The route for the 2009 edition of Paris-Nice has been unveiled by organiser ASO today.
As usual the race begins with a time trial, then offers the sprinters a couple of good opportunities before heading into the hills.
The highlight will be the summit finish at the little-known La Montagne de Lure on stage six.
This climb is not far from Mont Ventoux and is nicknamed by locals as Ventoux?s little sister. Mont Ventoux itself will be visible on the landscape to the peloton for much of the afternoon.
It will be a potent reminder of what awaits the riders in the Tour de France later in the year.
Last year Davide Rebellin of Italy beat his compatriot Rinaldo Nocentini by just three seconds, the closest edition in the event?s history. Yaroslav Popovych was third. Stage four climbed to Mont Serein, one of the roads up onto Mont Ventoux. That day Cadel Evans beat Robert Gesink at the finish.
Sunday, March 8
Stage one: Amilly-Amilly, 9.3km
Starting in Amilly, just south of Paris. The flat opening time trial is longer than eight kilometres and so, according to UCI rules, must be called stage one instead of a prologue. Although mostly flat, the second half of the course is technical, so it?s not necessarily one for the diesels.
Monday, March 9
Stage two: Saint-Brisson-sur-Loire ? La Chapelle-Saint-Ursin, 195.5km
A couple of third-category climbs midway through are unlikely to upset the sprinters. The stage finishes with a 39-kilometre loop before the anticipated bunch gallop.
Tuesday, March 10
Stage three: Orval ? Vichy, 175km
Another day for the sprinters, with three third-category climbs en route.
Wednesday, March 11
Stage four: Vichy ? Saint-Etienne, 171.5km
This is the first day that will split up the race. With four third-category climbs in the final 60 kilometres, it?ll favour a break. On the run-in, the race will also pass the exact spot where the Kazakh rider Andrei Kivilev crashed and lost his life in 2003.
Thursday, March 12
Stage five: Annonay ? Vallon-Pont d?Arc, 204km
An extremely tough stage with the Col de Juvenet (cat 2, 672m), Col de Montreynaurd (cat 2, 760m), Vernoux-en-Vivarais (cat 3, 581m), Col de Comberon (cat 3, 685m), Côte de Chambon de Bavas (cat 2, 442m) and Col de Moulin à Vent (cat 3, 600m) all in the first half of the stage. The high point is the first-category Col de Benas (795m), before a rolling finish. But by then, considerable damage may have been done. It may not be a day to decide the race, but it?s vital to be attentive.
Friday, March 13
Stage six: Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux ? La Montagne de Lure, 182.5km
Starting in a town renowned for its truffles, the race heads into the Vaucluse, and the second half of the day will keep Mont Ventoux on the horizon. The race won?t go there, but will finish on top of Ventoux?s ?little sister?, La Montagne de Lure, a first-category climb of 13.8 kilometres.
Saturday, March 14
Stage seven: Manosque ? Fayence, 191km
Another very hilly day with four second-category climbs and five third-category ones before the final third-category rise to the finish.
Sunday, March 15
Stage eight: Nice ? Nice, 119km
The now traditional loop to take in the Col de la Porte, La Turbie and Col d?Eze, all first-category climbs, before the flying descent to Nice and the Promenade des Anglais.
Map courtesy of ASO