ASO shakes up Paris-Nice format, unveils nervous route lacking time trial or summit finishes
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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

ASO shakes up Paris-Nice format, unveils nervous route lacking time trial or summit finishes

by Shane Stokes at 10:49 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Paris-Nice
Revised course designed to promote attacking riding and tactical intelligence

Paris NiceFeaturing some steep climbs but lacking either a summit finish or a time trial, the route unveiled today of the 2014 Paris-Nice will place a clear emphasis on tactics and launching attacks at the right time.

Unlike the past two years which featured a time trial to the top of the Col d’Eze, this year’s race doesn’t provide any concessions to the experts against the clock. Instead, punchy, aggressive riders are more likely to succeed in the so-called Race to the Sun.

“This year, the route across France will force everyone to be on their guard at all times, knowing that no stage will give a decisive advantage to a consistent rouleur or an unbeatable climber,” stated race organisers ASO when unveiling the details. “The elimination of the time trial, giving way to eight road stages that are mainly designed as one-day classics, means that the brute strength of the time-triallists will not be rewarded this year.”

It said that the three previous winners, namely Tony Martin, Bradley Wiggins and Richie Porte, would be the ones who would likely suffer most from the removal of the time trial. ASO also pointed out that the total race distance had been extended to 1447 kilometres [904 miles], which is the longest distance since 1968.

However on that occasion, the race was one day longer at nine days.

The 72nd edition of the race will begin in the Yvelines area for the fifth consecutive time, the riders rolling out on Sunday March 9th. The opening leg rolls out from the town of Mantes-la-Jolie and, 162.5 kilometres later, races back into the same location for what is expected to be a big bunch sprint.

ASO is yet to release the profiles for all of the stages but it is expected that day two is another flat race. It begins in Rambouillet and concludes 205 kilometres later in Saint-Georges-sur-Baulche. The weather conditions and pattern of racing will determine if a bunch sprint or a breakaway will contest the finish.

Stage three continues the trek down south and runs 180 kilometres from Toucy to the Circuit de Nevers Magny-Cours. The riders will fight it out for the stage win on the motor racing circuit there, and again a bunch sprint looks like the likely outcome.

Things will be shaken up the following day during the 201.5 kilometre race from Nevers to Belleville. The peloton will race up the tough Mount Brouilly climb, which includes sections at 25% steepness. This will blow the bunch apart and, with only a short downhill run to the finish, will likely see a reshuffling of the general classification.

The action continues to heat up on stage five, which extends 152.5 kilometres from Crêches-sur-Saône to Rive-de-Gier. The stage includes four categorised climbs and while they are mostly category three ascents, the cat two Côte de Sainte Catherine is 12.5 kilometres long and tops out just over ten kilometres from the finish.

Stage six from Saint-Saturnin-lès-Avignon to Fayence is 221.5 kilometres long and is flatter than the previous day’s race, but does include the Mur de Fayence climb.

Things get considerably lumpier for the final two days of racing. Five climbs lurk on the seventh stage from Mougins to Biot Sofia Antipolis, including the first category Col de Vence and the identically-ranked Col de l’Êcre, but the final climb, the Côte de Gourdon comes a fully 64 kilometres from the finish. The effect of the climbs will be neutered as a result, with some sort of regrouping likely.

The final day of racing in Nice looks better-made to really shake things up; there are again five climbs littered along the route, but the last two of those are category one. The Côte de Peille is followed by the Col d’Èze and with just 13.5 kilometres from the summit to the line, a late change in the general classification is certainly possible.

The chances of this are further boosted by the presence of time bonuses on the finish line.

ASO states that the overall characteristics of the route should lead to nervous, aggressive racing. “As well as the absence of a time-trial, the search for steep, rough climbs rather than highly selective ascents will reward audacity over the natural talent of the mountaineers,” it says.

“The spreading out of difficulties will, however, allow the most decisive riders to make their mark on the hardest sections, where the seconds won will have a big effect by the time the peloton reaches the Promenade des Anglais in Nice.”

Paris Nice 2014:

Stage 1, Sunday 9 March: Mantes-la-Jolie - Mantes-la-Jolie, 162.5 km
Stage 2, Monday 10 March: Rambouillet - Saint-Georges-sur-Baulche, 205 km
Stage 3, Tuesday 11 March: Toucy - Circuit de Nevers Magny-Cours, 180 km
Stage 4, Wednesday 12 March: Nevers - Belleville, 201.5 km
Stage 5, Thursday 13 March: Crêches-sur-Saône - Rive-de-Gier, 152.5 km
Stage 6, Friday 14 March: Saint-Saturnin-lès-Avignon - Fayence, 221.5 km
Stage 7, Saturday 15 March: Mougins - Biot Sofia Antipolis, 195.5 km
Stage 8, Sunday 16 March: Nice - Nice, 128 km


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