Paris-Nice organiser ASO has unveiled the route for this year’s race, confirming rumours of a tougher route, with a 27km individual time trial on stage five likely to be crucial to overall victory.
The eight-day, 1,307km race begins in Houdan, a small village west of Paris, on Sunday March 6 and ends in Nice on Sunday March 13.
Riders hoping to target the traditional short prologue time trial will be disappointed to discover the race begins with a 154.5km circuit stage around Houdan. The route then begins the long journey south towards the Mediterranean with flat stages from Montfort l’Amaury to Amilly and from Cosne-sur-Loire to Nuits-Saint-Georges. Both are close to 200km and could also be affected by strong winds and echelons.
The route skirts around the heart of Provence but ends with four hilly stages.
Stage 5 to Vernoux en Vivarais includes the Col de la Mure just ten kilometres from the finish. It is a 7.6km climb that has an average gradient of 8.3%.
The 27km time trial is on stage five between Rognes and the spa town of Aix-en-Provence. It includes a gradual climb and fast descent to the finish. Stage six is from Brignoles to Biot near the coast, with the final stage heading into the hills above Nice. It is only 124km long but includes six classified climbs and dozens of twists and turns in the hills. It ends with the first category La Turbie and the Col d’Eze, before diving down to Nice to finish on the Promenade des Anglais.
ASO has also named the expected team leaders and main contenders for Paris-Nice. Big names listed include Nicholas Roche (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Taylor Phinney (BMC), Tony Martin, Tejay Van Garderen (HTC-Highroad), Peter Sagan, Eros Capecchi (Liquigas-Cannondale), Frank Schleck (Leopard Trek), Jurgen van den Broeck (Omega Pharma-Lotto), Luis Leon Sanchez (Rabobank), Richie Porte (Saxo Bank-SunGard), Bradley Wiggins, Michael Rogers (Team Sky), Heinrich Haussler, Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Cervelo), Levi Leipheimer (RadioShack), Riccardo Riccò’ (Vacansoleil) and Sandy Casar (FDJ).
2011 Paris-Nice stages:
March 6: Stage 1: Houdan – Houdan (154.5 km)
March 7: Stage 2: Montfort l’Amaury – Amilly (198.5 km)
March 8: Stage 3: Cosne-sur-Loire – Nuits-Saint-Georges (202.5 km)
March 9: Stage 4: Crêches-sur-Saône – Belleville (191 km)
March 10: Stage 5: Saint-Symphorien – Vernoux-en-Vivarais (194 km)
March 11: Stage 6: Rognes – Aix-en-Provence (27 km ITT)
March 12: Stage 7: Brignoles – Biot (215.5 km)
March 13: Stage 8: Nice – Nice (124 km).