Jean-Christophe Péraud is starting to find his form after a slower start to the 2015 season than previous years, and is hoping he can find his form by the end of Paris-Nice to grab a good result in the uphill time trial on the Col d'Eze.
The AG2R La Mondiale rider was third overall when he last competed in Paris-Nice, using a fourth place on the Col d'Eze time trial to pull himself onto the podium, and is tipping that year's overall winner, Richie Porte (Sky), as the rider to beat this year.
"So far this season, Richie Porte has definitely been one of those who have impressed me," Péraud said to LeTour.fr. "He's in form very early this year, and he'll be tough to beat on the Col d'Eze. I also think that Sky is very well equipped to control the race. They also have Geraint Thomas in their ranks. We saw how strong he was at Paris-Nice last year."
Péraud said he was approaching the race "with the mind set of someone who has nothing to lose", knowing that his fitness might not be at the level it needs to be at the moment. "I'm telling myself that this week will be good preparation for the races that will come thick and fast after Paris-Nice. Last weekend I noticed that I had better sensations than at the Ruta del Sol, for example. That shows that I'm on an upward curve.
"I'll be happy just to follow wheels initially, then I'll see what I'm capable of. I'm hoping that my condition will improve stage by stage, and that I'll be able to do something decent towards the end of the week."
The race gets a new finish on Thursday's stage 4, the Croix de Chaubouret, a 1200m-high peak that averages 5.4% gradient with a maximum of 9.4%. It has been used in the Tour de France eight times, but never in Paris-Nice.
"That's where I'll have to be ready, where I'll have to stick with the leaders. It's quite a steady climb, which makes me think that it doesn't lend itself to big time gaps. It's not easy to launch a really decisive attack and drop everyone on a climb like that, so I think there'll be a group of strong riders who'll go clear and finish close together," Péraud said, adding that the final stage time trial is one that is right up his alley. "I've always had good results in this stage because it suits me perfectly. I've also really started to get to know the climb: we didn't need to go on a recce - we'll do it once on the morning of the time-trial and that should be enough."
Paris-Nice begins on Sunday, March 8 with a prologue in Maurepas.
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