Pierre Rolland will lead the Cannondale team on home soil at Paris-Nice this week with his eye on the general classification in his second race for the American team who will also look to Tom-Jelte Slagter and Wouter Wippert for stage win success
"I am always very happy racing in France. There are three major competitions for me in France: The Dauphiné, Paris-Nice and the Tour de France," Rolland said of the second WorldTour race of the season. "The first round of the major races in France is always an event. Also, I have not raced in front of the French since the Tour de France 2015."
Rolland made his first Paris-Nice appearance in 2008, finishing 12th overall, going to to start the race on three more occasions although the 29-year-old hasn't returned since 2011. Following a training camp in Teide, sports director Charly Wegelius is expecting a strong showing from Rolland who was 44th on his Cannondale debut at Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana last month.
"Pierre is coming off a period at altitude, which so far in his career has been a rarity. He has really applied himself well over the winter and has approached all the new experiences with great enthusiasm. I am sure it will pay itself back in terms of results over the season," Wegelius said.
2013 Paris-Nice runner-up Andrew Talansky adds further climbing power to the team while new signings Patrick Bevin and Lawson Craddock are further support in the quest for a high GC result.
Laurent Jalabert was the last Frenchman to win Paris-Nice back in 1997 although Wegelius anticipates a top-ten finish for Rolland is a more realistic ambition so early in the season.
"A rider in the top 10 in Nice and a stage win somewhere on the way from one of our several options would be a great result," he said. "It's a strong team and a balanced one. "You could almost divide it into two groups: we have a classics group based around Dylan Van Baarle, along with Matti Breschel, Paddy Bevin, and Wouter Wippert and a climbing group lead by the Andrew Talansky / Rolland duo, with great support from Lawson Craddock and Tom-Jelte Slagter."
Cannondale won its first race in Europe this season last month at the Tour de Haut-Var via Slagter, who won two stages at Paris-Nice in 2014. While the Dutchman will contest the hillier stage finishes, his compatriot Wippert will lead the line in the bunch sprint finishes.
"Wouter is getting very close to that point where he pulls off something big — pulls off a first win in Europe, first win at the World Tour level," said team manager Jonathan Vaughters of the sprinter who won a stage at the 2015 Tour Down Under. "He tends to go big or go home. He's going to be sprinting for the win — he's going to take big risks to get that.
"He's not one of those sprinters who's going to be 'in the wheels, in the wheels, ok, he got third again.' He always tries to come off the wheel. Sometimes that hurts him from getting placings, because he's totally focused on the win."
Cannondale for the 2016 Paris-Nice Match 6-13): Pierre Rolland, Patrick Bevin, Matti Breschel, Lawson Craddock, Tom Jelte Slagter, Andrew Talansky, Dylan van Baarle and Wouter Wippert.
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