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Paris-Nice kicks off Sunday

The 61st edition of Paris-Nice opens Sunday with an opening prologue justoutside of Paris and ends, as the name suggests, in Nice along the FrenchRiviera. The “Race to the Sun” is the first major stage race of the seasonand a difficult and challenging course will certainly deliver up an excitingrace. The race returns with its traditional climb up Mont Faron, but the finalein Nice is sure to keep the suspense all the way down to the wire. The160km stage hits the famed Col d’Eze, another Paris-Nice fixture, no lessthan three times on a demanding circuit course before a screaming 16kmdescent to

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By Andrew Hood

The 61st edition of Paris-Nice opens Sunday with an opening prologue justoutside of Paris and ends, as the name suggests, in Nice along the FrenchRiviera. The “Race to the Sun” is the first major stage race of the seasonand a difficult and challenging course will certainly deliver up an excitingrace.

The race returns with its traditional climb up Mont Faron, but the finalein Nice is sure to keep the suspense all the way down to the wire. The160km stage hits the famed Col d’Eze, another Paris-Nice fixture, no lessthan three times on a demanding circuit course before a screaming 16kmdescent to the finish at the famed Promenade des Anglais.

Now in its second year under the management of Amaury Sport Organisation (organizers of the Tour de France), this year’s Paris-Nice is long on climbs and short on chances for sprinters. So much so that Jaan Kirsipuu has refused to race and enough to raise the ire of Robbie McEwen.

“They have the threat of very few riders actually finishing Paris-Nice,”McEwen told Eurosport. “If the good climbers decide to really race fromthe first climb, you’re going to see more than half the peloton dropped.This year, I won’t win the final stage. I’m not happy with the stage. It’slosing something of its tradition.”

McEwen won two stages here last year, but will be fighting to find hischances for wins in this year’s Paris-Nice. The race opens with a flat4.8km prologue just outside Paris and transfer south of Paris for the rolling,191km stage 1, perhaps the best chance for a mass gallop.

The 182km stage 2 finishes in Saint Etienne features three categorythree and one category two climbs in the first 100km before hitting theCategory 1 Croix de Chaubouret at 154km, then it’s a fast descent to thefinish.

The rolling 192km stage 3 into Pont du Gard with three Category 3 climbsearly in the stage is another good chance for sprinters, likely their last.Stage 4 is a 16.5km individual time trial, flat with few technical difficulties.

The race will be decided in the final two stages. Stage 5 is the longestat 194.5km and hits two Cat. 3 and three Cat. 2 climbs before the summitfinish at Cat. 1 Mont Faron, which climbs some 1600 feet in just underfour miles.

Stage 6 is a doozy and the race winner likely won’t be known until thefinal charge in Nice. The circuit course passes the Cat. 1 Col d’Eze andthe Cat. 2 Col de Chateauneuf twice before a final climb over Col d’Ezeand then it’s a fast and dangerous 16km descent to Nice.

Several top names are sidelined, including George Hincapie, who’s racingin the easier Tour of Murcia this week as he tries to recover from a virusin time to be full strength for the upcoming classics. U.S. Postal teammateViatcheslav Ekimov and Frenchie Christophe Moreau both are out due to illnesses.

Favorites include Alexandre Vinokourov, back to defend his title witha loaded Telekom team. Dario Frigo, fresh off his win at last week’s Tourof Valencia, has won at Col d’Eze the past two seasons and will be a bigthreat to regain the overall title he won in 2001. The French will be hungryto try to win the race, with Cofidis’ David Moncoutie and Brioches la Boulangere’sSylvain Chavanal already with wins under their belts.

Team Coast has been suspended by the UCI, but race officials said anotherteam will not be invited in its place. CSC’s Tyler Hamilton will be makinghis season debut with July’s Tour de France as his top goal for the season.

Be sure to check in with VeloNews.com for live updates throughout the week-long race.

