 1998 race

Lance Armstrong flanked by his US Postal teammates at the 1998 race
(Image credit: AFP)
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Frank Vandenbroucke said he 'couldn't feel the pedals' in 1998 such was his dominant form

Frank Vandenbroucke said he 'couldn't feel the pedals' in 1998 such was his dominant form
(Image credit: AFP)
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1999 race winner Micheal Boogerd leads Richard Virenque in the mountains

1999 race winner Micheal Boogerd leads Richard Virenque in the mountains
(Image credit: AFP)
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Spanish Alberto Contador (Liberty Seguros) rides in leading group during the seventh and last stage of Paris-Nice in 2005

Spanish Alberto Contador (Liberty Seguros) rides in leading group during the seventh and last stage of Paris-Nice in 2005
(Image credit: AFP)
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David Moncoutie (Cofidis) leads the break during the final stage of the race in 2005

David Moncoutie (Cofidis) leads the break during the final stage of the race in 2005
(Image credit: AFP)
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Spain's Xavier Tondo celebrates on the finish line as he wins the sixth stage of the 2010 Paris-Nice

Spain's Xavier Tondo celebrates on the finish line as he wins the sixth stage of the 2010 Paris-Nice
(Image credit: AFP)
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A fresh faced Nicolas Vogondy climbs in FDJ colours in 2001

A fresh faced Nicolas Vogondy climbs in FDJ colours in 2001
(Image credit: AFP)
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The 2003 Kelme team await a stage start after the death of Cofidis rider Andrei Kivilev

The 2003 Kelme team await a stage start after the death of Cofidis rider Andrei Kivilev
(Image credit: AFP)
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The Cofidis team pay their respects to Andrei Kivilev who tragically died during the 2003 race

The Cofidis team pay their respects to Andrei Kivilev who tragically died during the 2003 race
(Image credit: AFP)
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Andrei Kivilev started the 2003 Paris-Nice but a crash on stage 2 left him in a critical condition. He tragically died the following day

Andrei Kivilev started the 2003 Paris-Nice but a crash on stage 2 left him in a critical condition. He tragically died the following day
(Image credit: AFP)
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An emotional Alexander Vinokourov wins the 2003 edition of the race

An emotional Alexander Vinokourov wins the 2003 edition of the race
(Image credit: AFP)
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Laurent Jalabert and Alex Zulle climb together in ONCE colours in 1995

Laurent Jalabert and Alex Zulle climb together in ONCE colours in 1995
(Image credit: AFP)
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Laurent Jalabert leads Lance Armstrong on stage 4 of the 1996 race. The ONCE rider would win the stage and the overall

Laurent Jalabert leads Lance Armstrong on stage 4 of the 1996 race. The ONCE rider would win the stage and the overall
(Image credit: AFP)
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Bernard Hinault hands out his version of justice on stage 5 of the 1984 race

Bernard Hinault hands out his version of justice on stage 5 of the 1984 race
(Image credit: AFP)
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Heinrich Haussler was one of the standout performers at the 2009 race

Heinrich Haussler was one of the standout performers at the 2009 race
(Image credit: AFP)
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Sylvain Chavanel gets the better of his breakaway companions at Vichy in 2009

Sylvain Chavanel gets the better of his breakaway companions at Vichy in 2009
(Image credit: AFP)
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Luis Leon Sanchez (Caisse d'Epargne) leads Frank Schleck and Sylvain Chavanel in 2009.

Luis Leon Sanchez (Caisse d'Epargne) leads Frank Schleck and Sylvain Chavanel in 2009.
(Image credit: AFP)
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Sonic Boom: Lars Boom powers to victory in the opening time trial in 2010

Sonic Boom: Lars Boom powers to victory in the opening time trial in 2010
(Image credit: AFP)
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On the road to Mende in 2010 and Contador adjusts his helmet as SaxoBank watch on

On the road to Mende in 2010 and Contador adjusts his helmet as SaxoBank watch on
(Image credit: AFP)
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Jens Voigt (Saxo Bank) leads the race in 2010

Jens Voigt (Saxo Bank) leads the race in 2010
(Image credit: AFP)
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Laurent Fignon takes to the start of the 1989 race

Laurent Fignon takes to the start of the 1989 race
(Image credit: AFP)
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Tony Martin (HTC-Highroad) seized control of Paris-Nice in the time trial

Tony Martin (HTC-Highroad) seized control of Paris-Nice in the time trial
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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It's a big relief for Luis Leon Sanchez to stand on the Paris-Nice podium again

It's a big relief for Luis Leon Sanchez to stand on the Paris-Nice podium again
(Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) on the podium after winning stage 3 at Paris-Nice.

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) on the podium after winning stage 3 at Paris-Nice.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The final podium for Paris - Nice 2012: Valverde, Wiggins, and Westra.

The final podium for Paris - Nice 2012: Valverde, Wiggins, and Westra.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The peloton makes its way to the finish in Nice during stage 7.

The peloton makes its way to the finish in Nice during stage 7.
(Image credit: ASO)
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The new race leader, Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis) is the first Frenchman to lead Paris - Nice since Didier Rous took the jersey also in Saint-Etienne in 2002.

The new race leader, Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis) is the first Frenchman to lead Paris - Nice since Didier Rous took the jersey also in Saint-Etienne in 2002.
(Image credit: Florian & Susanne Schaaf/cyclingpictures.de)

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.