With the preliminaries behind us, winter training done and dusted, the Paris-Nice event starting out this week and the TirrenoAdriatico beginning next week, the first serious stage races of this season are fast clicking into gear.

In the hearts of many traditionalists, the “Race to the Sun,” as the Paris-Nice event is fondly called holds a unique place. The race which celebrates its 75th edition this year is seen majorly as the “real” opener of the stage race calendar.

Throughout the years past, a number of the biggest names in the sport has gone on to win the French race.

Making his European debut after winning the Santos Tour Down Under to open his season, will be two time winner, Richie Porte of BMC Racing. He remains amongst one of the favorites to win the treble.

Following closely behind is Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) who would be looking to make up for a one-second loss at the Rutadel Sol in Februaryto Alejandro Valverde (Movistar). He would be keen with trained eyes on overall victory, to open his spring racing calendar, one which includes Volta a Catalunya and the Vuelta al País Vasco.

Following starts in Oman and Abu Dhabi, RomainBardet (Ag2r-La Mondiale) would also be making his European debut. Bardet who finished as a runner up in last year’s Tour de France is motivated to prove that his 2016 season was no fluke. With Paris-Nice, he can begin an ambitious calendar that takes him all the way to July.

The likes of Sergio Henao,Colombian national champion and WoutPoels have been brought on by Team Sky to fill in the vacant position left open by the defending champ Geraint Thomas who would be racing at the StradeBianche instead.