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For 2020 the Tour de la Provence has moved up in UCI classification, from a 2.1 event to 2.Pro (the new designation for UCI 2.HC events, just one step below the WorldTour).
The increased status (and opportunity to nab early season UCI points) has significantly bolstered the starlist. The mountainous early season race has drawn a mix of classics riders preparing for the springtime cobbles and GC contenders hoping to blow out the offseason cobwebs.
The Giant of Provence Looms
A relatively flat stage 1 is followed by three demanding days in the mountains, including two summit finishes.
The 175km long stage 2 finishes atop the scenic climb of Les Crêtes overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, a 4.7km ascent at a 7 percent average gradient.
The following day, the race will climb the Giant of Provence, Mont Ventoux, to finish at Chalet Reynard, roughly six kilometers shy of its barren peak. Regularly used in Paris-Nice, the Chalet Reynard finish also featured in the 2016 Tour de France when the stage was cut short due to high winds.
The climb to Chalet Reynard remains challenging (especially in February). The riders will face a prelude of 2.9km at a 5.1 percent gradient before truly tackling Ventoux, a 9.7km ascent at a 9.1 percent average gradient.
Note: Race organizers are prepared to alter the stage 3 finish if inclement weather precludes a finish atop Ventoux.
Another difficult day in the mountains awaits the peloton on the race’s final day, with three categorized climbs preceding the finish at Aix-En-Provence.
Classics Specialists Vs. GC Contenders
French hope Thibau Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) will line-up against his countryman Warren Barguil, as well as Barguil’s grand tour winning teammate Nairo Quintana (Arkéa-Samsic).
Astana brings defending champion Gorka Izaguirre with support from Alexey Lutsenko.
But we’ll be watching American Sepp Kuss, the pure climber who appears poised to lead a Jumbo-Visma squad absent of its Grand Tour stars Dumoulin, Roglic and Kruijswijk.
As for the Classics riders in attendance, Trek-Segafredo’s Quinn Simmons (the youngest WorldTour racer ever) will follow up a strong debut showing at Etoile des Bessèges, where he finished a respectable 23rd in the race’s final time trial.
The season is still early and racers will arrive in Provence with varying form and agendas, so the Tour de la Provence remains wide-open.
A rider who succeeds across a variety of terrain — Kasper Asgreen (Deceuninck-Quick Step), Gianni Moscon (Team Ineos), or Marc Hirschi (Team Sunweb) — may very well take the overall title in the south of France.