The European stage race season begins in earnest this Sunday (March 9) with Paris-Nice. Known as the ‘Race to the Sun’, the route takes the peloton from the northern Mantes-la-Jolie suburb of Paris, to the southern city Nice, symbolically heading from the cold of the winter into the warmth and sunshine of the spring.
In recent years Paris-Nice has acted as a breakthrough race for emerging grand tour riders. It was here in 2012 that Bradley Wiggins began his winning streak that would culminate in his Tour de France victory, while the 2007 edition was Alberto Contador’s first major overall victory.
Last year’s winner Richie Porte (Sky) also went on to ride excellently at the Tour in support of Chris Froome, but will not return to defend his title after a last-minute Sky reshuffle saw him ride Tirreno-Adriatico instead. Porte’s 2013 success followed the typical Sky template of dominating the time trial and mountain top finish while defensively controlling the rest of the race, in a manner akin to Wiggins the year before him.
Perhaps the organisers have become jaded with Sky’s stranglehold on the race, as they’ve created an unconventional route for this year’s edition. There will be no mountain top finishes, the stages in which Sky usually lay the foundations for overall victory, and for the first time since 1995 the race does not feature a single time trial, the discipline in which Sky usually seal victory.
This means the race will instead be likely settled in the middle mountains, and will make for some unpredictable racing. With a series of category one and two climbs but with none of them situated at the finish line, the route resembles the idealistic idea once posited by Christian Prudhomme of a Tour de France comprised entirely of hilly stages.
The first three stages will, nonetheless, likely end in bunch sprints, unless there is a repeat of the crosswinds that disrupted the race in 2009 and 2012. The GC riders will be called into attention as the race hits the Massif Central in stages four and five, both featuring category 2 climbs within the final fifteen kilometres.
Friday’s longest stage of the race sees the peloton head east into the Alps, where they will climb the Col de Bourigaille and finish in Fayence on a category two hill. Though this stage looks the mostly likely candidate to be the race’s decisive stage, it’s difficult to single out a specific day when the race will be decided, and Saturday’s early climbs and undulating route, and Sunday’s four quick-fire climbs crammed into a 128 kilometre circuit beginning and ending in Nice give plenty of opportunity for riders to gain time.
The organisers have described this year’s edition as a ‘race for the daring’, and, with a route like this, we ought to be in for some exciting racing.
Paris-Nice 2014: Stages
Sunday March 9, stage one, Mantes-la-Jolie to Mantes-la-Jolie, 162.5 km
Monday March 10, stage two, Rambouillet to Saint-Georges-sur-Baulche, 205 km
Tuesday March 11, stage three, Toucy to Circuit de Nevers Magny-Cours, 180 km
Wednesday March 12, stage four, Nevers to Belleville, 201.5 km
Thursday March 13, stage five, Crêches-sur-Saône to Rive-de-Gier, 152.5 km
Friday March 14, stage six, Saint-Saturnin-lès-Avignon to Fayence, 221.5 km
Saturday March 15, stage seven, Mougins to Biot Sophia Antipolis, 195.5 km
Sunday March 16, stage eight, Nice to Nice, 128 km
Paris-Nice 2014: TV schedule
Satellite and digital channel British Eurosport will be broadcasting live coverage plus highlights from this year’s Paris-Nice.
Sunday March 9, 14:30, Stage 1, British Eurosport 2
Monday March 10, 13:45, Stage 2, British Eurosport
Tuesday March 11, 13:45, Stage 3, British Eurosport
Wednesday March 12, 15:15 Stage 4, British Eurosport
Thursday March 13, 15:15, Stage 5, British Eurosport
Friday March 14, 15:15, Stage 6, British Eurosport
Saturday March 15, 14:30, Stage 7, British Eurosport 2
Sunday March 16, 15:15, Stage 8, British Eurosport 2
Paris-Nice 2014: Teams
Paris-Nice 2014 start list >>
Ag2r La Mondiale
Bretagne-Seche Environnement (wildcard)
IAM Cycling (wildcard)
Paris-Nice: Recent winners
2013: Richie Porte (Aus)
2012: Bradley Wiggins (GBr)
2011: Tony Martin (Ger)
2010: Alberto Contador (Spa)
2009: Luis Leon Sanchez (Spa)
2008: Davide Rebellin (Ita)
2007: Alberto Contador (Ita)
2006: Floyd Landis (USA)
2005: Bobby Julich (USA)
2004: Jorg Jaksche (Ger)
Paris-Nice: last year’s top 10 (2013)
1. Richie Porte (Aus) Sky
2. Andrew Talansky (USA) Garmin-Sharp at 55 secs
3. Jean-Christophe Peraud (Fra) Ag2r La Mondiale at 1-21
4. Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing at 1-44
5. Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Omega Pharma-QuickStep at 1-47
6. Simon Spilak (Slo) Katusha at 1-48
7. Diego Ulissi (Ita) Lampre-Merida at 1-54
8. Lieuwe Westra (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM at 2-17
9. Andreas Kloden (Ger) RadioShack-Leopard at 2-22
10. Peter Velits (Svk) Omega Pharma-QuickStep at 2-28
We pick out the likely contenders for the 2014 edition of Paris-Nice (March 9-16)
Images from the third stage of 2014 Paris-Nice
Giant-Shimano's fast finisher finally gets it right at the Mangy Cours circuit after two near misses.
Omega Pharma-QuickStep rider Gianni Meersman withdraws from Paris-Nice after crashing on stage two and receiving time penalty and fine for
Images from the second day of Paris-Nice 2014, won by Moreno Hofland
Gianni Meersman receives time penalty for drafting team car on stage two of Paris-Nice
The opening stage of Paris-Nice saw the peloton split by crashes. Overall contenders have to stay vigilant to prevent losing
French sprinter Nacer Bouhanni takes bunch finish on first stage of 2014 Paris-Nice
Provisional roll call of riders taking to the start line of the 2014 edition of Paris-Nice (March 9-16)