The European season for stage races traditionally begins in earnest with the start of Paris-Nice. For the 2011 edition, from 6th to 13th March 2011, 22 teams have been chosen by the organisers.
The following 18 teams have been selected in compliance with International Cycling Union rules:
OMEGA PHARMA-LOTTO (BEL)
QUICKSTEP CYCLING TEAM (BEL)
SAXO BANK SUNGARD (DEN)
MOVISTAR TEAM (ESP)
AG2R LA MONDIALE (FRA)
SKY PROCYCLING (GBR)
LAMPRE - ISD (ITA)
PRO TEAM ASTANA (KAZ)
TEAM LEOPARD - TREK (LUX)
RABOBANK CYCLING TEAM (HOL)
VACANSOLEIL-DCM PRO CYCLING TEAM (HOL)
KATUSHA TEAM (RUS)
BMC RACING TEAM (USA)
TEAM GARMIN-CERVELO (USA)
TEAM RADIOSHACK (USA)
4 other teams, invited by the organisers, will make up the field for the 69th edition of Paris-Nice:
COFIDIS, LE CREDIT EN LIGNE (FRA)
TEAM EUROPCAR (FRA)
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Alberto Contador controlled his rivals with calm, experience and class to win his second Paris-Nice, three years after the first in 2007, and top an all-Spanish podium.The Tour de France champion seized the reins in the final Col d’Eze, preventing all attacks from his opponents, and crossed the line with the other favourites to triumph with a 11 seconds lead over compatriot Alejandro Valverde while title-holder Luis Leon Sanchez (also Caisse d’Epargne) finished third, 25 seconds adrift.The final stage was won by France’s Amael Moinard, who was adamant to prove his polka-dot jersey was amply deserved. On the line, the Cofidis rider upstaged Thomas Voeckler (BBOx), his breakaway companion in the three first category climbs on the final day’s menu.The green jersey stayed on the back of the revelation of this 68th edition, 20-year-old Peter Sagan of Slovakia.
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176 riders from 22 teams at the prologue startThe entry list for this year’s Paris-Nice was made official today and can be found on the site. Last year’s winner Luis Leon Sanchez holds the number one as befits the defending champion. Favourite Alberto Contadord, the 2007 winner, will start Sunday’s 8-kms prologue in Montfort l’Amaury with number 31.
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The roads of the Paris-Nice race (on 7th to 14th March) traditionally give contestants the opportunity to gauge their performance at the end of the winter’s thorough preparations.
With fine-tuning of their bodies and competitive reflexes completed in early year races as they get back to business, now it is time to see which major confrontations could take place in the year’s main events. Given the odds for the title attributed to the various riders, the list of favourites has a notably Spanish accent. Alberto Contador (AST), two-times winner of the Tour de France, but defeated last year by Luis Leon Sánchez (GCE) on the roads of the Var during the stage at Fayence, could be dragged into a similar duel by the title holder. However, the presence of Alejandro Valverde in the Caisse d’Epargne team represents a significant difference from last year: who will be the genuine team leader after the first days of the race? Another Spaniard to watch out for will be Olympic champion Samuel Sánchez (EUS), a regular in the leading places on Paris-Nice.
Nevertheless, also in the running for the title are pretenders whose quality promises to jam a stick in the spokes of this Spanish mini-championship. Second in the general standings in 2009, Frank Schleck (SAX) is a prime candidate to rock the Spanish boat. Beaten to second place by the Luxembourger on the last stage, Sylvain Chavanel (QST) had to make do with the green jersey and a place on the podium, but he will also be looking to continue his progress on the “Race to the Sun”. There will be plenty of French riders seeking to shine on this event, such as Cyril Dessel (ALM), Pierre Rolland (BBO), Thomas Voeckler (BBO), Rémi Pauriol (COF), Christophe Le Mével (FDJ), Jimmy Casper (SAU), Jonathan Hivert (SAU), as well as two newcomers to the event, Brice Feillu (VAC) and Romain Sicard (EUS).
