2016 Paris-Nice Route

Paris Nice 2016 map

The route for the 2016 Paris-Nice (6-13 March) is out. It lets us look through to the other side of winter to one of the first major stage races of the year. There’s a blend of old and new with familiar places alongside novelty like the introduction of gravel roads for one stage.

Already there’s a strong list of contenders with Richie Porte, Chris Froome, Alberto Contador, Fabio Aru and more. Here’s a look at the route and more.

The race opens in the Yveslines area outside of Paris so once again a race has the “Paris” label without starting in Paris, even if it’s a regular haunt of Parisian cyclists. The 6.1km prologue time trial is the only race against the clock all week and it should be one for specialists given the area, at the confluence of the Seine and Oise rivers, is flat. Nicolas Roche was born here, maybe a swing factor to encourage him to start.

Stage 1 looks set for the sprinters as it heads southwest to Vendôme using those flat exposed roads you see in Paris-Tours only this time there’s a genuine novelty: gravel roads. There’s one 600m segment and another of 1300m, both limestone gravel to be covered late in the stage and it features in the clip above. ASO uses things like this as a test so it might not be long until this kind of obstacle appears in the Tour de France. It’s made for TV with added drama given the track runs alongside a cemetery. It’s been used before in the Tour du Loir-et-Cher.

Stage 2 offers more certainty for the sprinters with the longest day of the week to Commentry and again on exposed roads in case teams want to exploit the crosswinds. Commentry is unremarkable but sits on a plateau among the Combrailles hills so there’s a chance to derail the sprinters… and to engineer a win for local hero Julien Alaphilippe who lives 15km away.

Stage 3 is the first summit finish at Mont Brouilly (more at Roads to Ride – Mont Brouilly). This is no high altitude climb and despite the graphic from ASO, doesn’t even reach 500m being 486m high and 3.5km in length. It’s notionally 3km at 8% which would be spiky enough but the difficulty comes in the stairway feel where steep ramps are followed by brief landings making hard to time the effort, surge on a 14% ramp and you have to change to a big gear on a level section. The race visited in 2014 crossing the climb before a rendez-vous in nearby Belleville. Tom Slagter went clear and was joined by Geraint Thomas over the top and the Dutchman won the two-up sprint. This time the race will climb up, take the sketchy descent back down and then return for the summit finish outside the Our Lady of the Grapes chapel. Champage for some, sour grapes for others.

Vintage Latour

Stage 4 is another day for the sprinters as the race leaves Juliénas, famous for its wines, and heads to Romans-sur-Isere, home of Ag2r’s impressive neo-pro Pierre Latour.

Stage 5 borrows the slopes of Mont Ventoux going from Bédoin towards Chalet Reynard and then down to Sault meaning it takes the hard section of the climb through the woodland but descends just before the lunar scenery. We might want a monster summit finish but it’s unwise in March given the weather. This is a gentle tribute before the Tour de France visits in July. It’s a scenic tour of Provence as long as the Mistral wind isn’t blowing and a good day for a breakaway or a sprint among more versatile riders who haven’t been sapped by the climbing along the way.

Stage 6 has the race starting in Nice and heading inland for a series of climbs known to all the local pros and Monaco expatriates, this could be one of Philippe Gilbert’s training rides. The finish is particularly scenic, a blend of the profane and the sacred as ASO’s commercialism exploits the Utelle sanctuary for the first time. Effort wise it’s 15km at 5.7% and not unlike a mini-version of last summer’s La Pierre St Martin summit finish in that the steepest parts are mid-way, a rider like Chris Froome or Richie Porte will look to attack here and go into TT mode moments later once the gradient eases.

Stage 7 is the final loop around Nice and a repeat of previous years with the Col d’Eze featuring in the finale. The day features punchy climbs and nervous descents before a finishing circuit.

Route summary: a mix of the old and new. On paper the prologue and first two stages look benign but if the wind is up and the riders stress about the gravel roads then it’ll be game over for some GC contenders before they even reach the fun mini-summit finish atop Mont Brouilly. Otherwise the time gaps will stay small until La Madonne d’Utelle.

Paris Nice 2015 Col d'Eze podium Porte

Likely Contenders: there’s a good mix of stars and interesting prospects on hee provisional startlist already. 2015 winner Richie Porte returns and will be both a friend and rival to Chris Froome who comes with Geraint Thomas, now keen to pick of stage races. Alberto Contador is planning to ride and so is Fabio Aru, the Italian is now among the best but has yet to win anything outside of the Giro or Vuelta so this a both a chance to gain experience and spread his wings. Simon Špilak is specialist in one-week races who thrives in cold weather. Romain Bardet can test his nerves in the opening stages while Andrew Talansky will be podium hunting after a lean 2015.

Wildcard invitations will be announced in January.

