5 12 March, 2.WT, France
Is Paris-Nice the perfect stage race? It just might be so: the journey from the frozen north to balmy south provides a compelling narrative; the terrain varies greatly and the competition is tight. This year’s race, the 75th, makes a statement with its highest ever summit finish, the 1,678m Col de la Couillole on stage 7. The first three stages are for the sprinters, though complicated by the wind. The GC will take rough shape on the lumpy 14.5km hill TT up Mont Brouilly in Beaujolais country. Stage 6 has six climbs and finishes on the short, steep road to Fayence. The Couillole the next day is the centrepiece, though it’s not the hardest climb in the AlpesMaritimes. The final stage is pure Paris-Nice. Five climbs packed into a 115km loop starting and finishing in Nice.