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The first French rider to climb onto the Paris-Nice podium since 2002, Sylvain Chavanel has made steady progress on the “first important event of the season”. In 2009, he finished the race in third place, with the green jersey on his shoulders, after having worn the yellow jersey and won a stage during the race. The team leader at Quick Step will not be setting himself any limits on the Race to the Sun, an event that appeals to him and on which he has enjoyed considerable success.
Sylvain Chavanel, you seem especially comfortable on Paris-Nice, making progress each year. What is it you like so much about this event?
I really like the race because I do well on it. The format of the race suits me, because there are no high mountain climbs, so I’m often able to keep up with the best. Sometimes we have to ride in bordure formation, which can make the race interesting because you have to keep your concentration. Over time, I’ve managed to win stages on the event and finish several times in the Top 10. What’s more, last year was exceptional, since I wore the yellow jersey after winning the stage in Vichy, finished in Nice with the green jersey and even picked up a place on the podium!
You were even still in second place on the morning of the last stage…
The second place slipped out of my grasp in a descent when my front wheel skidded out. After that, I lost time due to problems with my chain, which allowed Frank Schleck to leapfrog me in the general standings. That said, I gave my all to hang on to third place on the podium, which I managed to do in the end. In my opinion, I was in good enough condition to finish in second, but that happens in cycling, it’s a part of racing, and in the end it’s not a disaster.
After that performance you could be said to be a pretender for victory. Do you think you are capable of winning, or do you still have some work to do?
I think that last year anything was possible. We saw that anyone can get into trouble and that at the beginning of the year, there can be a big difference between the conditions of various riders. Every year, it’s the first multiple stage race where everyone wants to test their form, so we’ll see what this year has in store. Personally, I’ll be taking the same approach as last year. As for strategy, there is no need to be scared of taking on the favourites or trying to set traps for them, just like the Rabobank team did in 2009, when they rode in bordure formation on the stage when I took the yellow jersey.
So you do not feel inferior to LL. Sánchez, Contador or Valverde…
It’s sure that on a climb like the one in Mende, I can’t see anyone beating Contador. He can say that he’s carrying two kilos too much at the moment, and others might think his team has been weakened by departures, but that’s not the impression I got on the Tour of Algarve. I found that he was in good shape, with a robust team backing him up and able to maintain the tempo right throughout. However, apart from the finish in Mende, I believe that on the rest of the route, there aren’t many places where he can open up gaps. Overall, it’s a route that’s well suited for me. So, I had better be alert and keep my concentration. For me, it’s the first important event of the season. Afterwards, it’s up to me to win a classic more than 250-km long – that’s what is missing from my roll of honour.
From 7 to 14 March, cycling fans can use their remote control and computer keyboard to keep up to date with all the latest action from Paris-Nice, the first prestigious professional cycling event of the year.
Each day, a programme of almost two hours will be produced live from the race. In France, the last 80 km of each stage will be broadcast by French television (France 4 on weekdays, France 2 and France 3 at the weekend), and by Eurosport in the 59 countries of Europe. Many other channels from Europe, America (Versus TV), Asia (J-Sports) and Africa (SuperSport) have set aside key broadcasting slots for coverage of Paris-Nice.
Cycling fans can follow the progress of the race live on the official website, www.letour.fr. Live coverage will begin a few minutes before the start of each day’s stage, with information transmitted from the vehicles following the pack: real-time gaps, interviews with managers from the race, a look back to past events and more.
