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Paris - Nice
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History

Written by Wicky (2005-03-01 00:00)
Translated by DZI (2006-01-09 01:21:18)

Paris – Nice was raced in 1933 for the first time. Earlier that same year, the director of the French newspaper ‘Le petit journal’, Albert Lejeune, organises the first ‘ride to the sun’ together with his pressgroup ‘Patrenotre’. The first stage that year starts off at 5 o’clock in the morning of the 14th of march from the Place d’Italia in Paris. Destination is Dijon, which is situated in the east of France. The stage is a staggering 312 kilometres long and is the first of 5 stages held in that edition. The race ends near the Mediteranian sea in Nice on march 19. The riders had to endure 1257 kilometres on their bikes.


Paris – Nice was raced in 1933 for the first time. Earlier that same year, the director of the French newspaper ‘Le petit journal’, Albert Lejeune, organises the first ‘ride to the sun’ together with his pressgroup ‘Patrenotre’. The first stage that year starts off at 5 o’clock in the morning of the 14th of march from the Place d’Italia in Paris. Destination is Dijon, which is situated in the east of France. The stage is a staggering 312 kilometres long and is the first of 5 stages held in that edition. The race ends near the Mediteranian sea in Nice on march 19. The riders had to endure 1257 kilometres on their bikes.

Until 1939 the race was held every year, but as with many sports events in that period during the Second World War no races took place. In 1946 a sequel is held, but it appeared to be a one-off event.

Five years afterwards, in 1951, the reporter Jean Leulliot gives the race a new lease of life and calls it Paris - Côte d’Azur. Changing the name of the race wasn’t a big deal those days. Between 1933 and 1953 this race even had three names. Before the race received the name Paris - Côte d’Azur it was also called ‘Les 6 jours de la route’ and ‘Paris-Mediterrannée’. From 1954 the current name is given to this multiple stage race. With only one exception in 1959 (Paris - Nice - Rome) it has been called Paris – Nice. Obviously, that year the race ends in Rome: 1955 kilometres divided into 11 stages with the one-time finish in Rome.

In the sixties, France is divided into two sides. One side supports Jacques Anquetil, the others are Raymond Poulidor fans. The rivalry between the two doesn’t just exist in the Tour the France, but also in Paris – Nice hard battles are fought. In 1964, Poulidor seems to win the battle, only to crash on the descent of the Col de Téghine. Unfortunately ‘Poupou’ has to abandon the race. But Anquetil doesn’t have what it takes that year, so a Dutchman, Jan Janssen, wins the race. Anquetil only finishes a dismal sixth.

The following year Anquetil wants revenge and gets it. With victories in 1961 and 1963, he gets his third one in ’65. In 1966 the rivalry reaches it’s climax. Poulidor wins the Time Trial, which is Anquetil’s speciality! On the last day though, Anquetil manages to overtake Poulidor on the leaderboard to take his fourth and final win. France weeps, because by now most French fans root for Poulidor to finally get his victory. Then again, the fans had to be fair and acknowledged the greatness of Anquetil.

After the Anquetil era, in the late 60’s, another great champion emerges. Eddy Merckx had already headed the leaderboard for a few days in 1968. The following year he returned to collect the prize for real and dominate this race for three years in a row. 1968 is also the year the Col d’Eze is included in the stagerace. The awesome reputation of this mountain is mainly because of Paris – Nice. Eddy Merckx was the only real contender at the time trial on this mountain during his reign. During Merckx’s dominating period, Poulidor gets his way. ‘Poupou’ is 36 years of age by now, but that doesn’t stop him setting a new time trial record on the Col d’Eze, beating Merckx in the process. In his thirteenth Paris – Nice, Poulidor finally wins his first and repeats his victory the following year! Joop Zoetemelk wins the Time Trial that year, but it’s not enough to take the victory away from Poulidor, who wins by just four seconds. In the end Zoetemelk manages to win the ‘ride to the sun’ three times.

1982 is the year of the demise of Jean Leulliot. His daughter, Josette, follows in her fathers footsteps and goes on organising this beautiful race. That same year, a virtually unknown Irishman makes his stance and even wins in his first Paris – Nice. In total, Sean Kelly will win Paris – Nice seven times in a row, which makes him all-time recordholder to this day.

In 2002, the organisation that’s responsible for operating the Tour the France and a few other races (A.S.O.) also takes charge of Paris – Nice’s management.
In the nineties big names like Miguel Indurain and Laurent Jalabert got their names on the winners list. But since, specialisation and peaking at the right moment for races like the classics or the Tour the France is more and more the case in cycling nowadays, many riders consider Paris – Nice only to be a good preparation for those goals.

Since 2005 this race has been a part of the ProTour, the new structure founded by the UCI, and serves as the European opener.


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