The 81st Paris-Nice, the Race to the Sun, kicked off on Sunday with a sprint in La Verrière where Belgian champion Tim Merlier nabbed his third WorldTour victory of the season. It’s the first European stage race of the 2023 WorldTour.
Dane vs Slovenian
The winners of the last three Tours de France, Jonas Vingegaard and Tadej Pogacar, are on an early-season collision course. Both are utterly on fire to begin their 2023 campaigns. Vingegaard won three out of four stages of O Gran Camiño, while Pogačar took victory in four of his first five days of racing.
They’ll throw down on Stage 4’s La Loge des Gardes summit finish and Stage 7’s gargantuan finishing climb Col de la Couillole. There’s always time for final day skirmishing in Nice. Pogačar seized bonus seconds late in Stage 1.
Tweaked team time trial
Paris-Nice’s 2023 innovation is a tweak on the Stage 3 team time trial, which returns to the Race to the Sun for the first time since 1993. Rather than take the time of the fourth or fifth rider across the line, as is the case of most team time trials, the time will be taken on the first rider. So, it’s a team time trial, but the timing will be more like an individual chrono. That means teams can sacrifice more riders early, and then set up their fastest rider to sprint to the line. The change will hopefully stop a whole team from dominating the top of the GC standings early in the race.
Sprinters like Merlier, Sam Bennett, Arnaud Démare, Olav Kooij and Arnaud De Lie won’t get many chances to mix it up beyond Stage 2.
Hugo Houle will be the lone Canadian entrant in the Race to the Sun.
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