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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Thursday, January 7, 2021

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2021 Paris-Nice route unveiled

Here's the organizer's post:

January 6th 2021 - 11:40: On March 14, 2020, at La Colmiane, Nairo Quintana won the last stage of Paris-Nice, whose overall winner was Maximilian Schachmann. The Race to the Sun unwittingly became the last major sport event to be held before coronavirus forced a large part of the world into lockdown. Since then, cycling proved its formidable capacity to reinvent itself by staging most of its monuments, and notably the Tour de France, in record time.

The 79th edition of Paris-Nice was determined to return to La Colmiane in 2021. To go full circle. But also and above all to pay homage to the populations of the Tinée and Vésubie valleys, bitterly struck by storms and landslides last October. We could not make it back to Vesubie in 2020. But we will soon return.

To reinvent itself is precisely what Paris-Nice is doing every year, even slightly. And it will again be the case at the start of a 2021 year that we hope to be the season of hopes instead of the season of threats.

Like good wine, Paris-Nice has always made the most of its traditions while adding the touch of novelty which makes each vintage unique. The 2021 edition will look for its most spicy flavours in the mounts of Maconnais and Beaujolais with an extremely hilly 4th stage which should provide one of the most exciting battles of the race. Through the hill of Solutré, two ascents of Mont Brouilly – a classic of the Race to the Sun since Julian Alaphilippe won a time trial there in 2017 –, and a tough finale in Chiroubles, riders will have to swallow 3,500 metres of elevation. Overall positions, already established after a 14-km individual time trial in Gien the previous day, should be settled for a while before the final weekend around Nice, where the race will return to its familiar playground, including La Colmiane, ridden three times in the last four years.

After the Brignoles-Biot ride on Friday, identical to the one held in 2011, the dense final stage will again be held on the hills around Nice on the course that the riders were not allowed to tackle in 2020. Another nail-biting finale is to be expected, bearing in mind that the overall winning margins in 2016, 2017 and 2018 were all under four seconds. For the 12th time, the Grand Depart will take place in the Yvelines department with a stage around Saint-Cyr-l’École, which saw the Tour peloton ride past in September. Recent editions showed that stages in the area were spectacular both for their landscapes and for the fierce competition on its roads.- Christian PRUDHOMME

2021 Paris-Nice map

Map of 2021 Paris-Nice

- For the 12th year in succession, Paris-Nice will start from the Yvelines department. St Cyr L’Ecole will be the start of this 79th edition after Plaisir a year ago.

- The Paris-Nice peloton will tackle the Colmiane climb for the third time in four years. Simon Yates was first at the top of the ascent in 2018 while Nairo Quintana won last year’s final stage year there as Maximilian Schachmann was crowned overall.

- For the 79th edition of Paris-Nice, Century 21 will sponsor the best young rider’s white jersey. Antargaz also becomes an official partner of Paris-Nice as the sponsor of the most aggressive rider classification.

Since 1933 Paris-Nice has come of age but by remaining faithful to its traditions while bringing in new ideas, the Race to the Sun has remained the reference stage race of the early season. The 2021 vintage will look to the hillsides of Maconnais and Beaujolais for added flavour in an extremely bumpy 4th stage which should be one of the highlights of the edition. “We needed a hard-fought stage early in the race, said race director François Lemarchand. The riders tend to have their habits and it’s our duty to try and unsettle them a little.” The peloton will ride the Hill of Solutré, then will twice climb Mont Brouilly, made famous by Julian Alaphilippe’s time trial victory in 2017, before reaching a tough new finale in Chiroubles with a 7.3-km ascent at 6 pc. In all, the riders will have to swallow 3,500c metres of elevation.

Overall positions, already established by a 14.5-km individual time trial on flat terrain around Gien the day before, should become even clearer before the final weekend around Nice, where the race will return to its traditional playground. The Colmiane pass, in the Valdeblore valley overlooking Nice, is becoming a regular fixture of Paris-Nice after the victories by Simon Yates in 2018 and Nairo Quintana in 2020 and the peloton will have a thought for the populations of the Vesubie, Tinee and Roya valleys, badly hit by storms and landslides last October. “Unfortunately, we cannot go back to the Vesubie valley for now, but we had to return to La Colmiane to pay homage to the population,” said François Lemarchand.

The Brignoles to Biot stage on the Friday is identical to the stage held in 2011 on the same course, with the ascent of Col du Ferrier halfway through, while the short and intense finale in the Nice hinterland on the Sunday, which the riders were forced to shun in 2020, will follow the same route as in 2019, with Côte de Peille and Col d’Eze among the main climbs. Everybody knows how close this last stage can be as the victories by Geraint Thomas in 2016, Sergio Henao in 2017 and Marc Soler in 2018 were all won by margins of under four seconds.

The race starter will be held for 12th time in the Yvelines department, outside Paris, for a Grand Depart in St Cyr l’Ecole, through which the Tour de France rode in September. Like last year – and it will also be the case for the second stage between Oinville-sur-Montcient and Amilly –, weather conditions and especially sidewinds could be damaging and prevent sprinters to have the final say. A bunch sprint looks likely however in the 5th stage in the Rhone Valley between Vienne and Bollene.

The stages:

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

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