PARIS-NICE 2020: Reunion time for Bernal

Key points:
 Defending Tour de France champion Egan Bernal leads an ambitious Columbian contingent with Nairo Quintana and Sergio Higuita as serious rivals, but Primož Roglič, who won the Vuelta, and his young countryman Tadej Pogacar also have a shot of adding Slovenia to the list of winning nations on Paris-Nice.

Foto: Gerhard Plomitzer

 On this particularly competitive 78th edition, 2019 Vélo d’Or winner Julian Alaphilippe will be hosting his rivals before his local fans at Saint-Amand-Montrond for the first major battle of the week where other French riders could also show their strength: Thibaut Pinot and Pierre Latour have the potential to aim for the sharp end of the order.
 Caleb Ewan leads an impressive list of sprinters that includes Sam Bennett, Pascal Ackermann and Matteo Trentin.

The memories of the dominating Columbian presence on the stage that finished at the col du Turini and the overall podium of the 2019 edition return when looking at this year’s entry list. Egan Bernal will wear the number 1 with an increased notoriety thanks to his victory in the Tour de France, while Nairo Quintana, who has won several races in the South of France in the colours of his new Arkéa-Samsic team, will do his best to resist the pressure from the next generation led by recent Columbian champion Sergio Higuita (who also won his national tour) and Miguel Ángel López, who is also among the likely contenders. The density and quality of the Colombian delegation doesn’t necessarily herald a raid of the top places in the general classification, which are nearly as exposed to a Slovenian rush. 2019 Vuelta winner Primož Roglič rarely comes up short of his goals and has decreed Paris-Nice as the first of his season while Tadej Pogacar who joined him on the podium in Spain (3rd) also imagines doing the same as Bernal in what will be his debut ride in the Tour de France which isn’t much of a pipe dream when you take his wins on the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana into consideration.
Europe’s cycling guard will, however, have some serious candidates on the race to Nice. Julian Alaphilippe is of course thinking of the roads he will ride on in the Saint-Amand-Montrond time-trial, where a very serious hierarchy will be established on day four of the race and where he knows every bit of asphalt. The 2019 Tour standout, who largely shared the headlines with Thibaut Pinot, could once again ride alongside the Groupama-FDJ leader who will be making his Paris-Nice debut. The weekend in the mountains with the La Colmiane climb, as well as the time-trial, correspond to his strengths, which is also the case of Pierre Latour, who this year on Paris-Nice will be the leader of the AG2R squad. The best Spanish chances for a successor to 2018 winner Marc Soler are Enric Mas and Bahrain-McLaren’s Mickel Landa.
Sprinters will have their share of the limelight in half of the stages if the race conditions are suitable. This is in any case what the best of them are hoping for, noting that the detour via the French roads very often proves to pay off in San Remo. Some hard-fought battles are expected among Caleb Ewan, Sam Bennett, Pascal Ackermann, Matteo Trentin, Max Walscheid, Ivan Garcia and Alexander Kristoff.

22 teams, the main participants (as of 26/02)

Mitchelton-Scott: Haig (Aus)
Bahrain-McLaren: Landa, Garcia (Esp), Teuns (Bel)
Deceuninck-Quick Step: Alaphilippe, Cavagna (Fra), Bennett (Irl)
Lotto-Soudal: Ewan (Aus), Wellens, De Gendt (Bel)
AG2R La Mondiale: Latour, Cosnefroy (Fra), Naesen (Bel)
Cofidis: Martin, Edet (Fra)
Groupama-FDJ: Pinot, Madouas (Fra), Küng (Sui)
Total Direct Energie: Terpstra (Ned), Hivert (Fra)
Team Arkea-Samsic: N. Quintana (Col), Barguil (Fra)
Nippo Delko Provenc: Navardauskas, Siskevicius (Ltu)
Bora-Hansgrohe: Ackermann (Ger), Grossschartner (Aut)
Team Sunweb: Hirschi (Che), Eekhoff (Ned), C. Pedersen (Den)
Israel Star-Up Nation: Politt (Ger), Hofstetter (Fra), Van Asbroeck (Bel)
Astana Pro Team: Lopez (Col), Fraile, LL. Sánchez (Esp)
CCC Team: Zakarin (Rus), Trentin (Ita)
NTT Pro Cycling Team: Walscheid (Ger), Valgren (Den), Campenaerts (Bel)
Movistar Team: Mas, Verona (Esp)
Team Jumbo-Visma: Roglic (Slo), Bennett (Nzl), Gesink (Ned)
UAE Team Emirates: Pogacar (Slo), Kristoff (Nor), Philipsen (Bel)
Team Ineos: Bernal (Col), Amador (Cri), Geoghegan Hart (Gbr)
EF Pro Cycling: Higuita (Col), Van Garderen (Usa), Nielsen (Den)
Trek-Segafredo: Porte (Aus), M. Pedersen (Den)