Starting with a bang!


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From the prologue in Houilles to the time trial showdown on the slopes of the Col d'Eze, the eight days of racing at Paris-Nice (March 2-10) set the scene for a fierce battle whose final result is anyone's guess. None of the favourites for the 2013 edition is head and shoulders above the rest.

Seasons come and go, but each one is different. A prime example of this is Paris–Nice, which sometimes favours the big engines and sometimes smiles upon the mountain goats, as well as providing up-and-coming talents with the opportunity to stamp their name on a prestigious stage race. The course of the 2013 edition, which features just one full-blown test against the clock in the shape of a mountain time trial on the last day, as well as a no-holds-barred battle among the light-weights on Montagne de Lure, is tailored to opportunists. The number of pretenders to the crown is greater than usual due to the fact that some of them will be lurking in the shadows. The first few days have the sprinters' names written all over them: Boonen (OPQ), Petacchi (LAM) and Haussler (IAM) are some of those who have already won stages in the Race to the Sun, while Bouhanni (FDJ), Viviani (CAN), Kittel (ARG) and Feillu (VCD) have yet to take their maiden win here. Next up comes fertile ground for punchy riders to shine. Should they take advantage of this opportunity, the most explosive of them all, world champion Philippe Gilbert (BMC), should be in the mix and come up against Simon Gerrans (OGE), Gianni Meersman (OPQ), Thomas Voeckler (EUC), Tony Gallopin (RLT) and Nicolas Roche (TST).

Leaving aside these ephemeral fireworks, a good dozen riders have more or less shown their hands and announced that the top step of the podium in Nice is in their crosshairs, all of them used to landing great performances on the Promenade des Anglais. Seven of the riders in the final Top 10 of the 2012 edition are back for more, including Lieuwe Westra (last year's runner-up, a mere 8″ off Wiggins' pace), as well as Tejay Van Garderen, who finished fifth in the last Tour de France, and Sylvain Chavanel (OPQ), who never skips a beat in Paris-Nice. Rein Taaramäe (COF) has made a habit of shining in this part of the season (seventh in 2010 and fourth in 2011) and has also set himself a challenge on the French Riviera, but he will be facing stiff competition for the podium places from almost every team: Costa and Quintana (MOV), Kreuziger (AST), Coppel racing in new colours (COF), Gesink (BLA), Porte (SKY) and Péraud (ALM) are all in with a real fighting chance.

23 teams: main contenders

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)

United States
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)

Great Britain
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 news in pictures


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Jersey wearers after the stage 7

Classifications after the stage 7


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