The route of the 2012 edition of Paris-Nice (March 4-11) is something of a return to the prestigious French stage race’s past, featuring the reappearance of a tough final time trial up Col d’Eze.
The final Col d’Eze time trial returns after an 11-year absence from the event. Over the years, cycling greats Eddy Merckx, Sean Kelly, Raymond Poulidor and Stephen Roche all sealed their wins in Paris-Nice on the climb.
Paris-Nice is the first big European stage race of the year, and gives the big hitters a chance to test their form against their rivals, the route’s numerous hills and the often appalling weather.
Bradley Wiggins, Frank Schleck, Andy Schleck, Levi Leipheimer, Andreas Kloden, Alejandro Valverde, Rein Taaramae, Thomas Voeckler, Ivan Basso and defending 2011 champion Tony Martin are all present on the provisional start list.
Chris Froome will miss the race due a chest infection.
Starting on Sunday, March 4, the ‘Race to the Sun’ follows its traditional route due south and then east to Nice, finishing on Sunday, March 11.
The reappearance of the final time trial is accompanied by an opening 9.4km time trial on Sunday, meaning that the eight-day WorldTour-level race is bookended by tests against the clock.
However, the total distance of individual time trials in this year’s race – 19km – is still well short of last year’s single TT stage of 27km.
Every stage of the race features at least one categorised climb. The general classification will likely feature a big shake-up on Thursday’s stage five, finishing atop the Montée Laurent Jalabert at Mende in the Massif Central. The category one ascent comes after five preceding categorised climbs during the day. It will be the survival of the fittest.
Saturday’s penultimate stage offers scant chance of recovery, with four categorised climbs included in the day’s long 219.5km route from Sisteron. Any gains made on the final climb of the day, the Col de Vence, may be somewhat nullified as it is followed by a long descent into Nice, giving daring descenders a chance to catch any escapees.
Then it’s on to that final TT stage to Col d’Eze. The road ramps up quickly from the gun, with the riders hitting a section of 8.5 per cent gradient within the first two kilometres. A short respite comes before a middle section of 7 per cent, before easing off towards the finish line. In total the stage includes around 465 metres of climbing over its 9.6km route.
Cycling Weekly will be covering Paris-Nice in full with daily stage reports and photo galleries. Links to all of our reports can be found in the Paris-Nice 2012 coverage index.
Paris-Nice 2012: Stages
Stage one, Sunday March 4, Dampierre-en-Yvelines to Saint-Rémy-lès-Chevreuse, 9.4km ITT
Stage two, Monday March 5, Mantes-la-Jolie to Orléans, 185.5km
Stage three, Tuesday March 6, Vierzon to Le Lac de Vassivière, 194km
Stage four, Wednesday March 7, Brive-la-Gaillarde to Rodez, 178km
Stage five, Thursday March 8, Onet-le-Château to Mende, 178.5km
Stage six, Friday March 9, Suze-la-Rousse to Sisteron, 178.5km
Stage seven, Saturday March 10, Sisteron to Nice 219.5km
Stage eight, Sunday March 11, Nice to Col d’Èze, 9.6km ITT
Paris-Nice 2012: Teams
Paris-Nice 2012: Who will win?
BMC Racing Team
Paris-Nice 2011 podium: Tony Martin wins, with Andreas Kloden (left) in second and Bradley Wiggins (right) in third
Paris-Nice: Recent winners
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)
2003: Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz)
2002: Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz)
Paris-Nice: Last year’s top ten (2011)
1. Tony Martin (Ger) HTC-Highroad
2. Andreas Kloden (Ger) RadioShack at 36secs
3. Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky at 41 secs
4. Rein Taaramae (Est) Cofidis at 1-10
5. Samuel Sanchez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 1-13
6. Jean-Christophe Peraud (Fra) Ag2r la Mondiale at 1-24
7. Janez Brajkovic (Slo) RadioShack at 1-34
8. Levi Leipheimer (USA) RadioShack at 1-36
9. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Rabobank at 2-04
10. Maxime Monfort (Bel) Leopard Trek at 2-26
83. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Sky at 1-05-01
Paris-Nice 2012: British TV guide
Satellite and digitial channel British Eurosport will be showing live coverage and highlights. Check the British Eurosport website for more details and confirmed transmission times.
Stage one, Sunday March 4, 12.35-14.30 LIVE British Eurosport 2
Stage one, Sunday March 4, 18.00-19.00 Highlights British Eurosport
Stage two, Monday March 5, 14.00-15.30 LIVE British Eurosport
Stage two, Monday March 5, 19.30-20.30 Highlights British Eurosport
Stage three, Tuesday March 6, 14.00-15.30 LIVE British Eurosport 2
Stage three, Tuesday March 6, 19.30-20.30 Highlights British Eurosport
Stage four, Wednesday March 7, 14.00-15.30 LIVE British Eurosport 2
Stage four, Wednesday March 7, 18.00-19.00 Highlights British Eurosport 2
Stage five, Thursday March 8, 13.45-15.15 LIVE British Eurosport
Stage five, Thursday March 8, 18.00-19.00 Highlights British Eurosport 2
Stage six, Friday March 9, 14.00-15.30 LIVE British Eurosport 2
Stage six, Friday March 9, 118.00-19.00 Highlights British Eurosport 2
Stage seven, Saturday March 10, 15.30-17.00 LIVE British Eurosport 2
Stage seven, Saturday March 10, 18.15-19.15 Highlights British Eurosport 2
Stage eight, Sunday March 11, 13.00-14.00 LIVE British Eurosport 2
Stage eight, Sunday March 11, 19.15-20.15 Highlights British Eurosport 2