As a major event to start the year for the international elite, Paris-Nice kicks off the European season of major stage races.For the 70th edition of the Race to the Sun, from 4th to 11th March 2012, 22 teams have been selected by the organisers.
© Presse Sports
Tony Martin became only the fourth German to win Paris-Nice at the end of the 124-kms final stage won in style by French champion Thomas Voeckler.The 25-year-old HTC-Highroad leader beat compatriot Andreas Kloeden (RadioShack), winner of the Race to the Sun 11 years ago, a result which is also a change in generations and a ray of hope for German cycling.
Janez Brajkovic (RSH)© Presse Sports
Luis-Leon Sanchez (RAB)© Presse Sports
Nicolas Roche (AG2R)© Presse Sports
At 26, Nicolas Roche tackles the 2011 season with renewed responsibilities within the AG2R team.11th in last year's Paris-Nice, less than 1:30 behind Contador, the Irishman sees himself more as a team-mate to Jean-Christophe Peraud this season because of an injury which hampered his preparation: "I don't feel quite at the same level as last year because I lost two weeks preparation because of the injury. As a result, I'm not a 100 pc fit and I see the main role in the team being played by Jean-Christophe Peraud. I raced on the Tour of Algarve and in Switzerland and I felt better each day. I should be rather competitive. You'll need to go past the tricky first three days and then get the good legs at the right time. The course makes the race very open this year for there is only one key stage".
This year, the Race to the Sun will include several new features: waste reclamation zones, the Cadets-Juniors initiative, an unbeatable level of exposure on the channels of France Télévisions and a cycling festival in the Yvelines, amongst others.
RECYCLAGE ISN’T JUST A LOAD OF OLD RUBBISH. The image of a professional cyclist tossing away a drinking bottle and littering the countryside is something that must disappear from our screens. In order to change behaviours in this domain, this year ASO has set up a scheme to collect the waste generated by the race. On the exits to the refreshment zones, 20-metre-long nets will be installed along the right-hand side of the road: the riders will be able to get rid of their empty drinking bottles here, as well as any packaging that they may have in their pockets. Once the pack have left, the content of the nets will be removed, processed and/or recycled at the waste treatment facilities of the nearest town.
CADETS-JUNIORS NOW IN SPRING. For the last ten years, young riders who have distinguished themselves at club level have had the opportunity to take part in a stage of the Tour de France that passes through their region. Once selected, they ride the first 30 km of the route and watch the finish in VIP conditions. For the first time, the Cadets-Juniors initiative is being extended to other stage races organised in France by A.S.O. As a result, a few young riders will have the opportunity to discover Paris-Nice in the coming days. Four cadets and four juniors, recommended by local clubs, have been invited to share the day with the professionals on the Houdan > Houdan, Crêches-sur-Saône > Belleville and Brignoles > Biot -Sophia Antipolis stages.
TV: FRANCE TELEVISIONS IS THINKING BIG. For the start of the season’s major races in Europe, France Télévisions is giving pride of place to cycling, devoting a live broadcast to Paris-Nice each day. For each of the stages, viewers will be able to watch the pack over a stretch of approximately 80 kilometres, thanks to a programme filmed on the event, for the very first time in high definition. This year, the race will be broadcast daily on France 3, with an extra slot on France 3 Côte d’Azur and Provences-Alpes on 12th March. In total, images of Paris-Nice will be sold to 23 broadcasters, covering 170 countries.
Paris-Nice on France 3: Sunday 6/03, 1.30 PM – 2.55 PM; Monday 7/03 to Friday 11/03, 4.15 PM to 5.15 PM; Saturday 12/03, 5 PM to 5.50 PM; Sunday 13/03, 1.25 PM to 2.55 PM.
THE “TOUS CYCLISTES EN YVELINES” FESTIVAL. The Yvelines general council has decided to take advantage of the start of Paris-Nice to promote cycling in all its forms. From Friday 4th March, several activities have been prepared in collaboration with USEP for the school pupils in Houdan. The day after, cyclists of all levels are expected for a family outing, for rides stretching from 5 km to 112 km. A cycling village set up at the foot of the castle keep in Houdan will be playing host to many events throughout the weekend: trial-bike demonstrations, road-safety trails for children, etc.
Vladimir Karpets (Rus - KAT)© Presse Sports
Bradley Wiggins (Gbr - SKY)© Presse Sports
The new configuration of the Paris-Nice route, without a prologue but with a 27-km time-trial on the sixth day of the race, has encouraged the managers of the major teams to modify their approach and their strategies.
