By Gregor Brown
Paris-Nice in March will start and end with time trials, according to leaked information. The stage race climbs the Col d'Èze on the final day, where Sean Kelly, Stephen Roche and others sealed their overall wins.
The 9.6-kilometre climb above the French Riviera and Nice closed the race from 1969 to 1985. In recent years, the race finished with a mountainous circuit that included the Col d'Èze en route to Nice's seaside.
French website Velochrono revealed all the stages yesterday. The official route, March 4 to 11, will be unveiled in the coming weeks. Italian organiser, RCS Sport will announce the Tirreno-Adriatico parcours on February 1. The stage race runs, Marche 7 to 13, nearly at the same time as Paris-Nice.
March 4, Stage 1, Dampierre-en-Yvelines - Saint-Rémy-lès-Chevreuse (9.4km TT)
March 5, Stage 2, Mantes-la-Jolie - Orléans (185km)
March 6, Stage 3, Vierzon - Le Lac de Vassivière (194km)
March 7, Stage 4, Brive-la-Gaillarde - Rodez (183km)
March 8, Stage 5, Onet-le-Château - Mende (178km)
March 9, Stage 6, Suze-la-Rousse - Sisteron (176.5km)
March 10, Stage 7, Sisteron - Nice (220km)
March 11, Stage 8, Nice - Col d'Èze (9.6km TT)
Laurent Jalabert previews Worlds course
France's coach, Laurent Jalabert visited the World Championships course in Limburg, The Netherlands. The races run 16 to 23 September, with the elite men's course finishing above the Cauberg climb that decides the Amstel Gold Race.
It is "an unpredictable climb," Jalabert said in a press conference. He sees two ways to win: "one, you go full throttle from the foot of the hill all the way till the finish line; or two, you pull away at the top of the Cauberg and don't look behind till you pass the line."
The elite men's race starts in Maastricht and arrives to the finishing circuit 100 kilometres later. The 16.5-kilometre circuit is similar to the one used for the 1998 Worlds that Oscar Camenzind won and will be repeated 10 times. Besides the 1200-metre long Cauberg, the circuit includes the 900-metre Bemelerberg.
The finish line is one kilometre after the Cauberg. Jalabert predicted a small group of favourites will decide the race, naming Philippe Gilbert (Belgium), Thor Hushovd (Norway), Oscar Freire (Spain), Alejandro Valverde (Spain) and Edvald Boasson Hagen (Norway).
Gesink and Mollema renew with Rabobank
Team Rabobank announced yesterday that it renewed Robert Gesink's and Bauke Mollema's contracts through 2014.
"A number of years ago we consciously chose to train and develop Dutch talent," said team manager, Erik Breukink. "Robert and Bauke have already demonstrated several times that they can stay close to the best in the world."
Gesink placed sixth in the Tour de France in 2010 and last year, won the Tour of Oman. He crashed and abandoned the Tour last year and in September, fractured his right femur. He returns to action in Oman next month.
Mollema won the Tour de l'Avenir in 2007 as an amateur and last year, won the points competition at the Vuelta a España. Both riders are 25 years old.
Guesdon hopes to continue
Frédéric Guesdon (FDJ-BigMat), despite fracturing his hip in the Tour Down Under, hopes to race and end his career at Paris-Roubaix.
He told AFP news agency, "I thought it was over."
The 40-year-old returned to Rennes, France, where doctors examined the fracture to his iliac crest. He won Paris-Roubaix in 1997 and, if all goes well, plans to retire there on April 8.
Paris-Roubaix without Arenberg?
The Paris-Roubaix risks running without its famed Arenberg Forest section. Mud covers the 2.4-kilometre cobble sector and without favourable weather conditions, makes passage too risky.
ASO's Jean-François Pescheux inspected the course last week and asked local authorities to beginning cleaning it. Otherwise, he told L'Equipe newspaper, "We can't pass through the forest during Roubaix."
Similar conditions in 2005 forced the organisers to skip the Arenberg Forest.
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