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Feb 25, 2016 – A duo of two-time Paris–Nice winners stands out among the numerous contenders vying for victory from March 6 to 13. Defending champion Richie Porte was still Alberto Contador’s teammate when the Spaniard last took part in the race, all the way back in 2010. A lifetime ago…
The Race to the Sun is often filled with question marks, and the answers provided on the Promenade des Anglais or the Col d’Èze cannot always be extrapolated to other events. However, the prize on offer in Nice would make any rider proud… and sets the tune for the season. Pretenders to the crown in 2016 will need to hit the ground running in the prologue in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, marshal a strong team to avoid nasty surprises on the way to places such as Vendôme and Mont Brouilly and, most importantly, make the difference on the climb to La Madone d’Utelle, the vantage point where the penultimate stage will be decided. Two-time winner (2013 and 2015) Richie Porte boosted his title defence bid by casting off the domestique shackles holding him back in Sky. He claimed his first scalp at the helm of BMC by taking the queen stage of the Tour Down Under, a race he finished in second place overall.
The Australian will try and kick it up a notch in Paris–Nice, but he will be facing stiffer competition. Alberto Contador, another two-time victor (2007 and 2010), looks well placed to bring home the bacon in his return to the Race to the Sun after a five-year hiatus. “El Pistolero” marked the start of his 2016 season with an impressive summit victory in stage 5 of the Volta ao Algarve but, just like in Portugal, he will have to keep a vigilant eye on the ever-consistent Geraint Thomas, now wearing the leader’s mantle in Sky. The 15 km climb to La Madone d’Utelle could also play into the hands of Romain Bardet, who was only beaten by Vincenzo Nibali on Oman’s Green Mountain. Tom Dumoulin limited his losses to the French climber to under ten seconds in that stage, and Paris–Nice could be an opportunity for him to consolidate his evolution into a stage-race rider. Andrew Talansky, Pierre Rolland, Rui Costa, Simon Yates and Jérôme Coppel also have what it takes to aim for a podium spot or even higher.
The weel-long Paris–Nice will reveal the state of play among the Grand Tour contenders, but it also has something in store for the fast men. With Milan–San Remo looming in the horizon, sprint hunters such as Greipel, Matthews, Kittel, Kristoff, Bouhanni and Démare will be on the prowl. Some will have to go home empty-handed, especially considering the profusion of power riders ready to outwit their teams in tricky finishes: Gallopin, Gilbert, Chavanel, Albasini, Westra, Gougeard and Vichot will be ready to pounce.
Orica-GreenEDGE: Albasini (SUI), Matthews (AUS) and Yates (GBR)
Etixx–Quick-Step: Kittel (GER), Boonen (BEL) and Terpstra (NED)
Lotto-Soudal: Gallopin (FRA), De Gendt (BEL) and Greipel (GER)
Ag2r–La Mondiale: Bardet, Vuillermoz and Gougeard (FRA)
Fortuneo-Vital Concept: Fédrigo (FRA) and Sepúlveda (ARG)
Cofidis, Solutions Crédits: Bouhanni and Simon (FRA)
FDJ: Démare and Vichot (FRA)
Direct Énergie: Chavanel and Voeckler (FRA)
Delko Marseille Provence KTM: Duque (COL) and Martinez (FRA)
Team Giant–Alpecin: T. Dumoulin (NED) and Geschke (GER)
Team Sky: Thomas (GBR) and Nieve (ESP)
Lampre-Merida: R. Costa (POR) and Meintjes (RSA)
Astana Pro Team: Boom, Westra (NED) and L. L. Sánchez (ESP)
Team LottoNL–Jumbo: Kelderman and Kruijswijk (NED)
Team Katusha: Kristoff (NOR), Špilak (SLO) and Zakarin (RUS)
Tinkoff: Contador (ESP) and Majka (POL)
Dimension Data: Farrar (USA), J. Janse van Rensburg (RSA) and Reguigui (LG)
Movistar Team: Dowsett (GBR), Herrada and Rojas (ESP)
IAM Cycling: Coppel (FRA) and Denifl (AUT)
BMC Racing Team: Porte, Dennis (AUS) and Gilbert (BEL)
Cannondale: Rolland (FRA), Slagter (NED) and Talansky (USA)
Trek-Segafredo: Didier and F. Schleck (LUX)