The Paris-Nice route for 2024 is out early this time, normally it’s been unveiled in January. The race takes place between Sunday 3 and Sunday 10 March. The theme could have been test race ahead of the Tour de France and its finish in Nice in July but in fact very few roads are shared.
Stage 1 and more of the same, every year the race opens with a circuit around the Yvelines department to the west of the capital. 2024 is of the course the Paris Olympics and the road races in July also head west out of Paris… but there’s little overlap, there’s no copycat part of the course. Instead it’s just a tricky stage in its own right with a succession of sharp climbs that wouldn’t be out of place in the Ardennes and which are spaced apart by open countryside so if the wind is up anyone dropped or just badly positioned on a climb can be left floundering.
Stage 2 is almost a copy of 2020’s Stage 2. But didn’t that go to Chalette-sur-Loing rather than Montargis you ask yourself? Quite right but since the former is basically a suburb of the latter let’s note the second half of the stage has almost identical roads. That day was a humdinger with the race split to pieces in wet and windy conditions, you might remember Giacomo Nizzolo taking a rare win and Sergio Higuita surfing the wheels in the front group with Nils Politt and Jasper Stuyven. So if Mother Nature intervenes with wind then this can become a semi-classic. If not then it’s a sprint stage and only real flat day for heavyset sprinters to win.
Stage 3 and the team time trial is back. This is a 27km loop to the south of Auxerre with a climb to disrupt things. Interestingly the same rules as last year apply: the time is not taken on the fourth rider as standard, instead the fastest rider from each team sets their squad’s time; and any riders left behind are given the time they cross the line with. This makes tactics important, the early climbs will test heavier rouleurs but GC candidates will need them for the downhill run back to the finish. Teams with riders who can climb well and torque a 58T chainring will be rewarded.
Stage 4 and the headline is that Mont Brouilly returns. Last on the route in 2016 for a road race, that day saw snow en route and the stage halted mid-way. It’s a lively finish as it’s a tough climb, 3km at 8% is punchy but it’s defined by the staircase-like profile, the challenge is not the gradient but the gradients. The broader story here is that this is a mountain stage in the Beaujolais with a succession of climbs in the finish, the Col de Durbize looks to be climbed via Chiroubles which happened in 2021 but race directeur François Lemarchand promises an unseen version of this climb. The Fût-d’Avenas is steep and both climbs are amid vineyards which in March means exposed to the wind.
Stage 5 has the start in the Ardèche before the race rolls south-east to Sisteron, a habitual haunt of the race. Why go to the “wrong” side of the Rhone valley for the start, only to cross back? Probably because the Ardèche and area around Privas is keen for Tour de France stages and said to be a likely destination for next year’s Tour de France Femmes so the local authorities are willing to pay the €24,000 start fee as an option on hosting more. The race traverses the mountains, passing along the base of the Montagne de Lure but sticks as much as as it can to the flat so there’s a second chance for the sprinters in Sisteron if the day is not seized by the breakaway.
Stage 6 and it’s to La Colle-sur-Loup, or hopefully. The race was supposed to go there last time but it was too windy and the stage had to be cancelled. Now it’s back allowing bloggers to copy-paste their course previews from last time: a hilly finish to Tourrettes but no sinister backroads.
Stage 7 and the race goes from Nice to La Colmiane atop the Col Saint-Martin via the the “Tour de France route” that’ll be used in the summer but, well, it’s been used in Paris-Nice before and known to many Monaco and Nice-based pros already so it’s no dress rehearsal for July. After the reciprocal descent down to Saint-Sauveur it’s up the valley road past Isola and then briefly taking the opposite direction to July’s Tour route before turning left for the ski station summit finish in Auron where at 1,600m the route goes through the village and finish at the foot of the ski pistes. It’s a smooth summit finish on a wide road and interestingly it’s short at “only” seven kilometres, the habitual format of a 15-20km summit finish gone.
Stage 8 and the classic finale. Just 109km, it’s into the hills and then goes via Peille and Saint-Pancrace to drop down for a big of the Col d’Eze and into Nice. Then comes the final via the Col des Quatres Chemins with the stinging Chemin du Vinaigrier, a kilometre at 13% as the last climb before the descent back to the finish in Nice.
Very much Paris-Nice. It’s neither an Olympics nor a Tour de France test event, there’s no copycat stage. If this route borrows anything then its roads used already by Paris-Nice. The “new” team time trial format is back, it’s not game-changing but fun for a Tuesday afternoon in March. Look at all the stages together and this year there’s no long summit finish stage like we’ve had in recent years on the Turini, Couillole or at La Colmiane. Auron is hardly a punchy wall but it’s a subtle difference.
Tadej Pogačar ran away with the race last year and would make an obvious pick but we don’t know if he’s starting, he’s probably doing Tirreno-Adriatico. The course really suits Primož Roglič although he’s tried several times and only got it once in 2022. Maybe because the final weekend isn’t a facsimile of the Tour de France there’s less need to ride. However the peloton has often faced a choice between Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico and the Italian race is said to be flatter next year, so grand tour contenders might prefer the roads to Nice.
So far news on who is riding is hard to find, a function of the early announcement. Pavel Sivakov did a long and interesting interview with The Cycling Podcast where he mentioned he’s racing, he could be the first French rider to win a World Tour stage race since Christophe Moreau; if David Gaudu can return with the form of last time then he could do the same too absent Pogačar but things are unlikely to follow this logic. Otherwise there’s talk Remco Evenepoel could ride and he’ll like the steady climbs like Auron but he and his team have his work cut on the twisty back roads behind Nice.