Geraint Thomas awkwardly dismounts the fence ahead of Paris-Nice

Photo by: muffinn

Paris-Nice starts on Sunday. Technically, other WorldTour races have already been and gone, so I’ll be diplomatic and call it the first major European stage race of the season.

Last year, Paris-Nice had a bit of a limp start list. It’s actually not wildly different this year in terms of names, but if the consonants and vowels are the same, those names now signify something rather different.

Take Geraint Thomas for example. In 2015 old Two Stools was a guy who sort of did stage racing and sort of did the classics. Now, after a strong, almost successful Tour de France riding in support of Chris Froome, he finally seems to have decided that he’s a guy who trains for stage racing but maybe still has a go at the classics just because he likes them.

It’s not exactly a striking leap from the fence; more a slow, awkward dismount where he tries to avoid getting his kecks caught on something – but at least we all have some sort of an idea where we stand now.

And where do we stand? Well, Paris-Nice gives us a chance to find out. Geraint Thomas is Team Sky’s leader and he’ll be up against some decent riders.

Name them!

Okay, okay. Easy does it.

Tom Dumoulin for a start. As with Thomas, Dumoulin rode Paris-Nice last year and no-one much cared, but after his magnificent ride at last year’s Vuelta – the most intriguing story of the entire season – he’s now one to look out for.

Then there’s Richie Porte. For a couple of years, it seemed like Porte was the only person who really cared about Paris-Nice as it was one of the few stage races Team Sky let him have a go at. He won last year, but this year,he’s riding for BMC against Sky, which should be interesting.

One’s on the way up, one’s on the way down, but Romain Bardet and Thomas Voeckler keep things interesting for the French. Website favourite Laurens Ten Dam supports Dumoulin for Giant-Alpecin and Simon Spilak will doubtless do his one-week stage race overperformance thing.

Oh, and Alberto Contador’s racing. That improves the field somewhat – no explanation needed. He was beaten by Thomas in the Tour of the Algarve last month, but it should be pointed out that the Spaniard improved throughout the race and won the mountain stage.

I think Simon Yates will be there as well for added British interest. He’ll win something like this pretty soon, I’m sure.

Anything else going on?

Strade Bianche, the race that’s part colourful dirt road spring classic and part warm-up for Tirreno-Adriatico takes place on Saturday. It’s definitely worth a watch if you get chance. Tirreno-Adriatico, which is basically the Italian answer to Paris-Nice, then starts on Wednesday.

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