From 3rd to 10th March, the Paris-Nice pack will be tracing a diagonal trail over the map of France, with a special appointment for the climbers: the climb up the Montagne de Lure (Lure Mountain), two days before the race finish at the Col d’Eze pass.
Paris-Nice whets the appetites of the cycling elite. This week of racing that symbolically marks the start of the major European events which punctuate the season also provides a virtually complete snapshot of what cycling is all about, with the majority of the discipline’s challenges on the programme. The route of the 71st edition will again invite all the different profiles of riders to express themselves in order to single out, by the finish, the most complete cyclist amongst them, or the most opportunistic.
After an especially dynamic warm-up on the prologue in Houilles, the sprinters should have pride of place on the first sequence of the Race to the Sun. The finish in Cérilly, which may see a prolongation or not of the battle which will have taken place in Nemours the day before, could become a reference in the forming of trains for the final lead-out, with a 4-km long final straight before the finishing line! However, the situation will be completely different from the next day onwards. Fortune should favour the brave at the finish in Brioude and especially on the rolling terrain of the Haute-Loire and Ardèche landscapes before the finish in Saint-Vallier.
The riders’ performance will again have to move up several gears to tackle the climb on the 6th stage, mainly for the spectacular final ascent up the Lure Mountain. On the 13.8-km slope, a strung out pack will have to haul itself up to an altitude of 1,600 m to reach the highest finishing line in the history of Paris-Nice: the day’s winner could take a decisive hold on the title. The man in yellow will have to call on all his strengths, especially watchfulness, to handle the weekend in and around Nice: the longest stage will finish on Saturday on the Promenade des Anglais waterfront; the shortest stage, raced uphill against the clock to the Col d’Eze pass, promises a tense struggle on Sunday that could come down to a matter of seconds.
The stages of Paris-Nice 2013:
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 (9.6 km)
ORICA GreenEDGE (OGE): Gerrans, Howard (AUS)
Lotto-Belisol (LTB): Bak (DEN), Willems (BEL)
Omega Pharma-Quick Step (OPQ): Boonen, Meersman (BEL), Chavanel (FRA)
Team Saxo-Tinkoff (TST): Kreuziger (CZE), Roche (IRL)
Euskaltel-Euskadi (EUS): Pérez (ESP), Sicard (FRA)
Movistar Team (MOV): Costa (POR), Quintana (COL)
BMC Racing Team (BMC): Gilbert (BEL), Van Garderen (USA)
Garmin-Sharp (GRS): Millar (GBR), Vansummeren (BEL)
AG2R La Mondiale (ALM): Péraud, Dumoulin (FRA)
Cofidis, Solutions Crédits (COF): Coppel, Le Mével (FRA), Taaramäe (EST)
FDJ (FDJ): Bouhanni, Fédrigo, Roy, Jeannesson (FRA)
Sojasun (SOJ): Hivert, Simon (FRA)
Team Europcar (EUC): Voeckler, Turgot (FRA)
Sky ProCycling (SKY): Porte (AUS), López García (ESP)
RadioShack-Leopard (RLT): Gallopin (FRA), Monfort (BEL), Voigt (GER)
Cannondale (CAN): Basso, Viviani (ITA)
Lampre - Merida (LAM): Petacchi, Ulissi (ITA)
Astana Pro Team (AST): Iglinskiy (KAZ), Seeldrayers (BEL)
Blanco Pro Cycling Team (BLA): Gesink, Kelderman (NED), Renshaw (AUS)
Team Argos-Shimano (ARG): Barguil (FRA), Kittel (GER)
Vacansoleil-DCM (VCD): De Gendt (BEL), R. Feillu (FRA), Westra (NED)
Katusha Team (KAT): Menchov (RUS), Florencio (ESP), Špilak (SLO)
IAM Cycling (IAM): Haussler (AUS), Löfkvist (SWE)
THE KATUSHA ADDITION
Katusha's successful appeal to be reintegrated into cycling's World Tour means 23 teams instead of the usual 22 will line up for the Paris-Nice and Criterium du Dauphine races, organisers ASO announced on Tuesday.
"We aren't going to leave a team by the side of the road," Christian Prudhomme, director of the two stage events as well as the Tour de France, told AFP.
Katusha are back in cycling's top league after overturning their original exclusion from the circuit on appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
CAS handed down its verdict in favour of the controversial Russian outfit last week.
While 23 teams compete for the March 3-10 Paris-Nice and June 2-9 Criterium du Duaphine, the cast list for the Tour de France remains at 22, Prudhomme said - the 19 teams with World Tour licences plus three invitees, instead of the traditional four.
He added that the number of riders per team would remain at nine for the Tour de France, rather than the eight-strong teams for the other races.