Rebellin won’t defend title
By Andrew Hood
The inclusion of a never-used climb dubbed Mont Ventoux’s “little sister” should prove decisive in the eight-day Paris-Nice.
Garmin-Slipstream and Columbia-High Road each received invitations Thursday to start the 67th Paris-Nice as officials released details of the eight-day route with a few surprises thrown in for the season’s first major stage race.
Just a day after being snubbed for the Giro d’Italia, Fuji-Servetto and Barloworld were both left off a list of 20 teams invited to the Race to the Sun, set for March 8-15.
The biggest surprise will be the absence of defending Paris-Nice champion Davide Rebellin. His small Italian team — Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli — opted to race Tirreno-Adriatico on home roads instead of line up in France.
The veteran Italian has always been a consistent Paris-Nice performer and finally earned a hard-fought victory last year against Robert Gesink (Rabobank), but Rebellin’s team will focus on Tirreno-Adriatico to tune up ahead of Milan-San Remo.
Despite Rebellin’s absence, there will be plenty of contenders to battle for victory when the race ends on the Avenue des Anglais in Nice along France’s Cote d’Azur.
Last year’s runner-up Rinaldo Nocentini (Ag2r-La Mondiale) will lead a competitive field that also includes: Alberto Contador and Levi Leipheimer (Astana), Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto), Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank), Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas) and David Millar and Brad Wiggins (Garmin).
The 67th edition of Paris-Nice breaks with recent tradition as the route largely steers clear of the sometimes-snowbound Massif Central and takes in new climbs like the Montagne de Lure deep in the heart of France’s haute-Provence.
Harsh weather has prompted route modifications the past few editions at Paris-Nice and it seems race organizers are searching out new roads that will be clear of late-winter snows.
Instead of starting with a prologue, the race will debut with a 9.3km individual time trial in Amilly, about one hour south of Paris. The relatively flat course and longer distance could open up decisive differences among the GC contenders.
Stages two and three push south across the open, wide-swept fields toward Vichy where strong winds can bust up the peloton and are ideally suited for the sprinters in the pack.
Stage four into Saint-Etienne avoids some of the harder, higher-elevation climbs in the area, but features the Cat. 3 Cote de Rochetaillée with 6.8km that should deliver some late-race attacks from stage-hunters.
Stage five to Vallon-Pont-d’Arc skirts the eastern edge of the Massif Central, tackling seven rated climbs in the first half of the stage, including the Cat. 1 Col de Benas. A finishing circuit around Vallon should provide plenty of road to reel in attacking riders.
Things will heat up in the six-climb, 182.5km sixth stage that ends atop the Montagne de Lure, dubbed the “little sister of Mont Ventoux.”
It’s the first time the climb will be used in a major international race. With an average grade of 6.6 percent up 13.8km, it should prove the decisive moment of the 67th Paris-Nice.
The 10-climb seventh stage from Manosque to Fayence bypasses the traditional finish into Cannes. The rollercoaster profile is a head-banger’s ball features four second-category and one first-category climbs and ends with a third category climb to the finish line.
The race returns to script for the finale on the same finishing circuit used the past several editions of the race over the first-category summits at La Turbie and Col d’Eze before a nervous descent to the finishing straight on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice.
Teams for the 67th Paris-Nice
Milram (Fothen, Knees)
Quick Step (S. Chavanel, Barredo)
Silence-Lotto (Evans, Gilbert)
Saxo Bank (A. Schleck, Voigt)
Caisse d’Epargne (Pereiro, LL Sánchez)
Euskaltel-Euskadi (S. Sánchez)
Garmin-Slipstream (Millar, Wiggins)
Columbia-High Road (Burghardt)
Bbox Bouygues Telecom (Rolland)
Cofidis (Auger, Dumoulin)
Française Des Jeux (Casar, Ladagnous)
Ag2r (Nocentini, Dessel)
Agritubel (Moreau, Feillu)
Liquigas (Kreuziger, Chicchi)
Astana (Contador, Leipheimer, Popovych)
Rabobank (Flecha, Posthuma)
Cervélo Test Team (Florencio)