PARIS (AFP) — Britain’s Vuelta a España champion Simon Yates said Thursday he loved racing in the eight-day Paris-Nice event and would be targeting stage wins in a highly competitive field.
The ‘Race to the Sun’ begins Sunday and, after three flat stages, kicks into action with a 25.5km time trial and three climbing stages punctuated by a hilly final day around Nice next Sunday.
The 26-year-old Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) won the toughest of the climbing stages on last year’s edition of Paris-Nice. However, he lost the overall lead on the final stage around Nice and came second overall by just four seconds to Spaniard Marc Soler (Movistar).
Soler will be defending his title in a challenging peloton, alongside his Colombian teammate Nairo Quintana, Frenchman Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale), and the 2017 winner Sergio Henao (UAE Team Emirates).
“I enjoy Paris-Nice, it’s a good race and I’ve done it every year since I’ve been a professional,” said Yates, whose twin brother Adam is not in the race, instead opting to start Tirreno-Adriatico in Italy next Wednesday.
“It’s a very important part of the season but I’m not going there to target it [the overall victory], as everyone knows, I’m going 100 percent for the Giro d’Italia [in May].
“We have a strong team here so we should be in the mix for most stages,” Simon Yates added. He’ll be joined by teammate and Colombian climber Esteban Chaves.
Mitchelton-Scott sport director Matt Wilson was also upbeat about his line-up for the race.
“It is a really good team and we are coming here to get results,” he confirmed.
“Simon has shown good form and his eyes are firmly set on the Giro, that is the main target and this race is a stepping stone along that way.”
Yates won stage 5 of the Ruta del Sol in Spain in February, his 2019 season debut.