Paris-Nice… The Race to the Sun…© A.S.O.
For its 70th edition, the Paris-Nice race has no intention of following the same old procedures. The Course au Soleil may well have brought the peloton to the Riviera in early March every year since 1933, the aim has never been to laze around or get a suntan. Quite the contrary: these 70 chapters in a story featuring the sport's greatest names – Louison Bobet, Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Miguel Indurain or Sean Kelly – with his record seven titles – have established the race as a key date in the cycling calendar – the day on which things really start to get serious.
As the season's first major stage race in Europe, it provides an opportunity to test out the winter training regime but remains a major event in its own right – and a key ingredient of the complete rider's CV. This major anniversary year will be no pushover, especially if the weather – as is so often the case in March – decides to blow hot and cold.
Meanwhile, the agenda the organisers have put together provides an opportunity to review the long history of the event. The time trial on the Col d'Eze, which has been such an integral part of the Paris-Nice legend, has been off the agenda since 2001. It makes a comeback this year and could make all the difference at the final stage, the day after arriving on Nice's Promenade des Anglais. It's a way of closing the loop after the time trial that opens the show a week earlier at the gates of the château of Dampierre-en-Yvelines before coursing along the roads through the Chevreuse valley. Do not imagine, however, that established riders such as Germany’s Tony Martin, the defending champion, will have an easy ride on the way down – these roads guarantee a spirited race.