> France 4: 3.15 pm – 5 pm from 8 to 12 March
> France 3: 3.15 pm – 4.55 pm on 7 March ; 1.30 pm – 3 pm on 14 March
> France 2: 2 pm – 3 pm, then 5.20 pm – 5.50 pm on 13 March
> Eurosport France: 3.15 pm – 5.15 pm
> Eurosport International: Live from 7 to 12 March; recorded programme on 13 March (6.15 pm – 7 pm) and on 14 March (5 pm – 5.45 pm)
> Each day for the start of the stage
Europe: France Télévisions, Eurosport, TV2 zebra (Nor), TVE 2 (Esp), NOS (Hol), TV2 (Dan), VRT (Bel), RTBF (Bel), Rai (Ita)…
America: Versus TV, Livecycling.tv…
Asia-Australiasia: SBS (Aus), J-Sports (Jap), Sky TV-Sport 1 (Nzl)…
Africa: SuperSport (Afs)
Stephen Roche, winner of the 1981 Paris-Nice, was also a regular challenger to Sean Kelly throughout his entire “reigning period” at the event. In 1987, Roche was on the point of snatching his second victory before suffering a painful episode on the Col de Vence pass, which makes a return to the Paris-Nice route this year after an eight-year absence. A burst tyre at the end of this formidable ascent cost him the leader’s jersey during the pack's descent towards Nice. More than his short-lived disappointment, above all the Irishman remembers an event full of unexpected events…
The climb up to the Col de Vence pass was the pivotal point of the 1987 race, which you seemed to have in the bag that morning of the final stretch.
It wasn’t the toughness of the climb that did it. It was a burst tyre just before I reached the summit. I had to stop at the top and wait for assistance. I then embarked on a kamikaze descent to catch up with the pack, but in the meantime there had been a split in the formation. At the front, Sean Kelly, Charly Mottet and Jean-François Bernard had already started to open up a gap. I found myself out on my own trying to close the distance, but they never slackened the pace, they knew that the race had changed. I lost the lead in the overall standings, but I still look back on it as a good memory because it was a great battle. What’s more, I won the final time-trial stage that same afternoon, in great style.
A few weeks later, you met up with Sean Kelly and the Col de Vence pass again…
The Critérium International was being held in Antibes at the time, and the hill stage went through the Col de Vence pass. I tried everything I could to lose Kelly during the climb, but it didn’t work. He beat me in the sprint to the finish line and took the bonus points, which helped him to win the race.
Could this climb before arriving at Tourrettes-sur-Loup prove decisive in Paris-Nice?
There’s no doubt that any of the favourites who are slightly weaker will get left behind at the Col de Vence. It’s a really tough climb and you need extremely good legs to tackle it. This means it’s possible to make a difference on this stretch, because it's a sustained effort (9.7 km, with an average height difference of 6.6%).
You will be represented at Paris-Nice by your son Nicolas, who is also familiar with this climb...
Yes, because he visits the region often and this is one of the roads he trains on. He knows the terrain well and this will help him. What’s more, he has recently realised the importance of checking out a road in advance to ensure there are no surprises during a climb. Not just because it lets you familiarise yourself with the route, most importantly it puts you in the right mindset for the race. However, I don’t want to put any pressure on him by setting him a mission on this climb.
Remaining true to his habits, LL Sánchez has finally chosen Paris-Nice over Tirreno-Adriatico© Presse Sports
After reflecting on his race schedule, Luis-León Sánchez has finally decided to come and defend his title at Paris-Nice.
Since emerging to win the youth classification in 2006, the Spaniard has consistently finished among the top 5 in the overall classification, picking up 3 stage wins along the way. The most satisfying, last year at Faïence, allowed him to take control of the race while at the same time inflicting a bitter defeat on his fellow countryman Alberto Contador. The two-time winner of the Tour de France, also overtaken by LL Sánchez in the final time-trial of the Tour d’Algarve, will have an opportunity for revenge between 7 and 14 March.
However, even if the rangy Sánchez is wearing the number 1 in the Montfort-l’Amaury prologue, his status as defending champion will not make him the only favourite in the race. He could even face competition from within his own ranks, with the announcement of Alejandro Valverde’s arrival in the Caisse d'Epargne team. Yvon Ledanois, the team’s sports manager, has not yet decided on the roles to be assigned to his two star cyclists: “I don’t yet know who will be the designated leader. This will depend on fitness levels at the time as well as on how the race progresses over the first few days. One thing is certain, they both are capable of winning this race on paper. They have a good relationship and there won’t be any problem between them.”
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The very last rider to finish in Saint-Etienne, Jérémy Roy had an exceptional day during the following day’s stage on the way to Vallon-Pont d’Arc. He started the day’s breakaway then, in an extremely tense finish, grabbed his first win in the professional ranks. One year later, the young Française des Jeux rider, who has had to miss out on Paris-Nice after devoting the winter to an operation on his iliac artery, has a clear memory of this joyful moment.
