Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico herald spring

Is spring here? You can go by the calendar or you can judge by other signifiers. The trees are in blossom, it’s almost time to change the clocks to British Summer Time, green bin collections are about to recommence and major European stage racing is back.

Tirreno-Adriatico starts today, but it’s Paris-Nice which really seems to divide the seasons. They call it ‘the race to the sun’ after all.

Who’s riding what?

Paris-Nice has been somewhat the poor relation in recent years. Half the excitement of spring is in looking ahead to the summer and this is how March’s two major stage races take their status – through how many Grand Tour contenders appear. Tirreno-Adriatico has had the stronger field of late, even though the two races have the same UCI rating (let’s not get into UCI race ratings – it’s a very boring subject).

This is where the big names of summer are this week.

Paris-Nice

  • Vincenzo Nibali
  • Rui Costa
  • The Schlecks

Tirreno-Adriatico

  • Alberto Contador
  • Cadel Evans
  • Nairo Quintana
  • Richie Porte
  • Bradley Wiggins
  • Chris Horner
  • Rigoberto Uran
  • Mark Cavendish
  • Peter Sagan
  • Marcel Kittel

I’m not intending to rubbish Paris-Nice here, but out of the two it’s hard not to be drawn to the Italian race. The situation’s compoounded by the fact that Richie Porte, the Paris-Nice champion, was down to defend his title, but switched races at the last minute when Chris Froome’s back knackery kicked in.

Paris-Nice so far

As I said above, Paris-Nice is already underway. There have been three stages so far and all have been sprint finishes. John Degenkolb has one win and two second places. However, today they hit the hills.

They’re going through wine country on stage four, even if they do pass through a village called St Lager at one point. If the big names aren’t there, the racing should be good because terrain and route are key ingredients of a race too. This year’s Paris-Nice is a less predictable race without set pieces like mountaintop finishes or time trials.

Perhaps if it draws attention in this way, the big names will return? Perhaps not. For many, predictability is good. Fortunately, sat on our sofas, we don’t have to choose – we can follow both.