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Photo ©: Schaaf

News for January 22, 2003

2003 Paris-Nice presentation

Dramatic climbing finale planned in Nice

By Chris Henry

The 61st edition of the Paris-Nice stage race (March 9-16) was unveiled today in Issy-les-Moulineaux, outside of Paris, France. Preparing for its second year of ownership of the event, previously run by former pro and Tour de France winner Laurent Fignon, the Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) has created an eight day event that's sure to provide a worthy winner in Nice.

Dubbed the "race to the sun," Paris-Nice begins once again outside of Paris in Issy-les-Moulineaux with a short but demanding prologue time trial of 4.8km. Following a transfer south to Auxerre, the road stages begin the following day, taking the peloton from the cold and drizzly spring of the Ile de France region, to what all would hope will be warmer and sunnier conditions in the south.

The parcours
© A.S.O. 2003
Click for larger image

The first stage from Auxerre to Paray-le-Monial should offer the sprinters a perfect test over the 191km course, which includes two Category 3 climbs and two intermediate sprints, but no major difficulties to shake up the race. All that will change quickly enough, as Stage 2 takes the riders from La Clayette to Saint Etienne. The climbing begins in earnest, with three Cat. 3 climbs, one Cat. 2, and the Category 1 Col de la Croix-de-Chaubouret, which riders will cross before plummeting into Saint Etienne. Daniel Baal, Director of Cycling for ASO, hopes the stage will be animated not only by the climbs, but the rapid descent to the finish.

Stage 3 offers a bit of a respite, with two Category 3 climbs between Le Puy-en-Velay and Le Pont du Gard, but an overall elevation drop and a flat finish. Race director Jean-Marie Leblanc offered the stage, which will finish near the famous Pont du Gard, as a benefit to the region which suffered dramatic flooding in September 2002.

The 2003 Paris-Nice will feature a second time trial in the middle of the event, although this race against the clock may not produce great time gaps in the overall classification. The parcours is dead-flat, and relatively short at only 16.5km. The course pays a visit to the famous Perrier water source near Vergèze, which as Baal joked, "takes the race back to the source of its sponsorship."

Whether or not the leader board changes dramatically in the time trial, the following day's Stage 5 will again head to the hills, ending with the race's only mountain top finish. Over a shorter parcours of 152.5km, riders will tackle three Category 3 climbs, two Category 2, and the 1st Category drag up the Mont Faron. Paris-Nice has visited Mont Faron on a number of occasions, although this year the ascent will be from the 'other' side of the mountain.

Stage 6 presents yet another challenge for the peloton, covering 194.5km between Toulon and Cannes. With plenty of Category 2 and 3 climbs, as well as one 1st Category ascent, the day will be ripe for attacks. Anything is possible, however, and on a similar course in the 2002 Paris-Nice, Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo) won in a bunch sprint after a day full of attacks in the mountains.

Five climb finale
© A.S.O. 2003
Click for larger image

A fixture of Paris-Nice has traditionally been the climb up the Col d'Eze, either in an individual time trial or a road stage. Italy's Dario Frigo has won on top of the Col d'Eze for the last two years, both against the clock and against the bunch. This year, however, the race organisers have a dramatic finale in mind for the final stage based around Nice.

Keeping with tradition, the race will begin and end on the Promenade des Anglais, however that's as far as the tradition goes.This year's Stage 7, totaling 160km, will take riders on three circuits out of Nice and back again, the first two of which include both the Col d'Eze and the Category 2 Col de Châteauneuf. The final circuit will be shorter, taking in the Col d'Eze one final time, with the summit lying only 16km from the finish in Nice. With five climbs and the final ascent so close to the finish, the closing stage could keep the overall winner a mystery right down to the wire.

The Stages:

Prologue - March 9: Issy-les-Moulineaux ITT, 4.8 km
Stage 1 - March 10: Auxerre - Paray-le-Monial, 191 km
Stage 2 - March 11: La Clayette - Saint Etienne, 182.5 km
Stage 3 - March 12: Le Puy-en-Velay - Le Pont du Gard, 192.5 km
Stage 4 - March 13: Source Perrier (Vergèze) ITT, 16.5 km
Stage 5 - March 14: Aix-en-Provence - Toulon (Mont Faron), 152.5 km
Stage 6 - March 15: Toulon - Cannes, 194.5 km
Stage 7 - March 16: Nice - Nice, 160 km

Total: 1,094 km

The Teams:

The 2003 Paris-Nice will feature 20 Division I teams of eight riders. The following teams are expected to compete, along with their protagonists:

Ag2R-Prévoyance (Botcharov, Brochard, Oriol)
Brioches La Boulangère (Bouyer, S. Chavanel, Rous)
Team Coast (unconfirmed)
Cofidis (Kivilev, Mattan, Moncoutié)
Crédit Agricole (Hushovd, Ljungquist, Moreau)
Team CSC (Hamilton, N. Jalabert, Sastre, Tafi)
EDS-fakta (Arvesen, Høj, Sunderland)
Euskaltel-Euskadi (D. Etxebarria, U. Etxebarria, Sanchez)
Fassa Bortolo (unconfirmed) (Casar, Cooke, Robin, Vogondy)
Gerolsteiner (Bölts, Rebellin, Schmidt)
Jean Delatour (Halgand, Lefevre, J-P Nazon)
Kelme-Costa Blanca (Latasa, A. Rodriguez, Tauler)
Lotto-Domo (McEwen, Merckx, Van Bon)
Milaneza-MSS (Cardoso, Edo, Moller)
ONCE-Eroski (Arroyo, Zarrabeita, Zerrano)
Phonak (Camenzind, Martinez, Salmon)
Quick-Step-Davitamon (Bodrogi, Boonen, Vandenbroucke, Virenque)
Saeco-Longoni Sport (Commesso, Quaranta, Simoni)
Team Telekom (Aerts, Nardello, Vinokourov)

Previous winners:

2002 Alexandre Vinokourov
2001 Dario Frigo
2000 Andreas Klöden
1999 Michael Boogerd
1998 Franck Vandenbroucke
1997 Laurent Jalabert
1996 Laurent Jalabert
1995 Laurent Jalabert
1994 Tony Rominger
1993 Alex Zülle






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