Race organiser Christian Prudhomme has pledged to give cycling fans suspense right to the end of Paris-Nice thanks to the return of the Col d'Eze final stage time-trial.
The 70th edition of the eight-stage race, held March 4-11, welcomes a number of big names including the Schleck brothers Andy and Frank, Spain's Luis Leon Sanchez, Italian duo Ivan Basso and Damiano Cunego and German Andreas Kloden.
But all of the above will have to bring a strong uphill time trial performance to the table on stage eight if they are to have any chance of succeeding Germany's Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-QuickStep).
The uphill time trial from Nice to Col d'Eze regularly brought the curtain down on the 'Race to the Sun' until that practice ended in the 1990s. The last time it featured, in 2001, the peloton contested the time trial a day before the finale.
Prudhomme, also director of the Tour de France, now wants to apply the same philosophy which, in recent years, has regularly guaranteed suspense right to the end of the world's premier cycling event.
"This route should guarantee suspense right to the end," Prudhomme said upon unveiling the route Thursday.
Despite also beginning with a 9.4 km time trial in Saint-Remy-les-Chevreuse to the west of Paris, Prudhomme was quick to rebuff suggestions the race could be controlled, and then won, by teams possessing time trial specialists.
"There will be something for everybody as the week goes on," he added.
He nominated the second stage from Mantes-la-Jolie to Orleans via the Beauce region, as well as the opportunities for breakaways and general mayhem on the undulating roads of the Massif Central.
Stage five also finishes in Mende, famous for a steep 3 km-long climb to the finish and which was used on the 12th stage of the Tour de France in 2010 when Joaquin Rodriguez beat fellow Spaniard Alberto Contador.
Two days racing in the Haute-Provence and in the hills behind Nice follow, before the potential race decider on the Col d'Eze.
"There's really a bit of everything for an attacking course," added Prudhomme who, nevertheless, listed Martin, American team mate Levi Leipheimer and Andreas Kloeden (RadioShack-Nissan) as the big favourites.
Neither of the trio are known for their attacking prowess, preferring instead to climb well and make the difference in time trials.
Paris-Nice Stages (March 4-11).
Stage 1: Dampierre-en-Yvelines - Saint-Remy-les-Chevreuse (9.4 km TT)
Stage 2: Mantes-la-Jolie - Orleans (185 km)
Stage 3: Vierzon - Lac de Vassiviere (194 km)
Stage 4: Brive-la-Gaillarde - Rodez (183 km)
Stage 5: Onet-le-Chateau - Mende (178 km)
Stage 6: Suze-la-Rousse - Sisteron (176.5 km)
Stage 7: Sisteron - Nice (220 km)
Stage 8: Nice - Col d'Eze (9.6 km TT)