“All races are not just identical copies of the previous year’s event”, observes Serge Parsani, team manager for Katusha. “We hadn’t imagined Paris-Nice without a prologue, but it’s the organisers who decide and we have to adapt”. In this instance, the Russian team has decided that there was little point in lining up Joaquin Rodriguez for a 27-km time-trial (in light of his limited speed, highlighted during the last Tour of Spain, on a stage on which the race against the clock saw him drop from 1st to 4th place), whereas the idea of a solo race against time on the banks of the Durance has whetted the appetite of the Slavonic pair of riders Vladimir Karpets and Vladimir Gusev.
“The gaps will be bigger, but it will be the same riders in the leading places as there would have been on the prologue, if the organisers had chosen to include it”, believes Servais Knaven, the former winner of Paris-Roubaix, promoted to the management of the Sky team, who have picked Michael Rogers and Bradley Wiggins for Paris-Nice in light of their excellent all-round qualities.
“We’re not sad about the lack of
a prologue”, Valerio Piva (Htc)
HTC-Highroad have not made the slightest change to their plan of battle implemented during the training camp in December, organised in California at a time when the routes for the major stage races in the month of March had not yet been defined. “It seems logical for us to enter riders on Paris-Nice who are both good climbers and skilled at time-trials”, points out Valerio Piva, one of the coaches of the American armada. “The announcement of the route supported our decision to enter Tony Martin and Tejay van Garderen, two general standings riders who are extremely good on long time-trials. We’re not sad about the lack of a prologue, because that gives our sprinter Matt Goss an extra opportunity to win a stage and wear the leader’s jersey at the start of the race”.
“It isn’t a time-trial that will turn the situation
on its head”, Martial Gayant (Fdj)
“It’s still called the race to the sun, but the weather on Paris-Nice is hardly sunny at this time of the year”, underlines Martial Gayant, selection manager for the FDJ team. “So, the first question we asked ourselves when it came to deciding which eight riders we should choose for this race was: who is capable of handling the cold? The next one was: which riders are sufficiently tough to do battle in the Beauce plains where gutter stabs are always to be feared and where there is a need for team members who are able to protect the leaders from the wind? It would be pointless to choose riders depending on the climbs or the time-trial without setting up the backbone of the team capable of resisting the difficulties on the first days. Experience tells us that the closer we get to Nice, the smaller the scope for action becomes. It isn’t a time-trial or a stage with many slopes at the end of the week that will turn the situation on its head”.
Since 1968, Paris-Nice has not included a time-trial this long. It will require the utmost concentration from the protagonists of the hilly stages, since there is a lot more to lose and much more to win over 27 kilometres on the sixth day of the race, than on a short exercise served up as a starter.
Jean-Christophe Péraud, David Moncoutié© Presse Sports
The start to a year always raises questions about young talented riders looking to make their mark and Paris-Nice is one of the first major opportunities for these apprentice stars to shine.
On the theme of the new generation, the list of riders expected has thrown up several promising and surely enlightening confrontations, in all the domains which the pack will be tackling between 6th and 13th March. For example, the first stages, which are likely to witness grouped sprint finishes, will be ideal opportunities for Matt Goss (HTC), Romain Feillu (VAC), Peter Sagan (LIQ) or Denis Galimzyanov (KAT) to challenge Gert Steegmans (QST) or even Heinrich Haussler (GAR). Afterwards, the slopes to be tackled in the hills of the Beaujolais, the peaks of the Ardèche or later on in the mountains around Nice, will place the climbers of tomorrow in an ideal situation to write their name in the race’s history. Romain Sicard (EUS), Tejay Van Garderen (HTC), Nicolas Roche (AG2R) or Richie Porte (SAX) could make experienced ‘mountaineers’ such as Frank Schleck (LEO), Luis-Leon Sanchez (RAB), Alexandre Vinokourov (AST), Andreas Klöden (RSH) and Pierrick Fédrigo (FDJ) start to feel their age.
