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Hesjedal to make Paris-Nice debut

After using Tirreno-Adriatico as part of race schedule for the last two years, Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Cervelo) will alter his programme, scrapping the Italian race for Paris-Nice, which starts this weekend.

The Canadian Tour de France and Classics specialist will still race in Italy this weekend though, starting Monte Paschi Strade Bianche on Saturday before jetting over to Paris for the start of the eight-day stage race.

"Jumping into Paris-Nice for the first time will be new, but I’ll be taking it as it comes and obviously the main objective is to get where I was last year in terms of the spring and later on in the year," Hesjedal told Cyclingnews.

Strade Bianche has been a staple of Hesjedal's racing diet, and he has finished in the top 10 for the past three years. He arrived in Italy on Tuesday to begin riding reconnaissance on the course, but played down his own chances even though he finished fifth in last year’s race and told Cyclingnews that his training has put him in better shape than last year.

"I’ve just been going through the same routine and I’ve come out of Algarve in better shape than last year. It’s the same roads and climbs, so I’ve been able to test my numbers from last year and everything seems good," he said.

"I’d like to ride well and I know I can but I won’t be putting a huge amount of pressure on myself. It’s more about putting this block of racing together and then coming out of it in a good way."

Switching to Paris-Nice will put Hesjedal on a more traditional Tour de France race schedule, with the majority of the big hitters in Tirreno focusing on Milan - San Remo.

"Paris-Nice is more for the climbers and in Tirreno there’s not much climbing and there’s competition in the roster now with more riders wanting to ride there in order to be competitive for San Remo. I’m a rider that’s better suited for Paris-Nice and it’s good to change things up and if I’m honest I don’t think I could finish my career and say I’ve never ridden it. It’s Paris-Nice after all."

But while Hesjedal will be taking any opportunities that come his way, he’s not under pressure to perform in the race to the sun, with Christophe Le Mevel having put himself down at team’s ace card.

"We have Le Mevel, who is familiar with the race, who will target the GC and we have a couple of other options with Haussler. We’ll take opportunities if they are there but I wont kill myself as I’ll be looking a little further down the road. It will be nice to test myself against the riders who will be there later in the year."