The 2015 route for the European WorldTour season opener, Paris-Nice, will have a familiar feel for Australian Richie Porte when the Team Sky rider lines up in March.
Cycling Central

7 Apr 2015 - 5:20 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:35 PM

Porte won the 2013 edition of the race, a victory that remains the biggest of his career, after an impressive final day performance on the Col d'Eze. That climb, a favourite of the Australian's in training was skipped last year, but it returns in this edition, and though it's yet to be finally confirmed, so will Porte. After a strong showing at the Australian national championships and the Santos Tour Down Under, Porte will be hoping he can carry his form into Paris-Nice in what will serve as a major test for his Giro d'Italia campaign.

The 30 year old will be facing some big names however, with Americans Tejay van Garderen (BMC) and Andrew Talansky (Cannondale-Garmin), France's Jean Christophe Peraud (Ag2r) and Italian Giro hopeful, Fabio Aru (Astana). Porte dispatched Talansky in the 2013 edition with a superb all-round performance, but the American has improved significantly in the period since. Aru, third at last year's Giro d'Italia, will also make Porte's time tough.

The route

The route features the return of the time trials and shortens just a bit the list of potential winners among the most complete riders in the peloton. The riders aiming for the overall victory will have to finish among the leaders on the technically challenging Maurepas prologue; the likely winner will also have to rely on a solid and prudent team to protect him on the three stages that follow.

In Sologne, on the route to Contres, in the Cher plains heading to Saint-Amand-Montrond, or while crossing the Allier Department on the way to Saint-Pourçain-sur-Sioule, headwinds could split the peloton.

Above all, to be among the handful of leaders still in contention on Thursday, the best prepared climbers will have the advantage on the unprecedented arrival at the Col de la Croix de Chaubouret. In the past, the Paris-Nice podium was often decided on the Mont Faron, or the Col de la République; and more recently on the Lure Mountain, in Mende or at Mont Serein. This time the leaders will battle on the hills above Saint-Etienne.

The final 10km climb (at an average 6.7 per cent gradient) will separate the best from the rest at the end of the longest stage of the week (204km). Ambitions of the vengeful will have to be controlled on the final stage of the race, potentially nervous just until the finish line on the Promenade des Anglais on Saturday afternoon.

Finally, the gaps could be just a handful of seconds in an exercise that is as traditional as it is merciless: the individual time-trial on the col d'Èze.

Last year's race was won by Colombian Carlos Betancur.

Paris-Nice: 8/3-15/3 2015

Prologue: Maurepas - Maurepas, 6.7 km
Stage 1: Saint-Rémy-lès-Chevreuse - Contres, 192 km
Stage 2: ZooParc of Beauval Saint-Aignan - Saint-Amand-Montrond, 172 km
Stage 3: Saint-Amand-Montrond - Saint-Pourçain-sur-Sioule, 179 km
Stage 4: Varennes-sur-Allier - Croix de Chaubouret, 204 km
Stage 5: Saint-Étienne - Rasteau, 192 km
Stage 6: Vence - Nice, 181,5 km
Stage 7: Nice - Col d'Èze, 9.6 km (individual time-trial)