Paris-Nice is the first UCI WorldTour event of the year in Europe and marks the start of top-flight European spring stage races. It is known as the 'Race to the Sun' as the eight stages take the riders from the cold of Paris to the warmth of the French Mediterranean coastline. The final stage usually ends on either the Promenade des Anglais in Nice or on the Col d'Eze climb overlooking the city.
Paris-Nice was first held in 1933, making this year's race the 73rd edition. Previous winners include some of the greatest riders in the history of men's professional cycling, including Jacques Anquetil of France, Belgium's Eddy Merckx and Spain's Miguel Indurain. Ireland's Sean Kelly often dominated the race in the eighties, winning seven consecutive times between 1982 and 1988. The hilly but balanced route is ideal for stage racers to show off their multiple talents, with many winners of Paris-Nice going on to triumph in the three-week long Grand Tours.
Last year Carlos Betancur (AG2R-La Mondiale) was something of a surprise winner: the Colombian beat reigning World Champion Rui Costa of Portugal by 14 seconds, and third-placed Arthur Vichot of France by 20 seconds. Betancur carved out his overall victory with wins, by a few seconds, in stages five and six to Rive-de-Gier and Fayence. The sprinters dominated the other stages with Nacer Bouhanni of France, Moreno Hofland of the Netherlands and and John Degenkolb of Germany using their speed and power in the fast finishes.
The 2015 edition of Paris-Nice will be held between Sunday March 8 and Sunday March 15. The race is organised by Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) and so the race leader wears a yellow jersey, like in the Tour de France in July. The opening stage will again be a short prologue time trial in the Paris suburb of Maurepas before the journey south to Nice via the Rhone valley, St Etienne and the hills of the French Riviera. Snow and cross-winds often affect the early stages before the sun warms the riders as they migrate south day by day.
The overall winner of Paris-Nice scores 100 UCI WorldTour ranking points, with other points going to riders in the top ten overall. Riders in the top three of each stage score six, four and two points.