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61st Paris-Nice - 2.HC

France, March 9-16, 2003

2002 Results     Preview    Stages and results     Start list    Past winners

Dramatic climbing finale planned in Nice

By Chris Henry

Click for larger image
Alexandre Vinokourov after winning the 2002 Paris-Nice
Photo: © Yuzuru Sunada

The 61st edition of the Paris-Nice stage race (March 9-16) was unveiled on the 22nd of January 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

Past winners

2002    Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Team Telekom              
2001    Dario Frigo (Ita) Fassa Bortolo
2000    Andreas Klöden (Ger) Deutsche Telekom
1999    Michael Boogerd (Ned) Rabobank
1998    Frank Vandenbroucke (Bel) Mapei-Bricobi
1997    Laurent Jalabert (Fra)
1996    Laurent Jalabert (Fra)
1995    Laurent Jalabert (Fra)
1994    Tony Rominger (Swi)
1993    Alex Zülle (Swi)
1992    Jean-Francois Bernard (Fra)
1991    Tony Rominger (Swi)
1990    Miguel Indurain (Spa)
1989    Miguel Indurain (Spa)
1988    Sean Kelly (Ire)
1987    Sean Kelly (Ire)
1986    Sean Kelly (Ire)
1985    Sean Kelly (Ire)
1984    Sean Kelly (Ire)
1983    Sean Kelly (Ire)
1982    Sean Kelly (Ire)
1981    Stephen Roche (Ire)
1980    Gilbert Duclos-Lassalle (Fra)
1979    Joop Zoetemelk (Ned)
1978    Gerrie Knetemann (Ned)
1977    Freddy Maertens (Bel)
1976    Michel Laurent (Fra)
1975    Joop Zoetemelk (Ned)
1974    Joop Zoetemelk (Ned)
1973    Raymond Poulidor (Fra)
1972    Raymond Poulidor (Fra)
1971    Eddy Merckx (Bel)
1970    Eddy Merckx (Bel)
1969    Eddy Merckx (Bel)
1968    Rolf Wolfshohl (Ger)
1967    Tom Simpson (GB)
1966    Jacques Anquetil (Fra)
1965    Jacques Anquetil (Fra)
1964    Jan Janssen (Ned)
1963    Jacques Anquetil (Fra)
1962    Joseph Planckaert (Bel)
1961    Jacques Anquetil (Fra)
1960    Raymond Impanis (Bel)
1959    Jean Graczyk (Fra)
1958    Alfred De Bruyne (Bel)
1957    Jacques Anquetil (Fra)
1956    Alfred De Bruyne (Bel)
1955    Jean Bobet (Fra)
1954    Raymond Impanis (Bel)
1953    Jean-Pierre Munch (Fra)
1952    Louis Bobet (Fra)
1951    Roger Decock (Bel)
1946    Fermo Camellini (Ita)
1939    Maurice Archambaud (Fra)
1938    Jules Lowie (Bel)
1937    Roger Lapebie (Fra)
1936    Maurice Archambaud (Fra)
1935    René Vietto (Fra)
1934    Gaston Rebry (Bel)
1933    Alfons Schepers (Bel)
Past winners by Mario Stiehl, www.world-of-cycling.com

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