The route for the 2020 edition of Paris-Nice is out and, you guessed it, it goes from Paris to Nice. It’s what’s in between that counts and here’s a closer look at the route of one of the early season races that’s often a highlight of the season. The race will be held between Sunday 8 and Sunday 15 March.
Stage 1 is the opener in the Parisian suburbs in “Plaisir” which is French for pleasure and an easy start for headline writers. Race organiser ASO has a long term deal with the Yveslines départment and so Paris-Nice keeps starting there and they can cross sell the start of the final stage of the Tour de France too. It’s got some sharp climbs but should end in a bunch sprint.
Stages 2 and 3 cross the flat lands and offer binary prospects: certain sprint finishes and the kind of day when you can tune in with 10 minutes to go if the weather is calm; if the wind is up then they turn into instant semi-classics.
Stage 4 is a 15km time trial in Saint Amand Montrond, the birthplace of Julian Alaphilippe. The course needs closer inspection but it’s hilly and looks to be on smaller, rural roads heading out to the hamlet of La Tour to the north-east of the town. At 15km it’s short, last year’s version around Barbentane was 25km.
Stage 5 is a long slog with several climbs, a chance for someone in the early breakaway to take the mountains jersey before a likely sprint finish.
Stage 6 should be a lively day, probably a good day for the breakaway but risky for the GC contenders. Watch out if it’s windy.
Stage 7 features the Colmiane summit finish, the same as 2018 when Simon Yates won. It’s a big climb but long and gradual, once the non-climbers have been ejected it’s likely to turn into a gradual process of attrition rather than long term fireworks before the contenders make their moves as late as possible but before their rivals.
Stage 8 is a change, gone is the habitual hilly sprint in the hills behind Nice which has become a fixture in recent editions… replaced by another short distance hilly course. This one borrows from the Tour de France route and is a bit more manageable for the final Sunday of Paris-Nice, the Côte de Châteauneuf is a proper col and a hard climb but there’s more space between the climbs and could be a touch easier to control. The finish is outside the Allianz Arena stadium rather than the usual seaside finish on the Promenade des Anglais.
A traditional route, the plains before a short time trial and then a summit finish before the final Sunday in the hills behind Paris-Nice. The final stage doesn’t look as hectic as usual though, the change in the route means the race can test the roads for the opening stage of the Tour de France. Perhaps it’s reading too much but this more tame finish might help ensure the first weekend of the Tour passes without people saying “well March was better”. As ever the vintage of the race will depend in part on the weather and if it is windy for the opening days.
A couple of notes:
- the white jersey is now sponsored by olive oil brand Puget, a big brand in France
- there are time bonuses at the intermediate sprints and the finish line
- it’ll be the first stage race for Anthony Forestier of France Télévisions, the new director who took over from Jean-Maurice Ooghe and responsible for all the sweeping shots of chateaux, rivers and mountains. Forestier already did Paris-Tours last year and probably won’t make many changes
Egan Bernal won in 2019 and will be back. Primož Roglič is due to ride with Steven Kruijswijk for support. Tadej Pogačar will ride as will Miguel Angel Lopez. Thibaut Pinot starts for the first time, he’s often preferred Tirreno-Adriatico as a way to get away from the media pressure. Nairo Quintana should start for Arkéa-Samsic. Richie Porte has been a grand tour outsider but long an ace for shorter stage races only he struggled last year so we’ll see if he’s back on track here, notionally the course is fine for him. Julian Alaphilippe also finds a stage race within reach but it comes during the phase where he’s building for the cobbled classics and the Colmiane in March could be too much. As ever procyclingstats does a great job with the startlist.