Paris-Nice race organiser ASO has officially presented the route of this year's 'Race to the Sun', confirming that the weeklong WorldTour race will again end with a 9.6km individual time trial up the Col d'Èze climb overlooking Nice.
Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) won the Col d'Èze time trial in 2012 to seal overall victory ahead of Lieuwe Westra (Vacansoleil-DCM) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar). However the Briton will not be back to defend his title this year, preferring a different race programme as he prepares to target the Giro d'Italia.
The racing in the 71st edition of Paris-Nice begin on Sunday March 4 with a very short 2.9km prologue time trial around the streets of Houilles, north-west of central Paris.
The first road stage takes riders from nearby Saint-Germain-en-Laye to Nemours for the first uphill finish of the race. Several rolling stages follow, taking the race south, cutting through the Massif Central to Saint Vallier.
Stage five from Châteauneuf-du-Pape to Montagne de Lure looks to be the toughest stage of the race, with five minor climbs before the summit finish after 13.8km at an average gradient of 6.6%. At 1600m, it is the highest ever finish for a Paris-Nice mountain stage. Alberto Contador won a stage finish here in 2009, but then cracked the next day, handing overall victory to Luis Leon Sanchez.
A second mountain stage on Saturday March 9 takes the race to Nice with 220km of racing in Provence. The Cote de Cabris and the Col du Ferrier combine to make another tough climb but top out 70km from the finish on the Promenade des Anglais and so are unlikely to change the overall standings. The winner of the Paris-Nice yellow jersey will be decided in the 9.6km final time trial to the summit of Col d'Èze.
In the absence of Wiggins and with Alberto Contador, Cadel Evans and Vincenzo Nibali opting to ride Tirreno-Adriatico, this year's 'Race to the Sun' seems wide open. ASO confirmed that Tony Martin, Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), Thomas Voeckler (Team Europcar), Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing Team) will all ride this year's race.
Prologue: Sunday 3rd March: Houilles, individual time-trial (2.9 km)
Stage 1: Monday 4th March: Saint-Germain-en-Laye - Nemours (195 km)
Stage 2: Tuesday 5th March: Vimory - Cérilly (200.5 km)
Stage 3: Wednesday 6th March: Chatel-Guyon - Brioude (171 km)
Stage 4: Thursday 7th March: Brioude - Saint-Vallier (199.5 km)
Stage 5: Friday 8th March: Châteauneuf-du-Pape - Montagne de Lure (176 km)
Stage 6: Saturday 9th March: Manosque - Nice (220 km)
Stage 7: Sunday 10th March: Nice - Col d’Eze, individual time-trial (9.6 km).
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