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Bernal, Alaphilippe, Roglic to take on Paris-Nice

First major European stage race of the calendar draws host of talent including Pogacar, Pinot, and Quintana.

Paris-Nice will boast a mouth-watering line-up for 2020.

The ‘race to the sun’ will see reigning champion and Tour de France winner Egan Bernal (Team Ineos) take to the start alongside Vuelta a Espana champion Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma), Tadej Pogacar (UAE-Team Emirates), and French favorites Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) and Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ). Nairo Quintana will also be there, racing with his new team, Arkea-Samsic, who earned a wildcard invite.

“It really is looking more and more like a Tour de France warm-up,” Paris-Nice race director¬†Francois Lemarchand told AFP.

“This will be a real battle between some of cycling’s top stars, last year it revealed the Tour winner, as it has done so many times before,” said Tour de France and Paris-Nice director Christian Prudhomme.

Bernal kick-started his 2019 with victory at Paris-Nice before going on to win the Tour de Suisse and Tour de France that summer. Before Bernal, Bradley Wiggins was the last rider to take the Tour and Paris-Nice in the same year, in 2012.

Paris-Nice, running for 8 stages through March 8-15, is the first major stage race of the European calendar and is often seen as a form guide for the big GC players in the peloton. Bernal, Roglic, and Pogacar have all confirmed they will be hunting the Tour’s yellow jersey three-and-a-half months after the close of Paris-Nice.

Racing in northern France in early spring is renowned for rain and crosswinds, and the opening stages of 2020’s Paris-Nice are likely to see gritty racing in challenging conditions as the peloton moves through the open plains of the Beauce region.

The first opportunity for the GC riders to show how their legs are shaping up for the season to come is likely to occur on stage 4, a 15km time trial through Alaphilippe’s birthplace, Saint-Amand-Montrond. The following two stages are packed with lumps and bumps through central France before the race arrives in Nice, which hosts both stage 7 and 8.

Stage 7 could prove decisive, with four categorized climbs and summit finish atop the Col de la Colmiane. The 16.3km, 6.3 percent climb also features in stage 2 of the Tour. The race wraps up with a punchy 113km rip around the foothills of the Alps, finishing in front of the Allianz Rivera stadium, home of Nice football club. The club has been owned since last August by Jim Ratcliffe, who also owns Team Ineos.

Could the finishing location be an omen of victory for Ineos rider Egan Bernal? It could be, but with such a star-studded line-up, the young Colombian will be made to work for it.