Paris-Nice, Tirreno-Adriatico showdown: which is the winner?

Andrew Hood and Jim Cotton take sides on which of the spring's marquee stage races gets them more stoked.

Photo: Luc Claessen/Getty Images

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There’s a glut of world-class stage racing this week in Europe, with Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico running simultaneously across France and Italy.

In many ways, it’s a shame that arguably the most important one-week stage races in each respective nations overlap.

There’s the glitz and noise of the “Race of the Two Seas,” versus the old-school glamour and grit of the “Race to the Sun.” Both deliver interesting sub-plots, and set up the peloton for the spring classics and the grand tours looming on the horizon.

Thanks to live feeds, it’s now possible to switch back and forth between both. And organizers are smart enough to at least stagger the finish line times so they’re both not sprinting for glory at the same time.

Still, if you have to choose one, which would it be?

Both races this year feature world-class fields and interesting courses. Each have unique histories and cultural backdrops. So which one is the better race? Our VeloNews editors face off:

Hoody: Paris-Nice

Primož Roglič celebrates victory at the 2022 Paris-Nice. (Photo: Bas Czerwinski/Getty Images)

AH: There was once a time that Paris-Nice was among the calendar’s most prestigious races. And in many ways, it still is.

If the route that romps from the dreary late-winter doldrums of northern France to the sunny beaches of the Côte d’Azur wasn’t enough, Paris-Nice’s deep field and well-balanced and challenging route puts it at a high level.

Some are quick to call the Critérium du Dauphiné France’s second most important stage race behind the Tour, I insist — as do many others — that it’s Paris-Nice that deserves that honor.

The race is a Tour de France in miniature, with stages for sprinters, climbers, attackers, and GC riders blowing out the cobwebs following a winter’s respite.

Organizers at Tirreno-Adriatico deserve credit for upping their game. The “Race of the Two Seas” used to be little more than a Milan-San Remo training camp, with riders like Óscar Freire and Fabian Cancellara among its former winners.

That Tirreno is much more challenging today does not take away from the retro glimmer and glam that is Paris-Nice.

Cycling’s heartbeat still thumps away in the heartland of rural France, and while a stage start at Paris-Nice might only see a smattering of public compared to furor of the Tour, there’s some old-school charm and down-home nostalgia unique to Paris-Nice.

And it’s hard to describe the feeling of arriving on the glittering French Riviera after the long slog from the grey suburbs of Paris and the wind-blown wheat fields of the Loire Valley in early March.

The Promenade de Anglais shimmers under the spring soleil in a way that’s unique in cycling.

The “Race to the Sun” is aptly named, and it marks the arrival of spring in one of cycling’s endearing rights of passage.

Paris-Nice is the first “big” date. The real racing now commences.

Jim: Tirreno-Adriatico

Tadej Pogačar won the trident the last two years. (Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

JC: Firstly and most importantly, who wants to win a sun-shape trophy when you can take home a huge trident?

Tirreno-Adriatico might not have the heritage and Tour de France sheen of Paris-Nice, but I can handle that because everything else about the Italian race is better.

The “Race of the Two Seas” brings wild courses, classics-focused racers, and a bit of the unknown to the early stage-race calendar.

RCS, organizers of both Tirreno and the Giro d’Italia, have made a habit of designing parcours that surprise for its March race.

Tracking across the lumpy terrain and cracked pavement of Tuscany and the Apennines, the race to the Adriatic can’t help but serve unpredictable racing that previews can’t define.

A bunch of categorized climbs before a long flat finish? Fine. A double ascent of the infamous Carpegna climb and its sketchy descent? Why not.

Flash across to France and Paris-Nice, and it somehow feels so predictable. A bunch of windy sprints, some hilly bits, then the Alps? Meh.

Tirreno’s calendar position between Strade Bianche and Milan Sanremo is another win.

The Italian race typically draws a classics-focus field and explosive headliners – look at Wout van Aert, Tom Pidcock, and Mathieu van der Poel this year. Heck, Tadej Pogačar would be there too if he hadn’t got bored winning it the last two years running. And with the cobblestones fast approaching and even the Giro still feeling far away, those are the riders I want to keep watch on.

Oh and lastly, from a reporter’s point of view, give me Italian espresso over muddy French cafetière every time.

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