After all the hullabaloo, arguments and tantrums, Paris-Nice is finally set to roll down the start ramp this Sunday. The seven stage, 1,260km race that should have been the ProTour opener will take place with all but one ProTour team; Unibet.com.
Organisers ASO have invited Astana, despite their initial protests when the Kazakh team were granted a ProTour licence, while Agritubel take the 20th spot instead of Swedish registered team Unibet.com.
Unibet are threatening legal action for their non-inclusion. Having invested ?32 million to become part of the ProTour, (as well as being one of the most successful teams this year) they have become the whipping boys in a fracas that has little to do with them.
ASO president Patrice Clerc has said that the French law banning gambling companies from advertising on French soil has forced their hand, although this wasn?t an issue last year when Unibet rode ASO?s races.
Now a temporary agreement has been reached, the riders can do what they want to do and race their bikes, and the fans can enjoy watching them. For British fans, the prologue will hold special interest as David Millar (Saunier Duval) is one of the favourites for the 4.7km route, giving a glimpse of what we can expect at the Tour prologue in London this July. Bradley Wiggins (Cofidis) will now not ride the event, instead concentrating on his preparations for the Track World Championships in Majorca at the end of March.
Roger Hammond (T-Mobile) also rides and will be looking to get in to moves as he builds up to his Classics campaign this April.
Thursday?s stage to Mende looks to be the decisive one, finishing at 1,055m at the top of La Croix-Neuve. Saturday?s stage to Cannes looks like another tough stage with nine categorised climbs on the parcours.
Cycling Weekly and www.cyclingweekly.com will be bringing you updates on the action throughout the race.
PARIS-NICE 2007: STAGES
|Prologue||Sunday March 11||Issy-les-Moulineaux||Issy-les-Moulineaux||4.7km|
|One||Monday March 12||Cloyes-sur-le-Loir||Buzançais||186km|
|Two||Tuesday March 13||Vatan||Limoges||177km|
|Three||Wednesday March 14||Limoges||Maurs||215.5km|
|Four||Thursday March 15||Maurs||Mende||169.5km|
|Five||Friday March 16||Sorgues||Manosque||178km|
|Six||Saturday March 17||Brignoles||Cannes||200km|
|Seven||Sunday March 18||Nice||Nice||129.5km|
Total distance: 1,260.2km
PARIS-NICE 2007: TEAMS
Francaise des Jeux
Official Paris-Nice site: www.letour.com/2007/PNC/LIVE/us/0/edito.html
PARIS-NICE 2007: TV COVERAGE
Sunday March 11, British Eurosport, 4-5pm, prologue
Monday March 12, British Eurosport, 2-3.45pm, stage one LIVE
Tuesday March 13, British Eurosport, 2-3.45pm, stage two LIVE
Wednesday March 14, British Eurosport, 1-3.30pm, stage three LIVE
Thursday March 15, British Eurosport, 1.30-3pm, stage four LIVE
Friday March 16, British Eurosport, 1.45-3.30pm, stage five LIVE
Saturday March 17, British Eurosport, 12.15-2.15pm, stage six LIVE
Sunday March 18, British Eurosport, 2.30-3.45pm, stage seven LIVE
British Eurosport website: www.eurosport.co.uk
PARIS-NICE 2007: HAVE YOUR SAY
Have you got a Paris-Nice prediction? See what readers are predicting on the CW forum.