In 2020 Paris-Nice became a microcosm of the wider effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the world, with the week-long event eventually cut short as the peloton hurtled southward and infection rates across France skyrocketed. The return of Paris-Nice, then, represents a symbolic anniversary of COVID-19 flipping the cycling world on its head.
A starry field is expected, as major GC hopefuls for the Grand Tours begin their preparations for a summer of fierce competition in the mountains of Italy, France and Spain. Paris-Nice is not without its opportunities for sprinters either, with some of the sport's fastest names expected to participate.
When is Paris-Nice?
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The iconic early-season stage race Paris-Nice will commence on 7 March this year and run until the 14th. Whether the 2021 edition will make it all the way to the end is made somewhat uncertain by the potential for a strict lockdown being introduced in the Alpes-Maritimes department of France, in which Nice is located.
How to watch Paris-Nice 2021
Paris-Nice will be live on Eurosport. Watch the race live and ad-free on the Eurosport app and eurosport.co.uk. You can download the Eurosport app for iOS and Android now.
Who is riding Paris-Nice?
Max Schachmann won the abbreviated 2020 edition of the race and so is expected to return to defend his title. Primož Roglič will make his Paris-Nice debut as he prepares to lead Jumbo-Visma at the Tour de France this year.
Richie Porte is back at the team where he won two editions of the Race to the Sun, albeit with a new title sponsor. The Aussie is one of two potential leaders, with Tao Geoghegan Hart also slated.
Speaking of Geoghegan Hart, Jai Hindley is expected to ride also, as he looks to improve upon his breakthrough ride at the Giro d’Italia which saw him come devastatingly close to a first Grand Tour victory, only to be pipped by the Brit. He is still young enough to contest the young rider jersey at Paris-Nice.
Sprinting talent will be plentiful, with Tour de France green jersey, Sam Bennett, Arnaud Démare and Pascal Ackermann all lining up.
Another youngster expected to take part is Marc Hirschi, who transferred to UAE Team Emirates after being released by Team DSM in strange circumstances. He is expected on the start line or Paris-Nice the day after Strade Bianche, where he is also purported to be in action. It will be fascinating to see how he is deployed by UAE Team Emirates. Will he continue in the swashbuckling stage-hunting style that bagged him a victory at Le Tour last year, or do the team have GC ambitions for him?
Alpecin Fenix as the top-ranked ProTeam, and Arkéa-Samsic, Total Direct Énergie and B&B Hotels p/b KTM are the wildcards.
What is the route for Paris-Nice?
It’s a classic, nicely-balanced Paris-Nice route with sprints, an ITT and mountains.
March 7, Stage 1 (166km): Two laps of a long, lumpy circuit. It’s anybody’s guess whether a break will get away and nick the first yellow jersey of the race, or if the punchier sprinters can hang on to contest the final.
March 8, Stage 2 (188km): Much easier to predict with a likely bunch sprint.
March 9, Stage 3 (14km ITT): An ITT liable to be won by Roglič.
March 10, Stage 4 (188km): The race hits the mountains with a summit finish at Chiroubles. If Roglič is not already in yellow after the TT, expect him to try and take it here.
March 11, Stage 5 (203km): The last opportunity for the sprinters, with a whopping 203 pan-flat kilometres through Isere, Ardeche and Drome before finishing in Bollène.
March 12, Stage 6 (203km): A visit to the hills.
March 13, Stage 7 (167km): The Queen stage. Ends with the final mountain in Valdeblore La Colmiane, a category 1 ascent measuring 16.3km at 6.3%.
March 14, Stage 8 (111km): the race’s last day, is the traditional smash around the hills surrounding Nice. The race lead may yet be up-for-grabs at this point, with the last stage of Paris-Nice frequently providing plenty of fireworks.
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