Paris-Nice is famed for is mixture of terrain with flat sprint finishes, rolling hills, mountain stages and time trials, it is in effect a miniature Tour de France. The winner must be a strong all-round contender harbouring the same abilities and qualities that it would take to possibly win a Grand Tour.
Last year of course many will remember this race for Bradley Wiggins domination of the general classification, taking the yellow jersey on stage 2 and carrying it all the way to the finish - the first time a Brit has done so since Tommy Simpson in 1969. The podium was rounded out by Lieuwe Westra and Aleandro Valverde - a pretty strong looking podium.
Other names mentioned as favourites include Tejay Van Garderen and Andrew Talansky, both up-and-coming riders but cream of the crop? Not exactly. So why has this race suddenly taken more of a back-seat amongst the big named riders? Where are Wiggins, Froome, Cadel Evans, Alberto Contador and Joaquim Rodriguez?
Well Bradley Wiggins isn't here to defend his title mainly because his goals are different this year - with a focus on the Giro d'Italia instead of the Tour it means taking a different route through early season to get the necessary benefits, and in the case of Wiggins this is unlikely to be achieved through racing as he is now following Sky's 'race less, train more' model put in place this year by Skys head of performance Tim Kerrison.
The other names in that list will be racing this week - at Tirreno-Adriatico starting this coming Wednesday. A race Ivan Basso describes as 'Ideal preparation for Grand Tours' Tirreno-Adriatico is far more undulating than Paris-Nice and features an extremely difficult mountain stage with a 14km 7% summit finish. Ivan Basso is right, this is a race for Climbers and Grand Tour riders.
|A podium worthy of the Tour de France In Oman this year|
A full and comprehensive preview of Paris-Nice can be found over at the Inner Ring blog and I will be dipping in to the stages and keeping up with the race here as usual. A full preview of Tirreno-Adriatico can be found here nearer the time. Whatever happens, it's going to be one hell of a weeks racing ahead...