61st Paris-Nice, March 9-16, stages:
Prologue, March 9 – Issy les Moulineaux , 4.8km
Stage 1, March 10 -Auxerre to Paray le Monial, 191km
Stage 2, March 11 – La Clayette to Saint Etienne, 182.5km
Stage 3, March 12 – Le Puy en Veley to Pont du Gard,192.5km
Stage 4, March 13 – ITT, Vergeze, 16.5km
Stage 5, March 14 – Aix en Provence to Toulon (Mont Faron),152.5km
Stage 6, March 15 – Toulon to Cannes, 194.5km
Stage 7, March 16 – Nice-Nice, 160km

Past 10 winners:
2002 – Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz)
2001 – Dario Frigo (I)
2000 – Andreas Klöden (G)
1999 – Michael Boogerd (Ned)
1998 – Frank Vandenbroucke (B)
1997 – Laurent Jalabert (F)
1996 – Laurent Jalabert (F)
1995 – Laurent Jalabert (F)
1994 – Tony Rominger (Swi)
1993 – Alex Zülle (Swi)
Record: Sean Kelly won seven-straight, 1982-1988.TEAM TELEKOM
001 – VINOKOUROV Alexandre, (Kz)
002 – AERTS Mario, (B)
003 – HIEKMANN Torsten, (G)
004 – HONDO Danilo, (G)
005 – JULICH Bobby, (USA)
006 – KESSLER Matthias, (G)
007 – NARDELLO Daniele, (I)
008 – WERNER Christian, (G)FDJEUX.COM
011 – CASAR Sandy, (F)
012 – COOKE Baden, (Aus)
013 – MENGIN Christophe, (F)
014 – PICHON Mickael, (F)
015 – ROBIN Jean-Cyril, (F)
016 – VOGONDY Nicolas, (F)
017 – WIGGINS Bradley, (GB)
018 – WILSON Matthew, (Aus)QUICK STEP – DAVITAMON
021 – VIRENQUE Richard, (F)
022 – BOONEN Tom, (B)
023 – CANADA David, (Sp)
024 – CLERC Aurélien, (Swi)
025 – CRETSKENS Wilfried, (B)
026 – KASHECHKIN Andrey, (Kz)
027 – VAN DE WOUWER Kurt, (B)
028 – VANDENBROUCKE, (F)nck, (B)KELME – COSTA BLANCA
031 – GALVEZ Isaac, (Sp)
032 – LATASA David, (Sp)
033 – PARRA Ivan COL
034 – RIERA Jordi, (Sp)
035 – RODRIGUEZ Alexis, (Sp)
036 – USANO Julian, (Sp)
037 – ZABALLA Constantino, (Sp)SAECO
041 – SIMONI Gilberto, (I)
042 – ASTARLOA Igor, (Sp)
043 – BONOMI Giosuè, (I)
044 – CELESTINO Mirko, (I)
045 – GALLETTI Alessio, (I)
046 – LUDEWIG Jorg, (G)
047 – QUARANTA Ivan, (I)
048 – SABALIAUSKAS Marius, (Lit)COFIDIS CREDIT PAR TELEPHONE
051 – MONCOUTIE David, (F)
052 – BESSY Frédéric, (F)
053 – CLAIN Médéric, (F)
054 – GAUMONT Philippe, (F)
055 – KIVILEV Andrei, (Kz)
056 – MATTAN Nico, (B)
057 – RUTKIEWICZ Marek, (Pol)
058 – VASSEUR Cédric, (F)FASSA BORTOLO
061 – FRIGO Dario, (I)
062 – CANCELLARA Fabian, (Swi)
063 – GUSTOV Volodomir, (Ukr)
064 – KIRCHEN Kim, (Lux)
065 – LODA Nicola, (I)
066 – PETACCHI Alessandro, (I)
067 – TRENTI Guido, (USA)
068 – VELO Marco, (I)BRIOCHES LA BOULANGERE
071 – CHAVANEL Sylvain, (F)
072 – BENETEAU Walter, (F)
073 – BOUYER, Franck, (F)
074 – MAGNIEN Emmanuel, (F)
075 – PINEAU Jérôme, (F)
076 – RENIER, Franck, (F)
077 – ROUS Didier, (F)
078 – VOECKLER Thomas, (F)US POSTAL – BERRY FLOOR
081 – VAN HEESWIJK Max, (Nl)
082 – CRUZ Antonio, (USA)