The end of the Paris-Nice 5th stage was very tricky, with a race scenario that did not always smile on you…
I went through the same thing on the Tour de France 2008, in a breakaway with Sylvain Chavanel who won the stage in Montluçon, and on the Tour of Spain, when I also finished third in a three-man breakaway. Of course, coming up to the finish, memories of failures like these come back to you. But I didn’t let my mind get cluttered with that. Instead, I kept telling myself that I was up against two tough nuts to crack. In a sprint finish, Thomas Voeckler and Tony Martin would have had the upper hand on me, so I thought I had better try and do something about it.
How did you decide when was the best time to attack?
I’d studied the stage profile carefully and I saw that on the last two kilometres it was mainly a slight downhill incline. So, I thought if I could manage to create a little gap, then without a climb afterwards, they would find it difficult to catch up with me… and that it just might work.
Those last seven kilometres on your own must have seemed as though they would never end…
The worst thing was that the gap was always tiny, never more than around ten seconds. I looked back under my arm from time to time, and I could see that Voeckler wasn’t going for it, but I could feel them getting nearer. It was very stressful, but I gave it my all and it worked.
How did this success change your approach to races?
Well, it just happens that this win is still the only one in my professional career for the moment, but I’m delighted it happened on a prestigious race like Paris-Nice. I haven’t found myself in the same situation since then, but psychologically, it’s important to have managed to do it. It gave me confidence, because now I know that I’m capable of putting on a show.
Before the champions set out on the prologue, a weekend of sporting activity will already be underway at Montfort-l’Amaury, on Saturday 6 March, as part of the events planned for the “Fête du vélo, faites du vélo” celebration of cycling.
A cycle tour designed for keen amateur cyclists, but also within the reach of more occasional enthusiasts, has been organised by the General Council of the Yvelines district in France, in partnership with Ufolep sport federation and the region’s cycling clubs. More experienced cyclists will test their skills over a route of 110 km (a loop of 80 km + 30 km), while those who prefer a more leisurely pace can enjoy cycling along traffic-free roads on this “little loop”. The 500 to 800 amateur cyclists expected for this event have a chance of meeting Bernard Hinault, the sponsor of the operation. This five times winner of the Tour de France, who has never managed to add Paris-Nice to his list of victories, has been invited to open the route, getting this 2010 edition off to a flying start!
The first major European stage race of the season is also a key gathering for motorhome enthusiasts, as loyal followers of cycling and keen travellers.
This is therefore familiar ground for Bürstner, who has signed up as an official partner of the Paris-Nice and Paris-Roubaix events for three years. To mark its entrance in the professional pack, the manufacturer of the best selling motorhome in France has decided to sponsor the White Jersey, in the certainty that it is from the overall youth ranking that the future greats of the sport will emerge, more specifically at Paris-Nice. You simply need to look at a list of Tour de France winners who first made their mark on the sport, before the age of 25, at Paris-Nice to find the names of many of the greatest all-time champions. Alberto Contador in 2007, Miguel Indurain in 1989, Stephen Roche in 1981, Eddy Merckx in 1969 and Jacques Anquetil in 1957 are just a few examples of youthful victors of Paris-Nice. Close attention should always be paid to the award of the White Jersey on Nice’s Promenade des Anglais.
The European season of road cycling stage races traditionally kicks off with Paris-Nice. In 2010, the top riders of 22 teams will compete on the race, starting on 7 March in Montfort-l’Amaury.
The best riders of the moment will confront each other on a prologue and seven stages on the race between French department of Yvelynes and Nice’s Promenade des Anglais. Alberto Contador, who won the Tour de France in 2009, will also try to make up for one of his few failures on a stage race when he suffered a hunger knock on the way to Faïence. The Astana leader will also have to keep an eye on Frank Schleck, who finished second on the Tour, if he wishes to win Paris-Nice again, the race where his virtuous cycle started in 2007. French rider Sylvain Chavanel, who finished third on the French Riviera last year and won the Green Jersey, could also perform well on a race the suits him better every year.
