Paris-Nice marks the first major stage race in the World Tour calendar. The eight-stage race starts on March 5 and continues through to the 12th.
Team Sky have dominated the event in recent history, winning four of the last five. But this year, none of their previous winners – Bradley Wiggins, Geraint Thomas, and Richie Porte – will be representing the team. Wiggins has retired, while Thomas is passing on the race. As for Porte? He’ll be at the start line, but in BMC colors.
Sky have decided not to send their biggest guns, Chris Froome and Mikel Landa, to the event, instead fielding a relatively weak line-up and leaving the door open for the other teams.
That doesn’t mean a watered-down field, though. The line-up this year is pretty stacked. In addition to Porte, legends Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) will be in the peloton, along with rising star Romain Bardet (AG2R).
Who will win the “race to the sun” this year?
Odds to win 2017 Paris-Nice
Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo): 7/3
Contador fought tooth and nail against Team Sky’s Geraint Thomas last year but ultimately came up short, finishing four seconds back of the Welshman. Now 34 years old, Contador has decided to target fewer races this season, and the Paris-Nice is one of them. He already has two Paris-Nice victories on his palmares (2007, 2010) and the seven-time Grand Tour winner is the favorite for 2017.
Richie Porte (BMC Racing Team): 4/1
Porte is also a two-time winner of Paris-Nice (2013, 2015 with Team Sky), but since leaving for BMC, the Australian has been fairly disappointing. This event is his chance to silence the critics and win his first major race for his new team. The Tasmanian started 2017 with a comfortable win at the Tour Down Under, but Paris-Nice will be his first real test of the season.
Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale): 17/3
UAE Team Emirates threw everything they had at the Abu Dhabi Tour last week, and their efforts were greatly rewarded after Rui Costa took home the win. French team AG2R La Mondiale will have a similar approach for Paris-Nice, throwing their weight behind the young Romain Bardet.
But the line-up for Paris-Nice is a couple of notches above Abu Dhabi, and Bardet will have to pull off something special in order to beat Contador and Porte.
Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team): 17/3
Valverde is off to a great start this year, with two big wins at the Vuelta a Andalucía and Vuelta a Murcia. The Spanish veteran boasts an impressive resume, but Paris-Nice is one event he’s never managed to win. He’s likely to ride in support of team leader Nairo Quintana in the Grand Tours again this year, so expect him to put everything he’s got into the few races where he’s Movistar’s go-to guy.
Simon Yates (ORICA-Scott): 19/1
Last year, Simon Yates tested positive for a banned substance during Paris-Nice and was issued a four-month ban for “non-intentional doping”. The ban was a huge disruption to the youngster’s season, but he’s back this year to make his mark. He’s young and undeniably talented, but besting this field would mark a significant jump for the Aussie.
Photo credit: denismenchov08, CC BY-SA 2.0 [http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0], via Flickr.