083 – JOACHIM Benoit, (Lux)
084 – KLUCK Damon, (USA)
085 – MIKHAILOV Guennadi, (Rus)
086 – PADRNOS Pavel, (Cz)
087 – WHITE Matthew, (Aus)GEROLSTEINER
091 – REBELLIN Davide, (I)
092 – BÖLTS Udo, (G)
093 – HASELBACHER Rene, (A)
094 – LANG Sebastian, (G)
095 – ORDOWSKI Volker, (G)
096 – SCHMIDT Torsten, (G)
097 – SCHOLZ Ronny, (G)
098 – WEIGOLD Steffen, (G)ONCE – EROSKI
101 – JAKSCHE Jorg, (G)
102 – ARROYO David, (Sp)
103 – CASTRESANA Angel, (Sp)
104 – GIL PEREZ Koldo, (Sp)
105 – PRADERA Mikel, (Sp)
106 – RODRIGUEZ Joaquim, (Sp)
107 – SERRANO Marcos, (Sp)
108 – ZARRABEITIA Mikel, (Sp)PHONAK HEARING SYSTEMS
111 – CAMENZIND Oscar, (Swi)
112 – GOUGOT Fabrice, (F)
113 – MARTINEZ Miguel, (F)
114 – MOOS Alexandre, (Swi)
115 – PEREIRO SIO Oscar, (Sp)
116 – PEREZ Santiago, (Sp)
117 – SALMON Benoit, (F)
118 – USOV Alexandre, (Blr)CREDIT AGRICOLE
121 – O’GRADY Stuart, (Aus)
122 – AUGE Stéphane, (F)
123 – FRAGNIERE Cédric, (Swi)
124 – HUSHOVD Thor, (N)
125 – JENNER Christopher, (NZ)
126 – MORIN Anthony, (F)
127 – POILVET Benoit, (F)
128 – VOIGT Jens, (G)LOTTO – DOMO
131 – MERCKX Axel, (B)
132 – BRANDT Christophe, (B)
133 – D’HOLLANDER Glenn, (B)
134 – MC EWEN Robbie, (Aus)
135 – MOERENHOUT Koos, (Nl)
136 – VAN BON Leon, (Nl)
137 – VAN DIJK Stefan, (Nl)
138 – VIERHOUTEN Aart, (Nl)TEAM CSC
141 – HAMILTON Tyler, (USA)
142 – CALVENTE Manuel, (Sp)
143 – ERIKSEN Thomas, (Dk)
144 – HOFFMAN Tristan, (Nl)
145 – JALABERT Nicolas, (F)
146 – KRISTENSEN Lennie, (Dk)
147 – SASTRE Carlos, (Sp)
148 – SCHLECK, Frank, (Lux)AG2R PREVOYANCE
151 – BROCHARD Laurent, (F)
152 – ASTARLOZA Mikel, (Sp)
153 – BOTCHAROV Alexandre, (Rus)
154 – CHAURREAU Inigo, (Sp)
155 – FLICKINGER Andy, (F)
156 – ORIOL Christophe, (F)
157 – PORTAL Nicolas, (F)
158 – TURPIN Ludovic, (F)JEAN DELATOUR
161 – HALGAND Patrice, (F)
162 – GOUBERT Stephane, (F)
163 – JOLY Sébastien, (F)
164 – KRIVTSOV Yuriy, (Ukr)
165 – LEFEVRE Laurent, (F)
166 – MARTIN Ludovic, (F)
167 – NAZON Jean-Patrick, (F)
168 – SEIGNEUR Eddy, (F)EUSKALTEL – EUSKADI
171 – ETXEBARRIA Unai, (Vz)
172 – DIAZ DE CERIO Ruben, (Sp)
173 – GERRIKAGOITIA Gorka, (Sp)
174 – GONZALEZ Gorka, (Sp)
175 – LOPEZ DE MUNAIN Alberto, (Sp)
176 – MARTINEZ Jos Alberto, (Sp)
177 – SANCHEZ Samuel, (Sp)
178 – SILLONIZ Josu, (Sp)TEAM FAKTA
181 – ARVESEN Kurt-Asle, (N)
182 – BAK Lars, (Dk)
183 – HOJ, Frank, (Dk)
184 – JOERGENSEN René, (Dk)
185 – PETERSEN Jorgen Bo, (Dk)
186 – RIEBENBAUER Werner, (A)
187 – SKELDE Michael, (Dk)
188 – WINN Julian, (GB)MILANEZA – MSS
191 – MOLLER Claus Michael, (Dk)
192 – BARROSO Paulo (P)
193 – BERNABEU David, (Sp)
194 – CARDOSO Pedro (P)
195 – JEKER Fabian, (Swi)
196 – LAVARHINAS Rui (P)
197 – MARTINS Lizuarte , (P)
198 – SOUSA BARBOSA Rui Miguel , (P)