A foretaste of the Tour de France… and the Olympics
December 12 th 2023 - 11:10
The modern Tour de France turns each stage into a classic and Paris-Nice, a spring appetiser of the biggest cycling race on Earth, subscribes very much to the same philosophy. François Lemarchand and Yannick Talabardon wanted to make the 2024 edition of the Course au soleil (Race to the Sun) a real… classic. They have spent the last few editions perfecting a winning formula and, as the saying goes, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it". These eight days of racing will take the race convoy and spectators on a trip down memory lane, with places that are part and parcel of the history of the event, such as Montargis, the Mont Brouilly and Sisteron.
Due to the short interval between the two races, the Critérium du Dauphiné usually doubles as the dress rehearsal for the Grande Boucle, but with the 2024 Tour finishing in Nice, our spring event will play this role for a change. The weekend in the Nice area will not be a carbon copy of what we will see in July, but it will use long stretches of future Tour de France stages, including the Saturday escapade to Auron —which has never hosted a finish before—, contested on roads near La Couillole and Isola 2000. On Sunday, the drag up the Col d'Èze will again be one of the critical junctures of the finale.
As I said earlier, the rest of the race will be a preview of the classics, with the usual hilly loop around Yvelines, this time centred on Les Mureaux. It will be the fifteenth start of the race in this department, which is scheduled to host the lion's share of the cycling events in the Olympics. This brush with the Olympic Games will be followed by a wind-battered stage leading the riders from Thoiry to Montargis. Paris-Nice is also bringing back two finishes that have had to be cancelled due to inclement weather in recent years, taking the peloton from Chalon-sur-Saône to the Mont Brouilly, where a similar finish had to be scrapped in 2016, on a course including La Colle-sur-Loup, a year after a storm doused the fire of the peloton. The elevation gains of these two stages promise a lively race in which all hell will break loose.
There will also be something for the sprinters, who will get their chance in the first two stages and again in the one stretching from Saint-Sauveur-de-Montagut to Sisteron.
Finally, the team time trial format introduced in 2023 —in which each team is timed on the first rider to cross the finish line— piqued the interest of the riders and TV viewers enough to earn a repeat on a circuit around Auxerre, with a sting in the tail in the shape of a final climb where the leaders can turn on the gas.