As regards the new features, the 27-km time-trial, positioned two days before the finish will also be a good test for experienced all-rounders like Bradley Wiggins (SKY), Michael Rogers (SKY) or Levi Leipheimer (RSH), who will have to deal with the pedal power of Tony Martin (HTC), Janez Brajkovic (RSH) or the junior world champion in the discipline, Taylor Phinney (BMC). With such a web of uncertainty, making the right strategic choices will be a very delicate exercise for the pretenders to the crown. In general, the format could also suit Jean-Christophe Péraud (AG2R), Samuel Sanchez (EUS), Roman Kreuziger (RTC), Sylvain Chavanel (QST), Jurgen Van den Broeck (OLO), Ryder Hesjedal (GAR), Rein Taramae (COF), amongst others. Perhaps spring’s first rays of sun will shine on the most ambitious…
The main participants (on 23rd February)
AG2R: Roche (Irl), Péraud (Fra); BMC Racing Team: Phinney (USA), Moinard (Fra); Euskaltel-Euskadi: S.Sanchez (Spa), Sicard (Fra); HTC-Highroad: Martin (All), Van Garderen (USA); Katusha Team: Galimzyanov, Karpets (Rus); Lampre-ISD: Bole (Slo), Spilak (Slo); Liquigas-Cannondale: Sagan (Svk), Capecchi (Ita); Team Leopard Trek: F.Schleck (Lux), B. Feillu (Fra); Movistar Team: Tondo, Gutierrez (Spa); Omega Pharma-Lotto: Bakelants, Van den Broeck (Bel); Pro Team Astana: Vinokourov (Kaz), Kreuziger (CzR); Quick Step Cycling Team: Chavanel (Fra), Steegmans (Bel); Rabobank Cycling Team: LL.Sanchez (Spa), Garate (Spa); Saxo Bank Sungard: N.Sorensen (Dan), Porte (Aus); Sky Procycling: Wiggins (Gbr), Rogers (Aus); Team Garmin-Cervelo: Haussler (Aus), Hesjedal (Can), Le Mével (Fra); Team RadioShack: Brajkovic (Slo), Leipheimer (USA); Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team: R.Feillu (Fra); Team Europcar: Voeckler (Fra), Rolland (Fra); Bretagne-Schuller: Calzati, Le Bon (Fra); Cofidis, le Crédit en ligne: Taramae (Est), Dumoulin, Moncoutié (Fra); FDJ: Casar (Fra) Fédrigo (Fra), Pauriol (Fra)
Peter Sagan, Christophe Le Mével© Presse Sports
From 6th to 13th March, between Houdan (Yvelines) and Nice, the professional pack will ride a Race to the Sun of a slightly different format, with a 27-km individual time trial that should change the tactical plans.
Cycling is a sport that places much importance on respecting traditions, but sometimes it is useful to call them into question or even challenge them. This year, the stakes in the Race to the Sun will be similar, with the definition of a hierarchy in the world’s elite at the beginning of the season of major European stage races. However, the appearance of Paris-Nice will be different, due to the scheduling and characteristics of the stages proposed. With an increased length (1,307 km), the organisers are aiming for an attritional race, in which the difficulties will be equally spread through the second half of the week. More importantly, an individual time-trial that could be decisive for the destination of the title has been introduced two days before the finish. Between Rognes and Aix-en-Provence, the pretenders to the crown will do battle over a 27-km solo exercise, the longest on the event since 1968.
Whilst the announcement of this innovation will whet the appetite of the ‘wheelers’, their climber colleagues will also have plenty of opportunities to express themselves and position themselves for victory. After three flat stages which could already witness movements in the pack, especially on the windy roads of the Beauce plain or the leg-sapping crossing of the Morvan region, the slopes on the menu during the stages at Belleville and Vernoux-en-Vivarais could be their springboard. On the gradients leading to the Fut d’Avenas, the Col de la Croix-de-Chaubouret pass or even the Col de la Mûre pass (making its first appearance on the race), the opportunities will incite all types of riders to try their luck. Whether, fighters, punchers or climbers, fortune will only smile on the brave.
The main participants (on 1st February)
AG2R: Roche (Irl), Péraud (Fra); BMC Racing Team: Phinney (USA), Moinard (Fra); Euskaltel-Euskadi: S. Sanchez (Spa), Sicard (Fra); HTC-Highroad: Martin (Ger), Van Garderen (USA); Katusha Team: Ivanov (Rus), Kolobnev (Rus); Lampre-ISD: Bole (Slo), Spilak (Slo); Liquigas-Cannondale: Sagan (Sk), Capecchi (Ita); Team Leopard Trek: F.Schleck (Lux), B. Feillu (Fra); Movistar Team: Tondo (Spa), Gutierrez (Spa); Omega Pharma-Lotto: Van den Broeck (Bel); Pro Team Astana: Vinokourov (Kaz), Kreuziger (Cz); Quick Step Cycling Team: Chavanel (Fra), Steegmans (Bel); Rabobank Cycling Team: LL. Sanchez (Spa), Garate (Spa); Saxo Bank Sungard: N.Sorensen (Den), Porte (Aus); Sky Procycling: Wiggins (GB), Rogers (Aus); Team Garmin-Cervelo: Haussler (Aus), Hesjedal (Can); Team RadioShack: Brajkovic (Slo), Leipheimer (USA); Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team: R. Feillu (Fra), Ricco (Ita); Team Europcar: Voeckler (Fra), Rolland (Fra);
Bretagne-Schuller : Calzati (Fra), Le Bon (Fra) ; Cofidis, le Crédit en ligne : Taramae (Est), Dumoulin (Fra) ; FDJ : Casar (Fra) Fédrigo (Fra), Pauriol (Fra)
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)
© Presse Sports
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.