The route had leaked out but today sees official confirmation of the Paris-Nice stages, starting on Sunday 6 March without a short prologue but a road stage instead.
The 2011 “race to the sun” is also an edition with other differences, notably featuring a 27km time trial across the rolling hills of Provence.
Stage 5 to Vernoux en Vivarais features the Col de la Mure, almost 8km at 8% and a certain selection but the finish is not on the summit, rather a short descent and then a climb to Vernoux, perhaps allowing lesser climbers to get back on, especially the time trial specialists who will appreciate the following day’s stage. The two final stages are classic fare, featuring hills, with Stage 7 using a finishing circuit that should favour a powerful rider like Peter Sagan before the quintessential stage to Nice via the Col d’Eze.
In summary, if the Grand Tours favour specialist climbers, this race leans more towards all-rounders with the ability to time trial. Think Kloeden, Vinokourov or Evans rather than Gesink or Ricco. But we’ll see. As ever the weather will play its part, last year’s edition saw snow shorten the stages, crosswinds slice the bunch apart and icy conditions meant “wardrobe strategy” even played its part.