Thierry Dupond, a Frenchman with the Skil-Shimano team, will be the first rider to roll down the start ramp at Paris-Nice shortly after midday local time this afternoon.
Cadel Evans, Frank Schleck, Damiano Cunego, David Millar (pictured), Stefan Schumacher, Oscar Pereiro and Thor Hushovd are all included in a typically strong line-up. Certainly it is not bereft of stars, as the UCI would no doubt have hoped.
But it is Dupond who finds himself in the unenviable position of being the first rider to defy the UCI?s ban on competing in the Race to the Sun, which is being run under French Cycling Federation rules because of the war between the world governing body and the company that owns the event, ASO.
Dupond will be followed a minute later by Danny Pate, an American on the Slipstream team. Another minute after that, Sergio Ghisalberti is scheduled to become the first ProTour rider to break ranks.
All 160 riders in the field have been threatened with bans of up to six months for taking part in an unsanctioned race but the teams agreed on Friday that they would go ahead and race.
Pat McQuaid, the president of the governing body, has said that any teams that race in Paris-Nice will be kicked out of the UCI
With just a couple of hours to go until the prologue is due to get underway, there appears to be little chance of the teams changing their minds.
Slipstream?s leader will be Millar. However, Slipstream are not part of the ProTour and although the threat of a ban applies to them just as much as anyone else, they are slightly on the periphery of the row.
The ProTour teams have sent plenty of star riders, though. Evans is there for Silence-Lotto ? perhaps not a surprise considering his big goal is the Tour de France but the Australian has made no secret of his Olympic ambitions too this year.
The UCI have threatened to ban riders from the Beijing Games for racing in an unsanctioned event.
Surprisingly, considering Marc Madiot?s comments that he would not risk the rider, Philippe Gilbert is in Francaise des Jeux?s line-up.
French participation is slightly up ? at 38 riders compared to last year?s 33 in 160-man field ? but not dramatically so.
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20 teams of 8 riders
38 French riders
(last year there were 33 French riders)
1 British rider (David Millar)
|DEFYING THE UCI|
Some of the biggest names on the start list for today?s Paris-Nice prologue
Bradley McGee, Bobby Julich, Alexandr Kolobnev, Frank Schleck
Cadel Evans, Yaroslav Popovych
Oscar Pereiro, Luis Leon Sanchez
FRANÇAISE DES JEUX
Stefan Schumacher, Davide Rebellin
Robert Gesink, Juan Antonio Flecha
Igor Anton, Haimar Zubeldia
Sylvain Chavanel, David Moncoutie
Jose Angel Gomez Marchante
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Official start times for Sunday?s Paris-Nice prologue