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Paris-Nice 2015 set to be a climber’s showcase

A summit finish and a final-day uphill time trial attract some of cycling's top climbers to Paris-Nice to vie for glory

Paris-Nice 2015 will attract some of the biggest names in cycling, with Richie Porte and Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky), Michal Kwiatkowski (Etixx-Quick-Step), Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing), Andrew Talansky (Cannondale-Garmin), and other notables slated to toe the line in Maurepas, France, March 8-15.

The eight-day, 1,137-kilometer tour from the Parisian suburbs to the Côte d’Azur will offer a variety of opportunities for everyone from stage-hunters to GC aspirants. Eleven previous Paris-Nice podium finishers are expected to race in 2015, along with four past winners. Also, 22 Tour de France stage-winners and four former world champions are on the preliminary roster.

Although many GC favorites will opt to race Tirreno-Adriatico, which runs concurrently, top climbers will turn out for the French race. Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale), Pierre Rolland (Europcar), Porte, Rafael Valls (Lampre-Merida), Tom Slagter (Cannondale-Garmin), and Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo), the 2014 Tour de France king of the mountains, will all be eyeing stage 4, a summit finish on the col de la Croix de Chaubouret.

Although the race features top time trialists like world champion Wiggins, former world TT champ, Tony Martin (Etixx-Quick-Step), and Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin), the final-day TT up the Col d’Eze is not your normal race against the watch. The 9.6km test climbs 1,526 feet and includes two ramps that approach 9 percent gradient.

For this reason, Talansky, Lieuwe Westra (Astana), Geraint Thomas (Team Sky), and Jean-Christophe Péraud (Ag2r La Mondiale), the runner-up in last year’s Tour de France, are all favored for overall glory. The Tour Down Under winner and world hour record holder, Rohan Dennis (BMC Racing), will also pose a serious threat, with the opening-day prologue in Maurepas adding to the kilometers of time trialling.

The race’s 2014 edition was won by Colombian Carlos Betancur (Ag2r La Mondiale).

The white jersey competition for the best young rider will also feature notable stars. The revelation of last year’s Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España, Fabio Aru (Astana), won’t have raced a single day in 2015 when he reports for duty on March 8, but the Sardinian has spent most of the winter training at altitude. Aru’s tussle with Warren Barguil at the 2014 Vuelta turned into a fascinating sideshow, and that pair will again lock horns in March.

Bardet, a star at the recent Ruta del Sol, Wilco Kelderman (LottoNL-Jumbo), the white jersey-winner at the 2014 Criterium du Dauphiné, and maybe even Bob Jungels (Trek Factory Racing) will also hope to factor into the GC competition.

The stages earmarked for the sprinters will feature Alexander Kristoff (Katusha), André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal), and John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin), who have all already opened their accounts with wins in 2015.

Paris-Nice teams and leaders (as of February 25):

Australia
Orica-GreenEdge: Albasini (Swi), Matthews (Aus), Yates (GB)

Belgium
Etixx-Quick-Step: Boonen (B), Kwiatkowski (Pl), Martin (G)
Lotto-Soudal: Gallopin (F), Greipel (G)

France
Ag2r La Mondiale: Bardet, Péraud (F)
Bretagne-Séché Environnement: Fédrigo, B. Feillu, R. Feillu (F), Sepulveda (Arg)
Cofidis: Bouhanni (F), Navarro (Sp)
FDJ.fr: Démare, Jeannesson, Vichot (F)
Europcar: Coquard, Rolland, Voeckler (F)

Germany
Team Giant-Alpecin: Barguil (F), Degenkolb (G), T. Dumoulin (Nl)

Great Britain
Team Sky: Thomas (GB), Nordhaug (N), Porte (Aus), Wiggins (GB)

Italy
Lampre-Merida: R. Costa (P), Valls (Sp)

Kazakhstan
Astana: Aru (I), LL.Sanchez (Sp), Taaramae (Est), Westra (Nl)

Netherlands
LottoNL-Jumbo: Hofland, Kelderman, Ten Dam (Nl)

Russia
Team Katusha: Kristoff (N), Silin, Trofimov (Rus)
Tinkoff-Saxo: Kiserlovski (Cro), Majka (Pol)

Spain
Movistar: Capecchi (I), Rojas (Sp)

Switzerland
IAM Cycling: Sy. Chavanel (F), Frank (Swi), Haussler (Aus)

USA
BMC Racing: Dennis (Aus), Gilbert (B), Van Garderen (USA)
Cannondale-Garmin: Slagter (Nl), Talansky (USA)
Trek Factory Racing: Jungels, F.Schleck (Lux)