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Terrain Type: Hilly, but not mountainous. Flat finish.
GC Importance: Most likely not.

After a transfer, Paris-Nice passes into Provence as the race continues its southeastern journey to the Mediterranean. The stage departs Pernes-les-Fontaines, which sits in the shadow Mont Ventoux, and finishes in the university town of Aix-en-Provence. The terrain is rolling in Provence, and the stage constantly climbs and descends with few flat stretches to offer respite. The stage crosses four categorized climbs before finishing on a gradual climb to the line. Despite the climbing, the general classification will likely remain unchanged after this stage, as the Yellow Jersey contenders save their energies for the final climbing stages of this Paris-Nice.

As it departs from Pernes-les-Fontaines, the stage starts with a climb and rolls over bumpy terrain. The first categorized climb comes just outside Malemort and carries a category 2 rating. The Col de Murs climbs 10.5 kilometers at an average gradient of 4.3%. It’s a nice chunk of climb, but the summit comes at kilometer 40 with more than 100 kilometers left to race. Still, a strong team could use this climb to set up a late move or to put a rival into difficulty.

A long descent follows the Col de Murs and the stage passes through Gordes and Les Beaumettes. Two category 3 climbs pop up back to back, the Côte de Lacoste and the Côte de Bonnieux. They are remarkably similar, these climbs, and they both cover 2.6 kilometers at a gradient of around 4%. Following the Côte de Lacoste and the Côte de Bonnieux, the course rises and falls. Two intermediate sprints enliven the race, the first at Lourmarin at kilometer 94.5, the second at Rognes at kilometer 110.5. It’s an uphill sprint at Rognes, before a descent to the fourth categorized climb of the day.

The final climb of the day, the Côte de Saint-Canadet, rises at a gentle 3.9%. At around 5 kilometers, this is not one of the big climbs. It should whittle down the numbers in the early breakaway, which is in with a chance at going all the way on this stage. The up and down terrain of Provence will not ease the task of the sprinters’ teams and they are not likely to fight overly hard for this one. From the summit of the Côte de Saint-Canadet, there remains 30 kilometers of mostly downhill racing to the finish. The course descends as it passes through Eguilles, then climbs slightly on the outskirts of Aix-en-Provence. There’s a short climb, before a flat run-in to the finish.

Look for the breakaway specialists to make a day of it on the run between Pernes-les-Fontaines and Aix-en-Provence. Riders like Pierrick Fédrigo, Jerôme Pineau, Thomas Voeckler, Philip Deignan, and Simon Gerrans will be trying to find the winning break on this stage. The general classification riders, meanwhile, will be content to let them have their fun, while the Yellow Jersey battle waits for another day.

Gavia (updates to this preview will be made during the race and especially the day before the stage with current analysis)<-->