The organisers of Paris-Nice have unveiled the route for the 2008 edition of the race.
The question is, have they plotted a journey from the south of Paris to the Côte d?Azur that will excite Jonathan Vaughters?
Slipstream?s manager has made no secret of the fact he wants to make a big impression at Paris-Nice ? partly to ensure an invitation to the Tour de France. Amaury Sport Organisation is in charge of both races.
The plan is for British champion David Millar to be in peak form but Vaughters knew he?d need a relatively benign course, with no beastly mountain climbs.
And it appears they have mostly got their wish. The climb to Mont Serein at Mont Ventoux will grab all the headlines but it is not as severe as the neighbouring road that goes over the Giant of Provence.
It is likely that the race will be between just two or three riders by the end of stage four, with the final showdown on the roads around Nice on the last day.
And with Alberto Contador unable to defend his crown because ASO has declined to invite his Astana team to any of its races, Paris-Nice will be wide open again.
Damiano Cunego of Lampre, or Cadel Evans of Silence-Lotto could be in with a shout.
As for the rest of the British challenge, it is possible Bradley Wiggins, Mark Cavendish and Roger Hammond could all line up for Team High Road.
PICTURE David Millar riding last year’s Paris-Nice for Saunier Duval.
|PARIS-NICE 2008: STAGE BY STAGE|
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Sunday, March 9 Prologue: Amilly, 4.6km
A fast, flat burst around Amilly, not dissimilar to the one that kicked off the Tour of California, where Millar finished off the pace. Frankly, if Fabian Cancellara starts Paris-Nice the destiny of the first yellow jersey is already assured.
Monday, March 10 Stage one: Amilly ? Nevers, 184.5km
Only one third-category hill at around the halfway mark. One for the sprinters.
Tuesday, March 11 Stage two: Nevers ? Belleville, 201km
There?s a tough 40-kilometre section around two-thirds of the way through the stage, with three third-category hills followed by the second-category Col du Fût d?Avenas. Coming 20 kilometres from the end this could be a springboard for a group, although there?s still time for it to regroup.
Wednesday, March 12 Stage three: Fleurie ? Saint-Etienne, 165.5km
Another stage with a tough second half. Two second-category climbs and the familiar run over the first-category Col de la Croix de Chaubouret before the finish. It will definitely split up here. The Croix de Chaubouret is where Floyd Landis attacked and went clear with Patxi Vila two years ago, setting up the American?s overall victory.
Thursday, March 13 Stage four: Montélimar ? Mont Serein (Mont Ventoux) 176km
The queen stage. Three early climbs offer a great chance for the breakaways but this stage is all about the uphill finish at Mont Serein, where any escapees are certain to be reeled in and the attacks will start. Mont Serein was last visited by Paris-Nice six years ago when the race went halfway up on the way to Digne-Les-Bagnes. Mont Serein is a small resort on the same mountain but just to the north of the more famous road topped by the observatory.
Friday, March 14 Stage five: Althen-des-Paluds ? Sisteron, 172.5kmRolling countryside skirting the Hautes-Alpes. It could be a sprint or a chance for those lower down the overall classification to get away.
Saturday, March 15 Stage six: Sisteron ? Cannes, 206km
Up and down all day as the race finally reaches the coast at the playground of the quite rich and reasonably famous, Cannes. The Col du Tanneron comes with 20 kilometres to go and has a technical and dangerous descent, which plays into the hands of any breakaway riders. The overall leader will have to be attentive, and strong on the climb.
Sunday, March 16 Stage seven: Nice ? Nice, 119km
The short, sharp, familiar finish. Three first-category climbs to ensure a super aggressive stage. The Col de la Porte kicks it off, then comes La Turbie and finally the famous Col d?Eze.
It?s traditional Paris-Nice fare. One uphill finish, a couple of tricky stages that offer opportunities to the strong and will worry the weak. The lack of a second time trial to whittle down the number of overall challengers does not help Millar.
The key will be to avoid silly errors on stage three over the Croix de Chaubouret, be able to ride with the best climbers on the way to Ventoux territory and then mark the explosive attacks on the final stage.
In short, then, it suits the sort of rider that Millar seems to be evolving into ? but he?ll need to be in super form to have a shot at the podium.
Courtesy of ASO