TV: it’s on TV whether Eurosport or the same channel you use to watch the Tour de France

20 thoughts on “2016 Paris-Nice Route”

  1. Always like this race but found this year’s edition boring on the first days. Didn’t they say something like they picked a route hoping for crosswinds?

  2. Looks a decent route. Are the stages a tad longer after an experiment with shorter stages? I do like a time trial to finish of paris nice though.

    Geraint Thomas? I suspect if he wishes to go for grand tours then the deal he’ll strike with Sky is that they’ll allow him his pick of week long tours for him giving full backing to Froome in the Tour – then he can lead in the Vuelta if he still has enough gas. All depends what he wants to give to the classics I suppose.

    • I meant to put Thomas in the list above (have now added him) as he’s said he’ll aim for a race like this and back off on the classics with the Tour of Flanders for old time’s sake. Thomas was already competitive last year with second place to Porte on the Col de la Croix de Chaubouret summit finish.

    • Froome is not always at his best in March/April, so It would have been cool if Froome served as superdom for Thomas in a race like this. On the other hand, Thomas has said that he is planning to peak later than usual. Maybe in races like Suisse and Romandie before riding the TDF, so Froome is likely to be the leader.

      Who do you think is the favorite for winning the Mont Brouilly stage? It’s one of the weirdest climb I’ve ever seen.

      • Good question, probably a puncheur or an explosive GC rider who can handle the weather (whatever it’ll be on the day)?? Is Rodriguez riding? I’d even guess that Alanphillipe will try.

      • Slagter and Thomas were very good last time. Carlos Betancur was good too despite being overweight last time, if he’s in better shape he’s a good pick. Unknown at the time but Alexis Vuillermoz was also visible too and given his Fléche Wallonne and Mûr-de-Bretagne wins a good pick. Otherwise Alaphilippe, Dan Martin, and it depends who is riding. Gerrans, maybe Matthews, Valverde etc. It’s one of those climbs where you can’t take much time but get something wrong and you can blow or simply lose momentum and you can lose 20-30 seconds.

  3. Agreed – it’s tough to say now, but ask this again in late February.

    Also, I’m guessing that Movistar will be great for Betancur. They really manage their athletes well, and Betancur is a really really talented rider so I’m assuming they’ll get him into top shape this year. AG2R isn’t the best at managing their riders, so if the rider has issues, they won’t/can’t help. Movistar’s way different.

    Given all of Betancur’s weight problems last year, he still finished in only 20th place in the Giro. This means that on average over all of the climbing stages he had to finish well ahead of the autobus. Which shows how much talent he has. If he loses 10-15 kg he’ll be fast.

  4. Inner Ring, is it no coincidence that, following Richard Chassot’s recent interview, that such a stellar line-up (all three 2015 GT winners) are already confirmed?
    Are ASO paying appearance fees?

    • I don’t know. Aru for example wants to ride the Tour de France so it’s helpful to race in France, to learn all the small things from the road surfaces, the traffic signs to the media and more while it suits his team if Nibali does Tirreno-Adriatico too and soaks up the media attention while Aru gets a quieter time. But there’s no Quintana, Sagan might not be riding this either and we don’t know if Kittel, Cavendish and others are there.

      Whatever Tirreno-Adriatico/RCS pay – and they do pay – won’t be big given Tirreno is hardly a huge deal. We’ll see the route presented in a couple of days which will help the undecided.

      • Thanks.
        ASO have certainly come up trumps though with the line-up so far – “adding value to sponsors”.
        One senses a strong corporate hospitality push and added television interest in the line-up / route choice though.
        Gravel, Ventoux, all three GT’ers.
        Good on them, I say.

        • They really needed it because they’ve been consistently outplayed by Tirreno-Adriatico under any technical POV during the last five years, especially GC-wise, which was in fact kind of absurd since Tirreno previously had nearly always been sort of a Classics-riders race, quite (a bit too much?) sprint-loaded, since it was functional to Sanremo. But RCS started to up their game with appearence fees and better routes, to the point they established surprisingly fast a kind of superiority. However, just as inrng says (or suggests), ASO will always have bigger money, hence with no copyright about “race style”, they just can go on and copy those details which work better – more or less as they did with the Tour following the Giro’s *nouvelle vague*. Sometimes that’s good news for the fans, too (good ideas are spread, adieu to the horrible first half of the TdF), sometimets not so much… like races losing a bit of their identity. That’s not the case with Pa-Ni (not yet) nor the Tour, but when you see a Tour like last year’s, you feel that the risk exists – however happy may I have been “as a fan” to see a course which was more favourable to Quintana.

    • Appearance fees is an interesting topic. Being one of the smaller pieces of the pie, who negotiates them; agent, manager, rider? Or, are they set?

  5. I’m surprised the master of quips missed out on the opportunity to play on the phrase “Commentry is unremarkable ” How about ” … since it is a long flat day, the TV commentary on the road to Commentry is likely to be unremarkable…”

    No? I’ll get my coat.

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