Road

Paris-Nice sticks with tradition for 2021 route

Race organizer looking to implement lessons from Tour de France in bid to mitigate coronavirus threats.

Paris-Nice is keeping it traditional in 2021 while hoping not to see a repeat of last year.

The marquee early season WorldTour race revealed its parcours on Wednesday that includes the tried-and-tested format of eight stages, a short time trial, and a final blitz around the outskirts of Nice.

Last season, Paris-Nice marked the moment that COVID sunk its claws into the cycling season, forcing race organizers ASO to first restrict roadside fans and later abandon the final stage in downtown Nice. It proved to be the last race before the brakes were put on the season for nearly five months.

With coronavirus cases once again spiking through Europe, race director François Lemarchand is looking to apply the lessons that saw the 2020 Critérium du Dauphiné and Tour de France go ahead successfully last summer through the introduction of “race bubbles” and restricted fan- and media access.

“The situation is different from 2020. We know what we can do, as we did at the Dauphiné and the Tour,” Lemarchand told AFP. “Cycling worked like that last year. Towns contacted did not raise any issues. On the contrary, as if we felt the need to have some animation in this difficult period.”

The 2021 edition of the race will start from the Yvelines near Paris, and includes a potentially decisive 15km time trial and summit finish atop the Colmiane climb. Race organizers have added one twist to the mostly-traditional route, throwing in an extra-hilly fourth stage packing some 3,500 meters of elevation.

“We needed a hard-fought stage early in the race,” Lemarchand said. “The riders tend to have their habits and it’s our duty to try and unsettle them a little.”

The race will play out in its typical late-winter slot, running from March 7-14. After the shutdown of the Australian block of races, Paris-Nice will be the second WorldTour stage race of the year after the UAE Tour.

It is expected that many squads will race a full European block through the winter as they look to minimize travel and unnecessary exposure to COVID-19. Resultantly, smaller French and Spanish races such as Tour de la Provence and Vuelta a Andalucia may be used as early-season form finders ahead of Paris-Nice.

Alpecin-Fenix, home of Mathieu van der Poel, has been automatically invited to the race as leader of the 2020 ProTeam classification, along with all 19 WorldTour teams. Wildcard invites have also been invited to B&B Hotels, Arkéa-Samsic, and Total Direct Énergie.

Paris-Nice 2021:

Sunday, March 7th, stage 1: Saint-Cyr-L’École – Saint-Cyr-L’École, 166 km
Monday, March 8th, stage 2: Oinville-sur-Montcient – Amilly, 188 km
Tuesday, March 9th, stage 3: Gien – Gien, 14,4 km (individual time trial)
Wednesday, March 10th, stage 4: Chalon-sur-Saône – Chiroubles, 188 km
Thursday, March 11th, stage 5: Vienne – Bollène, 203 km
Friday, March 12th, stage 6: Brignoles – Biot, 202,5 km
Saturday, March 13th, stage 7: Nice – Valdeblore La Colmiane, 166,5 km
Sunday, March 14th, stage 8: Nice – Nice, 110,5 km