The route of the 2019 Paris-Nice race was unveiled today and the race from 10-17 March is less than 60 days away. It’s been a thriller in recent years, a highlight of the last few seasons and here’s a closer look at this year’s course.
Stage 1 is a loop around the Parisian suburbs and the countryside of the Chevreuse valley, a popular destination for Parisian cyclists and a habitual starting point for this race as organisers ASO have done a long term deal with the municipality.
Stage 2 finishes goes to Bellegarde. France has lots of Bellegardes and this one is near the Loire and, a short spin from Pierre Rolland’s home. There’s a finishing loop before likely sprint finish, it’s all flat and exposed terrain and stage to enjoy if the wind is up; if not then tune for the sprint.
Stage 3 and another flat stage up the Loire valley and a likely sprint finish.
Stage 4 sees the race go into the Massif Central and a hilly finish in Pélussin, on the flanks of Mont Pilat. The final climb of the day is billed as 3.1km at 4.9% but harder than it sounds with some steeper sections, it’s a finish for the uphill puncheurs.
Stage 5 is the time trial stage and relatively long at 25.5km around the Rhone valley with the climb to the Frigolet abbey as the main difficulty but if it looks like a bump on the profile the course peaks at 100m above sea level, it’s much flatter than last year’s TT outside Saint Etienne.
Stage 6 breakaway or sprint? It’s accessible to both and the local Mistral wind could make all the difference.
Stage 7 the legendary Col de Turini features. Named by TV program “Top Gear” as one of the world’s ten best roads, it’s famous in motorsport from the Monte Carlo rally and they take the rally side from the north with a long climb that’s steady for the most part, 15km at 7.3% but with more 6% at the start and 8% towards the top. It’s great to see the race using this climb but it’ll be a cautious race with riders being eliminated from the group rather than attacks, similar to last year’s stage to La Colmiane.
Stage 8 is the copy of last year’s stage, a 110km loop into the Nice hinterland and a course that’s generated plenty of great racing in recent years.
Can it be as good as recent years? The course is similar with a TT stage, a summit finish and now classic Nice loop on the final day but the rest is down to the riders, perhaps the attack on the Côte de Peille (the Col de Saint Pancrace to locals) is becoming all too familiar by now? The TT is flatter so tilts things marginally towards more powerful riders.
There’s no startlist but as ever procyclingstats scans news and social media for reports to make one ahead of the race and 2018 race winner Marc Soler will be back, with Nairo Quintana alongside. This is within Michał Kwiatkowski’s range and on his training roads and Egan Bernal is slated to ride too. Wilco Kelderman should feature and Astana bring the Izagirre brothers plus Miguel Angel Lopez and Paris-Nice habitual L-L Sanchez. The sprint finishes should be lively with Caleb Ewan, Mark Cavendish, Arnaud Démare, Dylan Groenewegen and Alexander Kristoff already annouced by ASO and more are bound to take part, Sam Bennett, Nacer Bouhanni and Bryan Coquard should be there.
Wildcards: five invitations go to Arkea-Samsic, Cofidis, Delko-Marseille, Direct Energie and Vital Concept. Normally it’s four but with seven riders per team there’s room for an extra team in the race and we’ll see if ASO copy this for the Tour de France invitations, possibly with Wanty-Gobert instead of Delko-Marseille. Thursday morning update: it’s 22 teams for the Tour de France, so four wildcards. Two of these have just been announced, Cofidis and Wanty-Groupe Gobert, first and second on the UCI rankings for the second tier teams and the other two places will be announced later in the season.
TV: there’s roughly an hour a day of live coverage.