Paris-Nice promises to be spectacular in the mountains and on the flat - here are 11 riders who will be looking to have a good week in the Race to the Sun
Greipel’s two wins of the season both came at Challenge Mallorca, but he’ll be confident of increasing his tally in Paris-Nice.
Back on French soil, where he won four stages of the Tour de France last year, and the German will be keen to impress.
A Frenchman on home soil, Nacer Bouhanni will be looking to impress the locals and also get one over on former teammate Arnaud Démare (FDJ).
Bouhanni won stage two of the Ruta del Sol and came third in Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne on Sunday, so he’s clearly in decent shape at this stage of the season.
Arguably the best rider of the season so far, Kristoff has started his 2016 season in almost exactly the same way as he did 2015 – by winning almost everything.
Three stages in Qatar and two more in Oman make the Norwegian, riding for Katusha, seem unstoppable, so it will be interesting to see who comes out on top between him and Kittel next week.
Démare always makes it into these lists and then always disappoints us by never getting anywhere near a win.
He’s only 24, to be fair, but when faced with other big name sprinters the FDJ rider just never really looks up to the fight.
He went to the Tour Méditerranéenne and picked up a couple of stage wins but then struggled to 11th at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, so who knows what kind of form he’s in.
Some years it seems that Paris-Nice doesn’t really attract many big name general classification contenders, but this year it has a number of riders who could light up the leaderboard.
He won the final stage of the Volta ao Algarve – his first race of the season – to lay a marker to his rivals. The Spaniard hasn’t ridden Paris-Nice since 2010, though, preferring Tirreno instead, but he did win the race back then.
If he’s feeling it then there’s no reason why Contador can’t take the title, but I reckon there are others who want it more.
Richie Porte comes into the race as defending champion, but he’ll be riding for a new team this year as he looks to become BMC’s first winner of the race.
The Australian will look to take his third overall win at Paris-Nice in four years but was virtually non-existent as a contender in the Tour of Oman, finishing 49th overall.
His schedule is probably different this season, and we don’t know whether he’ll be riding the Giro d’Italia, so he could be coming to Europe in less refined shape than last year. But he knows what this race is about and will surely be keen to get his name on the trophy again.
Tom Dumoulin is riding the Giro and could be looking at Paris-Nice as the perfect stepping stone to that race.
The Giant-Alpecin rider will go in as the favourite for the prologue, with BMC’s Rohan Dennis likely to be his main rival, and that should set him up for a high overall finish by the time the race reaches Nice.
Dumoulin came fourth overall at the Tour of Oman without really making any fuss, so a top-five finish at Paris-Nice is well on the cards.
He won the Volta ao Algarve last month and is a pretty formidable competitor in these short stage races, finishing fifth last year when sharing leadership duties with Porte.
Thomas could be riding alongside Michal Kwiatkowski, who finished second last year, so Sky could have a backup plan if Thomas struggles, but with a prologue to start Thomas should be up there on the leaderboard from the off.
We’re not saying that Thomas Voeckler is going to win Paris-Nice, but he’s a great bet for a stage win, especially coming off his overall victory at the Tour of Provence.
That win came from a Tommy V special on stage one – a breakaway in the final kilometres to win. Don’t bet against it happening again next week.
This is probably the first time that Ion Izagirre has appeared on one of our ‘riders to watch’ lists, but that’s more down to our neglect than the Spaniard’s performances.
He’s good in the hills, good in the mountains and good against the clock in time trials, so don’t be surprised to see his name up there again in Paris-Nice.