We've gotten used to the form of Paris-Nice, even as its form has changed noticeably over the past decade. There was an early prologue or short time trial followed by windy stages in the northern reaches of France. The stages got more rolling as the route ambled southwards. Then, finally, the Col d'Eze. The iconic climb, never too steep or too long, but just right for producing attacks, is one of the most sure features of the race. In recent years the traditional stage up and over the Col into Nice was swapped out for an uphill time trial, making for two tests against the clock in the eight days of racing.
In short, Paris-Nice has had a time trial, even just a prologue, as long as I can remember. But, not this year.
This year, the race organizing ASO is going back to the race's roots and treating us to eight days of road stages. No prologue, no time trial up the Col d'Eze. Just eight days of gritty racing in the notoriously bad March weather in France. The route will be 1,447 kilometers long, the longest edition of Paris-Nice since 1968, when the race had nine days of racing. It will stand in contrast to Tirreno-Adriatico, which starts off with the now customary team time trial and concludes with a 9.2km time trial. How will the differences in formats affect the racing, and which classics stars go to which race for final training, are something we don't quite know yet.
As the race gets nearer we will look at the route in more detail, but it looks like a good mix of flat and windy with varied climbing stages. Stage 4 includes ramps of up to 25% near the finish and Stage 8 has the traditional climb and descent of the Col d'Eze as the final obstacle between riders and the finish in Nice. Color me intrigued.