Paris-Nice 2018: attack !
Taking place between 4th and 11th March, the first major European stage race in 2018 will start from Chatou in the Yvelines department and will present opportunities to all types of riders.Punchers will have pride of place on the very first day, before the turn of the sprinters, followed by riders strong on the flat during an individual time-trial halfway through the race, in Saint-Etienne. The battle for the title could be fought by the climbers on the La Colmiane stage, but the last day and its re-arranged route will provide plenty of opportunities for attacking riders before the final verdict on the shores of the Mediterranean in Nice.
Paris-Nice can be won by a mere matter of seconds. This thrilling scenario occurred last year, with a last gasp 2 second victory by Sergio Henao over Alberto Contador, as well as in 2016 when Geraint Thomas finished the race 4 seconds ahead of Alberto Contador once again. For the 76th edition, the programme concocted offers potential for surprises and gives priority to attacking riders. The Race to the Sun will start for the 9th consecutive time from the Yvelines department, with a format that could once again give rise to a variety of scenarios. The first stage between Chatou and Meudon will be rounded off with an uphill finish on which the runners of Paris-Versailles are used to suffering, though this time it is likely to smile on Ardennes Classics specialists thanks to the 1.9-km climb (with a 6% average gradient) terminating at the Observatory. Afterwards, the roads leading to Vierzon (on stage 2) and then to Chatel-Guyon (stage 3) should be well-suited to the sprinters' teams, though a decisive stage in the race will take place in Saint-Etienne, with an 18.4-km individual time trial on which the pretenders for the title will have to show their power.
Fortune will favour the brave as the race tackles the fortifications of Sisteron (on stage 5), whilst a high-intensity final trio of stages that has again been retained on the menu, for one hell of a final battle. This time, the first act that will put the climbers to the fore will take place on the stage finishing in Vence, where the pack will arrive in scattered formation, after having ascended the Côte de la Colle-sur-Loup slope 10 km from the finish. The following day, a genuine climbing challenge will face the favourites, who will do battle on the race's unprecedented final 16-km ascent leading to the La Colmiane resort. Anything could still be possible on the last stage looping around Nice, especially due to the changes made this year for the finish: the climb up the Col d'Eze pass by a different side which will be followed by a short distance of 9 km between the final difficulty, the Col des Quatre Chemins pass, and the finishing line, where every second will count.
- Sunday, March 4th, stage 1 : Chatou > Meudon, 135 km
- Monday, March 5th, stage 2 : Orsonville > Vierzon, 187 km
- Tuesday, March 6th, stage 3 : Bourges > Châtel-Guyon, 210 km
- Wednesday, March 7th, stage 4 : La Fouillouse > Saint-Étienne, 18,4 km (individual time-trial)
- Thursday, March 8th, stage 5 : Salon-de-Provence > Sisteron, 163,5 km
- Friday, March 9th, stage 6: Sisteron > Vence, 188 km
- Saturday, March 10th, stage 7 : Nice > Valdeblore La Colmiane, 175 km
- Sunday, March 11th, stage 8 : Nice > Nice, 110 km