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The “Race to the Sun” will climb closer to the sky than ever before in 2017.
The 75th edition of the spring stage race Paris-Nice will follow its traditional southeasterly course from March 5-12 and will be highlighted by a summit finish at Col de la Couillole, reaching 5,500 feet. It will be the highest point ever reached in the race.
The race features two uphill finishes (stages 6 and 7), a tough time trial with an uphill finish in stage 4, and a lumpy, short, potentially aggressive eighth stage. Assuming the weather holds, it will be a race for the true climbers.
Paris-Nice will open with two sprinter stages in the country’s midsection before diving into the mountains in its second half. The first stage will be a criterium-style race in Bois d’Arcy, followed by a traditional sprint stage to Amilly.
The overall battle will begin in earnest on stage 4, a TT that finishes on Mont Brouilly — which returns to the event after it was removed from the race last year due to inclement weather. The final 3 kilometers of the stage average 7.7 percent and top out over 10 percent.
Time gaps from the TT will be tested in stages 6 and 7, which both feature uphill finishes, and stage 8, a mountainous stage finishing with a drop down Col d’Eze into Nice.
Stage 6 finishes atop the short, steep (9.8 percent over 1.1km) category 2 climb to Feyence. Five previous categorized climbs will sap the legs before the peloton ever gets there.
Stage 7 will cover familiar roads for riders based in Nice and Monaco. It heads into the maritime Alps from Nice over the Col de Vence (9.7m at 6.6 percent) and Col Saint-Martin – La Colmiane (7.5km at 7.2 percent) before reaching the climb to the finish at the top of Col de la Couillole (15.7km at 7.1 percent). Time gaps up to this point are likely to hover around a minute or less; the Couillole should prove decisive.
Stage 8 starts and ends in Nice and is short (115km), with five categorized climbs. It appears organizers are keen to recreate the GC turmoil of similar stages in 2015 and 2016. Watch for fireworks, particularly if the weather is bad.
The traditional finish on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice has been changed out of respect to the 86 people who lost their lives in a terrorist attack there last July. Stage 8 will finish further down the coast in Quai des Etats-Unis.
Stage 1: March 5, Bois-d’Arcy, 148.5km
Stage 2: March 6, Rochefort-en-Yvelines to Amilly, 192.5km
Stage 3: March 7, Chablis to Chalon-sur-Saône, 190km
Stage 4: March 8, Beaujeu to Mont-Brouilly, 14.5 km TT
Stage 5: March 9, Quincié-en-Beaujolais to Bourg-de-Péage, 199.5km
Stage 6: March 10, Aubagne to Fayence, 192km
Stage 7: March 11, Nice to Col de la Couillole, 177km
Stage 8: March 12, Nice, 115.5km