22 TEAMS HAVE BEEN INVITED TO PARIS-NICE
Omega Pharma-Lotto (OLO)
Quick Step (QST)
Team Saxo Bank (SAX)
Caisse d’Epargne (GCE)
Euskaltel - Euskadi (EUS)
Team HTC-Columbia (THR)
Team Radio Shack (RSH)
Team Sky (SKY)
AG2R La Mondiale (ALM)
Bbox Bouygues Telecom (BBO)
Cofidis, le Crédit en ligne (COF)
Française des Jeux (FDJ)
Lampre-Farnese Vini (LAM)
Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team (VAC)
Katusha Team (KAT)
Cervelo Test Team (CTT)
On 7th March, the pack will set off on the 68th edition of the Paris-Nice race.
After a prologue around Montfort-l’Amaury, which will inaugurate a four year partnership between the Yvelines General Council and A.S.O., the riders will cross through the Beauce region before passing to the west of the Massif Central mountains, travelling through Contres and Limoges where the sprinters should reign supreme.
In Aurillac and Mende, at the summit of the Croix-Neuve climb, the pretenders for overall victory will need to be at the forefront. However, nothing will be certain until the final act.
The Col de Vence climb on the road to Tourrettes-sur-Loup could also give a few scares to the leaders, just like the ascents at La Turbie and the Col d’Eze on the menu for what has become the classic last stage in the country around Nice.
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In 2006, Luis Leon Sanchez made his first appearance on Paris-Nice, finishing the race with the best young rider’s white jersey on his shoulders. Three years later, the most promising Spanish rider of his generation hasn’t gained a superficial ounce (1,87m, 74 kg): he has however gained in thickness and maturity. During a week of racing that can be considered as one of the most intense in the history of the event, Sanchez managed to make the best of his outsider’s position and hit hard at the best moment to capture the yellow jersey, long promised to Contador. A perfect timing.
SANCHEZ, PLACED… AND WINNER
Despite a very flashy red and yellow outfit, the Spanish time-trial champion remained discreet during the first stage. Contador’s master-piece left Sanchez in the shadow despite a third spot at 9’’. Within shooting distance, he remained one of the last contradictors of the designated favourite going up the Montagne de Lure. He really seized his chance on the way to Fayence where he proved his unofficial status as the best downhiller of the pack. His stage success, the third on the event, also gave him the yellow jersey and the responsibilities that go with it. The final stage was that of all dangers, but well surrounded by his team, Luis remained cold blooded and kept control of the situation. The demonstration was worthy of a real boss.
THE FRENCH IMPRESS
Seven years after Sandy Casar and Laurent Jalabert, then 2nd and 3rd, a French rider finished the Paris-Nice week on the podium of the GC. But the “final score” of Sylvain Chavanel only partly reflects the performance of the new Quick Step leader who started by winning the stage to Vichy. The yellow jersey thus conquered was valorously defended during two days. Then Chavanel corrected his reputation as a poor climber by remaining on the podium after the stage of the Montagne de Lure. His consistency impressed despite a fall that cost him his second spot but he remained on top with as a bonus the green jersey. The French contingent’s roll of honour was completed by Jeremy Roy, winner of his first ever professional race at Vallon-Pont-d’Arc, and by Jonathan Hivert, 8th of the GC and second best young rider of the event. Talents to keep an eye on.
Winner of the three major cycling Tours on the calendar, Alberto Contador again proved what a great champion he was on Paris-Nice. He immediately impressed in the role of the best time-trial rider of the pack on the stage set around Amilly. An intrepid and aerial climber, he hit hard where he was expected, on the toughest of stages, by dropping his main rivals on the steepest portions heading to the top of the Montagne de Lure. Paradoxically, the setback that made him lose two minutes and the yellow jersey in the last four kilometres of the stage to Fayence reveals another side to the champion. The one that many could imagine proud and conquering became a real showman on the final stage, attacking in vain on the Esterel Corniche. For the beauty of his performance, his fourth position remains magnificent.