Paris-Nice is the inaugural European WorldTour stage race of the season.
Raced across eight days, beginning on 7th March this year and ending on 14th March, Paris-Nice holds great prestige in cycling. The first edition took place back in 1933. Sean Kelly gained legendary-status at Paris-Nice when he won seven years in a row from 1982-1988.
Image credit: Alex Broadway/ASO/SWpix
As the name states, riders and teams will begin in France’s capital and finish on the Southern coast in Nice.
‘The Race to the Sun’, as the race is often called, signifies that the riders often are subject to harsh conditions in Northern France across the first few stages, before finishing in the sunshine on the Southern Coast.
The race features eight stages, with a mixture of flat terrain, mountains, time-trials, and everything in between. The first day is full of short climbs on a circuit around Saint-Cyr-l'École, whilst stage two is the first clear opportunity for the sprinters. Stage three around Gien is the only time-trial on this year’s route. At only 14km, it is not the longest but requires the GC-favourites to be on-form. Pippo Ganna will not be present in France, so there will be a chance for someone else to win the stage, too!
Stage 1 of Paris-Nice 2021 (Image credit: La Flamme Rouge)
Stage 4 is a brutal day to Chiroubles with over 3500 metres of climbing. The riders finish atop a climb of 7.7km @ 5.5%. After a flat day on stage five, stage six features one of the longest climbs of the race: the Col du Ferrier.
The climb takes place mid-way through the stage which finishes in Biot. Stage seven is the queen stage and finishes atop the Valdeblore La Colmiane (16.3km @ 6.2%), whilst the final stage is the typical stage in and around Nice, featuring an array of famous climbs including Col d’Eze.
Stage 8 of Paris-Nice 2021 (Image credit: La Flamme Rouge)
Primoz Roglic in the yellow jersey at the 2020 Tour de France (Image credit: Alex Whitehead/SWpix)
Maxi Schachmann is the reigning winner of Paris-Nice. He won stage one last year and held the yellow jersey for the entire race, despite showing some weakness on the Valdeblore La Colmiane. The German returns this year and the presence of a time-trial and plenty of short hills will give him a chance of going back-to-back.
However, there is one stand-out favourite in France. This is Primoz Roglic’s first appearance at Paris-Nice and he will be making his season debut at the race this year. The last time we saw Roglic in a bike race, he was riding to victory at the Vuelta Espana, just holding off Richard Carapaz’ late surge. If Roglic is on form, he will be very difficult to beat.
As ever, the INEOS Grenadiers enter the race with a strong team. Richie Porte and Tao Geoghegan Hart could lead the British outfit, both riders achieved a Grand Tour podium last season.
Thibaut Pinot announced that he will be riding the Giro d’Italia instead of the Tour de France later in the year, therefore, David Gaudu will lead Groupama-FDJ at the 2021 Tour de France. The Frenchman will continue to prepare for the race in France at Paris-Nice. He ended 2020 in fine form when he claimed two stage wins at the Vuelta a España and is improving every season. He has already won this season at the Faun-Ardèche Classic and could threaten again here.
Jai Hindley was runner-up to Tao Geoghegan Hart at the Giro last year in a nail-biting finish. He will kick-off his 2021 campaign at Paris-Nice with renewed expectations: one of the strongest climbers in the peloton. The time-trial will hamper him, though he still should be considered.
Astana Premier-Tech can be somewhat disappointed with their 2021 campaign so far. Alex Vlasov has not quite been able to match his form from last year yet, though he could make a step in the right direction at Paris-Nice. Riding alongside Alexey Lutsenko and Ion Izagirre, Astana have a strong squad.
Favourites: Primož Roglič
Outsiders: David Gaudu, Alex Vlasov, Tao Geoghegan Hart, Jai Hindley, Wout Poels, Ben O'Connor
Cover photo: Alex Whitehead/SWpix