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Primoz Roglic among Paris-Nice favourites in debut

Primož Roglič wins stage 1 of the 2020 Vuelta a España
Primož Roglič wins stage 1 of the 2020 Vuelta a España (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

2020 Vuelta a España winner and Tour de France runner-up Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) will kick off his 2021 season with a debut appearance in Paris-Nice. The Slovenian will likely share leadership in the team with New Zealand champion George Bennett and Steven Kruijswijk.

Since joining the WorldTour in 2016, Roglič has raced Tirreno-Adriatico rather than Paris-Nice. Last year, his season start in Italy was disrupted by the cancellation of the Italian race due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Tao Geoghegan Hart (Ineos Grenadiers) makes it a second Grand Tour champion on the list of favourites for Paris-Nice. The 2020 Giro d'Italia winner began this season with a 10th place in the Tour des Alpes Maritimes et du Var. The Briton will be joined by Richie Porte, who moved across to Ineos from Trek-Segafredo, and will be making his season debut.

Jai Hindley, who finished a close second in the Giro last season, will join his DSM teammates Tiesj Benoot, who was second in Paris-Nice last year, and Søren Kragh Andersen.

Other favourites include the on-form David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ), hot off a victory in the Faun-Ardèche Classic, Paris-Nice defending champion Max Schachmann (Bora-Hansgrohe), and Aleksandr Vlasov (Astana-Premier Tech).

Paris-Nice starts on March 7 in Saint-Cyr-L’École, with one 14.4km time trial on stage 3 in Gien and the queen stage to Valdeblore la Colmaine before the traditional closing stage on March 14 in Nice, featuring the Col de Èze and Col des Quatre Chemins in the final 25km of an intense 110.5km stage.

The parcours has some enticements for the sprinters, with the hilly opening stage within reach of riders like Michael Matthews (Team BikeExchange) and Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ), while other fast-men like Sam Bennett (Deceuninck-QuickStep), Pascal Ackermann (Bora-Hansgrohe), Giacomo Nizzolo (Qhubeka Assos), Nacer Bouhanni (Team Arkéa-Samsic) and Bryan Coquard (B&B Hotels p/b KTM) will be eyeing the flat stage 2 to Amily and stage 5 to Bollène.

The intervening more difficult stages will be the targets of Classics specialists like Bob Jungels (AG2R Citroën), Philippe Gilbert (Lotto Soudal), Matteo Trentin (UAE Team Emirates), and Dylan Teuns (Bahrain Victorious).

The Race to the Sun was the final WorldTour event before the coronavirus pandemic stopped all racing last March and went on amid surging case counts and a nervous peloton. Only 12 of the WorldTour teams started the race as organisations like Jumbo-Visma and Ineos Grenadiers pulled out to mitigate risk for their riders and staff.

The UCI and the ASO dialed in COVID-19 protections during the rescheduled late-season campaign last year, with the Tour de France finishing without any infections to riders inside the race bubble, although Race Director Christian Prudhomme notably tested positive on the first rest day and had to leave the race for a week.